Our top picks for Melbourne Food & Wine Festival 2016

One of the most delicious and eye-opening months on the city’s busy calendar is back this March as the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival (MFWF) returns from 4th to 13th March. Over a week of exploratory culinary events and wine showcases will take place throughout the city, with a very loaded program featuring some of the biggest restaurants, cafes, chefs, sommeliers, and winemakers across Victoria. We’ve spent the past few weeks trying to wrap our heads around the program and have selected some of our essential events of the festival.

The Baconing

March 5th || The B.East || Brunswick East

Americana joint The B.East will be turning up their love of bacon more than a few notches for this one-day-only event with three sittings available, offering up three smokey courses of bacony goodness. Local produce will be delivered from Istra Smallgoods which the kitchen will be using to make up dishes like maple bacon donuts with free-range pork crackling, some bacon & sage stuffed pork belly with bacon bone gravy, and even a decadent dessert bacon with dulche de leche ice cream. A special cocktail called Big Mama Thorntons’ will be available on the day, mixing crispy bacon-infused Buffalo Trace Bourbon into a classic Manhattan with walnut bitters.


North vs South Street Food Fued

March 5th/March 12th || St Kilda Burger Bar/Jimmy Grants || St Kilda/Fitzroy

Paul Tyas of St Kilda Burger Bar and Luke Croston of Jimmy Grants will be swapping kitchens and specialities in a culinary showdown across two events. The first, Saturday 5th March, will be held at STKBB, while the second (Sat 12th March) will be at Jimmy Grants. Tyas will try his hand at Croston’s famous souvlakis while Croston will be bringing a greek twist to STKBB’s burgers, both delivered to each guest in an attempt to attract the most votes.


Melbourne Burger Invitational

8th and 9th March || Welcome to Thornbury || Thornbury

If you’re serious about burgers then you already know that some of the best in Australia can be found in Melbourne, from the highly acclaimed, incredibly juicy 8Bit to the hip Easy’s (consumed in a train carriage five levels above Collingwood). And while the burger scene still continues to grow in the city, opportunities are far too rare to see all these incredibly burger brands come together under one concept. Luckily, some of best in town are coming together to create the Burger Invitational, all rocking up to outdoor food truck park Welcome to Thornbury for two days of fried and flipped deliciousness.

The 700 person beer garden at Welcome to Thornbury will become a haunt for the most discerning of burger lovers on 8th and 9th March, 2016, where they will be able to have to pick of the litter between Richmond’s 1090 Burger, Footscray king 8Bit, mobile champs Beatbox Kitchen and Mr Burger, Essendon staple Dude Food Man, and of course, winner of most uniquely awesome burger venue Easey’s. Even Gelato Messina are getting involved!


Cheese Toastie Invitational + Buttermilk Chicken Wars @ Urban Dairy

March 12th/March 13th || Urban Dairy Pop-Up || Queensbridge Square

The Urban Dairy will serve as the hub for MFWF this year, a milk and cheese pop-up which will be located in Queensbridge Square by the bank of the Yarra featuring New York’s famous Big Gay Ice Cream, bread from French baker Gontrain Cherrier, and these magical events, dubbed the “Cheese Toastie Invitational” and the “Buttermilk Chicken Wars”. Of course, these two are just some of what’s going down at the hub so head to the official MFWF website for more information.

The Buttermilk Chicken Wars

On March 12th, Casey Wall from Rockwell and Sons and Gregory Llewellyn from Sydney’s excellent Hartsyard will square off in a fight for fried-chicken glory. There’s not much more to it than that, but then again, that’s more than enough to get us drooling well before the fight begins. Tickets will be $45 and include a drink on arrival, dinner, and dessert.

Date: March 12th.
More Info: HERE.

Cheese Toastie Invitational

One of the hub’s free events, on March 13th will see some of Melbourne’s best come together to make use of the hubs remaining cheese (hopefully there will be some left after all those workshops and events) to show off their toastie-making skills.

