Food + Drink

A foodie’s escape to Melbourne’s Food and Wine Festival 2024

The (unofficial) foodie’s state


By Natalie Khoo

Images: Natalie Khoo
A foodie’s escape to Melbourne’s Food and Wine Festival 2024

In case you weren’t already aware, Australia boasts a jam-packed, multifarious events calendar all year round—and the state of Victoria contributes significantly to the fact. Melbourne alone, the state’s capital, accounts for over 8,000 festivals and events annually. 

During my recent one-week escape to The Garden State, I learned of a few going on concurrently: The Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show and the International Festival of Photography (Photo 2024) are two I can recall off-hand. As of the time of writing, thousands are flocking to Albert Park for the F1 Australian Grand Prix. 

The main reason for my visit, however, was to discover Melbourne’s Food and Wine Festival. Spanning 10 days from 15 to 24 March 2024, the festival is one of the leading culinary celebrations in the country with more than 300 events across the city, as well as satellite events around other regions of Victoria. These events range from epic spectacles playing host thousands of guests to more intimate or bespoke engagements and activations that spotlight the diversity of local produce and culinary talent. 

Among the main highlights of the festival include the World’s Longest Lunch, followed by The First Supper and the World’s Longest Brunch. Yours truly got to sit down and have a taste of two of these fetes, which prompted several revelations about Melbourne’s dining and wining culture. Ahead, allow me to bring you through the experience—and why you should check out the festival at least once in your life.


The World’s Longest Lunch 

A staple of Melbourne’s Food and Wine Festival for over three decades, the World’s Longest Lunch kicked off the series of events this year, taking place at King’s Domain for the first time. Previous locations have included Albert Park—in conjunction with the F1 Australian Grand Prix that typically coincides in March—the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), and the lush Treasury Gardens. 

Every year, a different chef spearheads the three-course menu, with Andrew McConnell having the honour for the 2024 edition. Lauded as one of the city’s most prolific culinary talents, McConnell helms a number of renowned establishments including Gimlet, Cumulus Inc, Supernormal and Cutler & Co. He spent years cooking in the kitchens of Shanghai, London and Hong Kong restaurants, before returning to Melbourne and playing a significant role in shaping its culinary landscape. 

It was a sunny, 28-degrees afternoon when I arrived to find 600 metres of tables winding through the park. Herein lies my first observation of the local dining culture—second, if you count a fondness of food festivals like this—Australians love dining outdoors. Thankfully, sunhats and Mecca Cosmetica sunscreens were provided for all guests—a thoughtful gesture I did not take for granted. 

Guests of various ethnicities gradually poured into the lush grounds, showcasing the cultural diversity of the city and its growing migrant communities. There’s something about dining with 1,463 other guests of various backgrounds at the same place and time that feels profoundly harmonious—and this is coming from a Malaysian who’s no stranger to multiculturalism. 

Before long, the entree arrived in the form of stuffed zucchini flowers served with grilled and pickled heirloom vegetables, feta and green sauce. For the main course, we had a confit chicken sourced from Aurum Poultry Co, a leading Australian provider of ethically-cultivated poultry. This was accompanied by a salad lyonnaise, smoked sausage, kohlrabi remoulade, tarragon and frisee. A chocolate tart with sour cherries and cream Chantilly completed the meal. 

Supplementing the menu were wines by Tahbilk, a five-generation family-owned carbon neutral Victorian winery; beers from Brick Lane Brewing, an independent local brewery; still, sparkling and flavoured waters from Capi, an award-winning Australian brand; and specialty coffee from Inglewood Coffee Roasters. Prime local produce and artisanal products starred from start to finish of the World’s Longest Lunch, exemplifying the country’s sustainable practices and farm to fork food culture.


The First Supper 

Later that same day, I headed to The Lume Melbourne for The First Supper. The name of the event is a play on Leonardo da Vinci’s famed masterpiece, The Last Supper, which was displayed on all four walls of the exhibition hall where the dinner is hosted. I may or may not have let out a gasp at the grand sight enveloping the long dining tables…little did I know then that there would be more awe-inspiring moments to come. 

But before I skip to that, a little insight into the menu: curated by renowned Italian-Australian chef and restaurateur Guy Grossi, the dishes reflected his roots and ushered diners on a culinary journey through the heart of Italy. Cheese featured heavily in each course, alongside rich, earthy flavours paired with De Bortoli wines, also of Italian heritage. This brings me to my next point on Australia’s cuisine being heavily influenced by generations of immigrants, many of whom come from the United Kingdom, China, and Italy. 

Da Vinci himself was also Italian, so you get the theme of the evening. And here’s where it got better—throughout The First Supper, a roll call of the legendary polymath’s iconic Renaissance works including the Mona Lisa, Vitruvian Man, and Salvator Mundi were brought to life on The Lume’s colossal canvas. This forms part of the Leonardo da Vinci—500 Years of Genius exhibition presented by Webuild, which also features original pages from the genius’ precious Codex Atlanticus notebook, 40 ‘machine inventions’ on loan from Rome’s Museo Leonardo da Vinci, and the only exact 360-degree replica of his world-famous painting, Mona Lisa. 

The whole experience was truly immersive and spectacular, showcasing Melbourne’s cutting-edge arts and culture scene. One thing worth noting is that the break between each course is significantly long, serving as an intermission for diners to peruse the gallery. If you missed out on The First Supper, The Lume will also be hosting the Feast for the Senses on Saturdays from now until June, serving “a three-course dinner fit for a Mecidi prince.”


A foodie’s paradise


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Although I only managed to catch two out of the plethora of food and wine engagements during the festival, they revealed fascinating insights on Australian—particularly Melbournian—food and drink culture. Plus, these events were held at locations that also provided a glimpse of the local lifestyle and arts and culture scene. If you’re a foodie who enjoys eating your way around different cities, Melbourne’s Food and Wine Festival is absolutely worth adding to your bucket list. 


For more information about the festival, visit the website here. Find more events and festivals in Melbourne at Follow @visitmelbourne on Facebook and Instagram for more updates and travel inspo. 



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