Melbourne is well and truly the events capital of Australia. Sometimes it feels like every second day there is a new festival or popup party happening. A highlight in our calendar each year is the Melbourne Festival, which is celebrating over 30 years of bringing international and local art, theatre and performance to the city.
As Artistic Director Jonathan Holloway rightly points out to our group as we sip on a delicious pear and rosemary infused vodka cocktail at Lucy Liu: Melbourne loves a drink and bite to eat with their art. Tonight we are going to experience some of the restaurants partnering with the Melbourne Festival, and get an appetite for what we will be sipping and munching on before or after a show in the coming weeks.
Our first stop of the night is Lucy Liu to try their signature cocktail, The Floating Market, and bite into some crispy soft shell crab jianbing rolls and betel leaf wrapped trout. If you are an oyster fan, the team here serve them freshly shucked with house made ponzu sauce. Before we know it, it’s time for our next stop on the foodie feast tour.
Despite Garden State Hotel‘s vast expanse (over four levels and multiple bars), our host for the night made us feel at home in the quirky Rose Room off iconic ACDC lane. Here we were told how the newly designed cocktail menu is dedicated to some of the staff’s mothers (awwwww), with cocktails inspired by secret family cheesecake recipes and family holidays by the beach. To top it off we tried their delicious doughnut balls – a must-try dessert that worked perfectly with their signature passionfruit sour.
Our next destination, Harley House, may not sound immediately familiar to most Melburnians, as our host points out they are surprisingly better-known to crowds from Adelaide and Perth than with locals. Located in a basement off Russell Street, the narrow space is packed wall to wall with world-class artwork from one of the co-owners of the bar, Vincent Fantauzzo. The bartenders here believe they are one of the biggest users of the Peruvian liquor Pisco in Australia, shaking up hundreds of perfect Pisco Sours each week. If you are looking for a Peruvian snack to munch on over pre-theatre tipples, we highly recommend their fresh corn and cheese empanadas.
We are looking forward to another first-rate festival of art, made all the better with some delicious food. Keep an eye out for our coverage of what to see and do during this year’s festival.
Tomas Zagoda is a filmmaker, writer, coffee addict and tall person who does not play basketball. You can follow him on your social media channel of choice @TomasZagoda.
The 2017 Melbourne Festival is held across various dates and venues from 4-22 October 2016 with free and ticketed events. Buy tickets now.
Some venues are accessible.
Read our guide to the best of the Melbourne Festival.