Date: March 13th.
More Info: HERE.

Gourmet Cinema

March 2nd-6th || Caulfield Racecourse || Caulfield East

Gourmet Cinema will be held on the greens at Caulfield Racecourse, Melbourne from 2nd to 6th March and will bring in some of the city’s best restaurants with a selection of international and Australian films. Five of Melbourne’s best operators; Epocha, Le Bon Ton, Baby, Mamasita and The European, will have popup stalls at the racecourse, offering some of their most popular menu items to hungry movie-goers.

Each night, one restaurant will become the hero curator, presenting a special menu to match the evening’s screenings. Epocha will handle The Great Budapest Hotel; Le Bon Ton will lead The Big Lebowski; Baby will cook up food based on The Great Beauty; Mamasita will present Chef; and The European will curate the menu for Midnight in Paris.


How the Boy Became Mister Bianco

March 9th || Mister Bianco || Kew

It’s an origin story of sorts for one of Kew’s most beloved restaurants. Chef and owner Joe Vargetto will be taking diners through his personal journey from child to adult, straddling Sicily and Australia with an edible trip through time. Expect simple, traditional plates to start with and then more complex dishes as the night veers towards other styles of cooking which have influenced Vargetto. Guests will have their meals paired up with wines that follow the journey as well, starting with a nostalgic cocktail, moving onto classic Italian wines, and then ending with iconic Australian varieties.


Bress Cellar Door and Farm Lunch

March 5th || Union Dining || Richmond

Adam Marks from Bress vineyard is teaming up with Union Dining in Richmond to stage a pop up cellar door experience with biodynamic farming demonstrations on the rooftop following by a buffet lunch. If you really wanted to immerse yourself in both the food and wine aspects of this festival then this is an essential choice, bringing the heart of Victoria to Richmond with a showcase of Marks’ approach to farming and winemaking. The buffet lunch will use ingredients from the Bess gardens, while their fine wines flowing all afternoon.


May Chow at Huxtaburger Hawthorn

March 8th || Huxtaburger || Hawthorn

Internationally renowned queen of baos May Chow will be traveling all the way from Hong Kong, where she has made Little Bao famous, to join Daniel Wilson (Huxtaburger, Huxtable) to present one night of fast food excellence with classic techniques used to mash baos, burgers, and various flavours.


Northside Hip(Hop)

March 8th || Huxtaburger + Biggie Smalls + Belle’s Hot Chicken || Collingwood

Huxtaburger, Biggie Smalls, and Belle’s Hot Chicken will make up one of the festival’s “Carl ‘N’ Bite” food trails, and for this very special event all three inner-northern outlets will be offering up a whole heap of burgers, fried chicken, and kebabs with twists planned especially for the event. This will all be helped along with a playlist of NZ hip hop at Huxtaburger and golden era rap at Belle’s.


Banquet of Secrets

March 4th + 5th || Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse || Melbourne

As part of the festivals’ “Cultural+” program legendary jazz muso Paul Grabowsky and iconic TV personality Steve Vizard will be teaming up to celebrate food and music theatre exploring music, friendship, and the power of fine dining. The mysterious theatre show features four long-time friends who gather at their favourite restaurant for their annual dinner, and over the course of their elaborate meal each agrees to share their deepest secret.

After the show, which features an on-stage menu designed by celeb chef Phillipe Mouchel.


Langton’s Chateaux of Bordeaux Melbourne Dinner

March 4th || The Point || Albert Park Lake

If you feel like splurging on some of the finest wine in the world then this is the event for you. Langton will be bringing a number of wineries all the way from the fabled winemaking regions of Bordeaux for this very special dinner at The Point on Albert Park. The wines define luxury, offered in a truly spectacular range with a planned dinner followed by a live auction hosted by Andrew Caillard. It’s part of a bigger road-trip by these dozen or so figures of Bordeaux, which you can find more information about HERE.


For a full list of all events head to the official MFWF website.

Headline image: Daniel Mahon