In a city that has the world’s highest per capita cafes and restaurants, counting tables and chairs in a garden can be a tad tedious. Add to it countless summer straw hats and the diners in linens and summer peasant dresses. No one really counted the tables and chairs. Their length was measured - a 500-meter-long communal table. That’s half a kilometre of dining tables put together. That’s how long the table was set in Melbourne for the World’s Longest Lunch (WLL). Mid-March, over 1,600 people gathered in the city’s Treasury Gardens for a sold-out three-course longest lunch priced at Australian $185 (roughly Rs 10,220).
Melbourne did not spring a surprise this year. The city is obsessed with food and wine; there are nearly 3,500 dining venues serving food from more than 70 countries. And WLL is an old crowd favourite that everyone waits for - Bank of Melbourne World’s Longest Lunch has been part of every Melbourne Food & Wine Festival (MFWF) since the Festival’s inception in 1993.
Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2015.
This year’s WLL was in the hands of three chefs who have shaped Melbourne’s enviable food scene: Stephanie Alexander (chef, author, and founder of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation), Jacques Reymond (chef-restaurateur), and Philippe Mouchel (chef-restaurateur, Philippe). Stephanie Alexander rustled pear and brown‐butter tart with sapore and ice‐cream; Jacques Reymond cooked duck à l’orange with black rice, choy sum and pea tendrils; and Philippe Mouchel created delicious beetroot‐cured king salmon with fennel salad, champignons à la Grecque, baby beetroot and spiced‐almond crumble. The dishes were complemented by wines, beers, and coffee.
The lunch that began at noon went on for hours wherein diners chatted, servers tidily laid the dishes, and music reverberated within COVID-safe norms.
World’s Longest Brunch: As if the lunch was not enough of a feast, the festivities spilled over to the next day. This year, MFWF introduced a brand-new feast: the Bank of Melbourne World’s Longest Brunch (WLB) And who better to have kicked off this brunch-bash than café king Nathan Toleman and Lune Croissanterie’s pastry queen Kate Reid.
Melbourne Food and Wine Festival 2015.
Toleman, a Melbourne café pioneer, brought along his well-known avocado dish. The man behind one of Melbourne’s most popular cafes (The Kettle Black, Top Paddock, Higher Ground) is also responsible for popularising smashed avo toast in Melbourne and thinks he has served more than 250,000 portions in his various cafes. With a university degree in aerospace engineering, Reid, the pastry queen, says the croissant must be crunchy on the outside and beautiful, soft and airy on the inside.
The $85 meal (roughly Rs 4,800) included a glass of sparkling wine, three courses, a batch-brewed coffee, and a 75g tube of Mecca Superscreen. The three courses were Avocado toast with feta, beetroot and radish; Broccolini and kale salad with almond hummus, soft-boiled egg and bacon; and Bread-and-butter croissant pudding with labne, blackberry compote and granola crumble.
The farmhouse feta came from Yarra Valley Dairy, muesli from Murray River Organics, coffee from Coffex and Honest Eggs Company bright along, well, honest eggs. More than 1,200 people enjoyed the World’s Longest Brunch.
Though WLL and WLB just got over, people are already hungry for next year’s Longest Lunch and Longest Brunch.Where to eat in Melbourne
- Brae: Victoria’s most highly decorated fine-dining institution
- Breakfast in Grand Hyatt’s Collins Kitchen. Gourmet Traveller has called it Best Hotel Breakfast three years in a row
- Tulum: Modern Turkish food
- Step into Chef Ben Shewry’s iconic Attica that landed at number 20 in 2018’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Green ant pav, hand-dived scallop, hand-picked crab, saltwater croc ribs, kangaroo with truganini on a plate that costs $295 per person
- Cherry Bar in AC/DC Lane hosting a lineup of local and international rock 'n' roll acts. Remember, Airbourne’s Fat City ‘Midnight bite at the Cherry, so sweet is the juice..’. That’s the Cherry Bar
- Minamishima: Melbourne’s best sushi.
- Take a Sparkling Flight with beer, wine, or cider (1-6 pm every day) in Melbourne Star (the only giant observation wheel in the southern hemisphere)
- Meal at Queen Victoria Market where history melds scrumptiously with kangaroo jerkies, fresh bread, cheese roundels, and the finest sausages.
- Hopetoun Tearoom in Block Arcade where Pavalovas and Lemingtons peep from the window of the 1892-tearoom.
- Stand in the Bar Americano (Pesgrave Lane) that serves only 1920s drinks: Negronis, Americanos, Brooklyns and Amaro Americanos. You cannot sit here because it is a standing-only bar (not more than 16 at one time!).