Nothing drives home Melbourne’s food and wine obsession quite like sitting down to lunch with 1700 keen fellow diners, something I was lucky enough to experience this year for Bank of Melbourne’s 25th annual World’s Longest Lunch.
The event is by far the grandest on the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival program, launching at the MCG in 1993 and held in a different iconic Melbourne location each year.
This year’s saw 600 metres of table running along a stretch of Lygon Street, fittingly playing host to a four-course course Italian feast designed by Antonio Carluccio, who’s considered by many to be the Godfather of Italian cooking.
It was a buzzing scene, with a sea of white tablecloths, sparkling glassware, and ice buckets stretching as far as the eye could see. The European feel was undeniable, as dapper waitstaff swanned around, offering antipasti, canape-sized pizza slices, gelato, and tiny bottles of San Pellegrino soft drinks.
Roving musicians added to the upbeat vibe, the line-up covering everything from accordion-playing Nonno types, to a group of colour-coordinated ladies serenading the tables in Italian.
The day’s menu was a highlight reel of some classic regional dishes; dreamed up by Carluccio, imagined by Peter Rowland catering, and sporting a local twist with the likes of Gembrook onions, Mt Zero olive oil, and broccolini from the Yarra Valley.
Victorian labels were the stars of the booze offering too, represented by Nagambie Lakes’ Tahbilk Winery, and Reservoir-based brewery Hawkers.
Seafood kicked off the sit-down feed, with plates of dill-marinated ricciola (better known by Aussies as yellowtail), sliced baby potatoes, and radish arriving just as the sun decided to emerge. A heartier main dish featured that Italian staple, osso bucco — here, locally sourced, alongside a purée of potato and Italian truffle, broccolini, chicory, and capers, and matched to a side of whole stuffed heirloom tomatoes grown especially for the event.
Wrapping things up, a home-style lemon and ricotta tart was teamed with plump, honey baked figs, and an amaretto-infused mascarpone.
Libby Curran is a freelance writer, craft beer nut, and lover of all things food. She can usually be found eating and drinking her way around Melbourne, or writing about any deliciousness she’s recently encountered.
The World’s Longest Lunch was a part of The Melbourne Food & Wine Festival.