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Friday, August 22, 2008

Taste of Melbourne 2008


Taste of Melbourne was one event that we had second, third and fourth thoughts about attending. Would it be like those horrible "Good Food Shows" full of a shuffling throng armed with shopping trolleys to carry their free tastings?

We finally decided we shouldn't just judge without actually seeing it for ourselves and on consulting the timetable decided to visit the first session on Friday.

One thing it certainly had working for it was the choice of location


the beautiful Royal Exhibition Building.


We arrived just on the opening time at 11am - a few ticketing options are available that I should probably explain. The currency of the event is "the crown" which you can buy inside the building and it is with these crowns that you can purchase the restaurant offerings. One crown = One dollar.

You can buy just an entry ticket for $25 or you can buy a $50 ticket which included $30 worth of crowns. As we had no idea what to expect inside we just went for the entry ticket and if things looked good inside, we'd just buy the crowns in there.

Oh, there was also a $100 VIP ticket that gets you into the special Emirates Lounge.


Besides the restaurants, there are other "gastro features" in store for the patrons

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Gourmet Traveller - Chef's Table

The Chef's Table is basically an informal half hour chat with a chef over a glass or two of wine. Scheduled for this morning's sessions are Teague Ezard, Thomas Schnetzler (Lindt Master Chocolatier) and Guy Grossi


James Squire Beer Masterclass

These sessions were headed by Chuck Hahn and involved matching selected speciality beers with food.

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Australian Gourmet Traveller Taste Kitchen

Half hour sessions where the chefs get to cook. Scheduled for this morning, Thomas Schnetzler, Guy Grossi and Robin Wikens.

Taste Wine with Gourmet Traveller Wine

Fairly self-explanatory, these half-hour sessions are headed by Nick Stock. The Sommelier Showdowns schedule for the evening sessions sounded interested.

For today the three classes were Chandon Sparkling Masterclass, Yarra Valley and Wine Maker of the Year.

But undoubtedly the main attraction are the Restaurant Booths:

The Press Club

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Longrain and their funky bar

The Courthouse

Circa, The Prince

Three, One, Two


Grossi Florentino

The kitchens are all contained behind these booths and the eating areas are dotted around the building:

these are just two of these dining areas


Paalo is threatening to buy this for me

There is one other part of the show and that is the Producers Market, described as " 100 top end boutique food and drink suppliers " I think this was the weakest part of the whole thing

Sangipop is hardly "top end" - they advise to serve it ultra chilled and as Paalo said "that's so you won't be able to taste it"

So after wandering around and what I've photographed is just a small portion of it - we decided to go ahead and get some crowns and sample some restaurant dishes:

What we tried:

From the Press Club

"Hellenic Republic" Lamb Souvlaki [10 crowns] and Spring Bay Mussels Spanakopita [12 crowns]


if this does not win the vote for the most popular item I will be shocked. It's the perfect idea for this type of event - the dish is self contained, there's no fiddling with cutlery, there's no mess. Most importantly it's unbelievable tasty, wrapped in the softest and fluffiest pita are tender pieces of lamb with a zingy sauce and fries! If this is the type of dish that the yet to be opened Hellenic Republic will be serving, George is going to have another huge success on his hands.

The mussels are stuffed with spanikopita (spinach, ricotta & feta, onion, garlic) and served in a chickpea and tomato stew.

From Interlude

Bacon and Eggs [10 crowns]


We've enjoyed this dish at the restaurant but we're not one to pass up this delicious treat. The eggs are cooked for 2 hours at 63°C and have the most delectable texture

Gorgeously runny, it is accompanied by a bacon broth and puffed wild rice

From The Botanical

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The Botanical Wagyu Burger [12 crowns]

Quite a dense burger but very juicy

From Three One Two

Apple Confit, burnt butter ice cream, salted caramel [10 crowns]

An elegant dish.

From The Press Club


"Press Club" Mastic Pannacotta with "Maha" Turkish delight filled doughnuts [8 crowns]

The best way to finish off our visit - the doughnuts are cooked fresh to order, how can you top that!

Are we converts to the Taste Experience?

Not sure if we are converts yet - I think we went to the session that enabled us to get the most out of it, I don't know if we'd think the same way if we went to the weekend or evening sessions based on the reports from the opening Thursday evening session.

If you'd like to read more about this event, visit the official site - Taste Festivals - there's a rundown of all the restaurants and their dishes as well as full details on all the other gastro events and news of next years Taste of Sydney.


  1. Great photo essay on the event. It didn't look too crowded. Maybe it got busy later in the day?

  2. nk I share your reservations for the event which is more about marketing than anything else - I was bombarded with stuff about it. A friend went and the day he was there it was a bit of a bun fight. I think he ended up with some extra Crowns he couldn't use up at the end of it too. Nice looking food though

  3. Thanks Barbara - We picked that session because we believed it would be the least crowded - indeed it was madness on the opening session on Thursday - The Press Club sold something like 3000 souvlaki and had to call the restaurant 3 times during the night for more food - and that was only a 4 hour session! By the time we left, there were already 20 minute waits on the souvlaki. I can easily imagine that the evening session which people would be attending after work and the weekend sessions would have been very busy.

    Hi Ed - I have heard stories of the opening night it was a doozy - I can't believe that the VIP tickets were sold out! The food was well cooked, they can't really afford it not to be - the chefs were there working in the kitchens. I'm not sure if the idea of melbourne restaurants pitching to locals is the way to go - I can see that it would be useful to go to the Sydney one where as a non-local you'd get to experience the key dishes of most of that cities high end restaurants.

  4. Haalo, what would be better is to have Taste of Melbourne in Sydney and Taste of Sydney in Melbourne. I might just go to that.

  5. That would be the ideal situation but logistically you couldn't pull it off - I can see where you might have one or two interstate restaurants but not the whole thing. You do need that backup of your own restaurant.


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