The Abbotsford Convent: scene of lazy summer days after bicycle rides along the Yarra, catching up with friends at markets or at Lentils — and now, host to the Cool Down Summer Series. Running over four Sundays in the summer months, it pairs guest chefs with a gourmet picnic atmosphere.
My +1 (and fellow The Plus Ones writer) Claudia went along to check out the January event, the second in the series. A crisply perfect sunny day saw us in the Mercator lawn, past the main buildings towards the Collingwood Children’s Farm. The setup was too cute: tables, umbrellas, and benches scattered throughout the grass. I nabbed the lone picnic blanket, which we jealously guarded — but of course, feel free to bring your own. A DJ spun great tunes: not too overpowering, just enough to help make it feel like the coolest garden party-slash-picnic you’ve ever been to.
The far end of the lawn played host to two tables groaning with food (included in the ticket price), along with an outdoor grill manned by a lively crew of workers. Another side of the lawn hosted a little pop-up bar, replete with beautiful wines and flavoured mineral water for purchase.
This is all the brainchild of a triumvirate of hospo talent: Josh Murphy and Drew Green, of the Builders Arms Hotel; and Campbell Burton from the eponymous Campbell Burton Wines. Cam was on hand to recommend wines — all natural, nothing icky. I picked a glorious rose (it’s summer, thus perfect), while Claudia went for a G&T. It might have been nice to tack on a bit more to the reasonable ticket price — only $40 — and include a ‘free’ drink, but the prices (glasses starting from $8) were reasonable by any Melburnian’s standards.
But first, the food! Each month the Cool Down Summer Series hosts a different guest chef or two. In January, that was Mike Bennie and Giorgio de Maria, the co-founders of festival Rootstock Sydney, who’d flown down for the occasion.
We feasted on:
- Arrosticini, grilled lamb skewers cooked over coals
- Tomino al verde, a house made Piemontese style of ricotta with salsa verde
- Heirloom tomatoes with Le Coste olive oil and vinegar made by Giorgio from zero sulfur wine and cantillon, two years old
- Wood fire grilled zucchinis, lemon rind and Ramarro farm basil
- Mike’s pickled red cabbage with caraway, paprika and chilli – his Oma’s recipe
- Fresh white peaches and moscato
Visit www.cooldownsummerseries.com for more information. $40 tickets cover entry and a main meal, with extras available for purchase on the day.
- Sunday 21 February (12.30-4.30pm). Guest chef: Mitch Orr from Acme Sydney. Purchase tickets.
- Sunday 20 March ( (12.30-4.30pm). Guest chef: Victor Liong, chef and owner of Lee Ho Fook. Purchase tickets.