We went to the first Taste event and left feeling that it was better than we had thought it would be but still not enough to convert us to the event. Last year, we skipped it - too much emphasis on Masterchef and way too much PR involvement - it seemed every blogger and their dog got a ticket which coincided with what seemed to be a plethora of gushing blog posts about the event. This year, we frankly lost count at the number of different PR offers for us to attend - all of which we declined or ignored. We firmly believe that unless you are willing to delve into your own pocket, then you should not be writing or tweeting about it.
Our main reason for attending this year was due to Embrasse and the fact that they would be offering a horse meat dish. Unfortunately, food terrorists decided to issue death threats towards the chef and his family and so this dish was withdrawn from both Taste of Melbourne and the restaurant.
With horse off the menu, we once again shifted towards not going but then the pop-ups entered the equation and in particular the presence of Comida Bebe caught our attention, we made our final decision to attend.
On the ground floor you'll find The Stokehouse and Stokehouse Bar
opposite this are the duo of Maze and Mezzo.
Further along is a trio consisting of The Palace, The European and Melbourne Wine Room/Mr Wolf
This year, the gallery is being used and you'll find Libertine/Le Traiteur alongside the Pop-Up, today it's Comida Bebe.
Saturday is the turn of Izakaya Den and Sunday is Embrasse.
Still upstairs but on the opposite side are Longrain/Longrain Bar and Esposito
Sarti and Charcoal Lane are also to be found on the gallery level.
Most noteable difference between the first year and this year - there are a lot more places where you can sit and eat, or more accurately, stand and eat.
Besides eating there are other things you can do:
- Gourmet Traveller Taste Kitchen - free to attend but first come, first served. Half hour demonstations, three per event session.
- Taste Wine with Gourmet Traveller Wine - these cost 6 crowns. They run 30 minutes, 3 different sessions per event session.
- Gourmet Traveller Chefs Table - also free to attend, first come, first served. Half hour sessions, three per event session
- Art of Cocktail Making - these cost $10, 5 classes per session, each class lasts 30 minutes.
- King Island Dairy Cheese and Beer Discovery - these cost $12 or 12 crowns, only 2 classes per event session.
Time for the most important part - the food.
Unlike some of the other dishes we tried, this is served piping hot. There's a bit of spice but nothing too volatile. It's simple but nicely done [Cost: 8 crowns]
Three chorizo halves set on a skewer with 2 apple slices - good dense and meaty chorizo well matched to the apple sauce [Cost: 10 crowns]
This is described on the menu as "A compilation of salmon, pork, onion and other seasonal vegetables, chargrilled and wrapped in a flaky bread type pastry."
Doesn't quite look like that does it? It is pork sausage and salmon skewer, sitting on cooked onions and a salsa verde type sauce on sardinian bread (carta di musica). It actually was quite tasty, the sausage were juicy, the salmon was moist and still pink inside. [Cost: 12 crowns]
Libertine and Le Traiteur:
This is described as - "loose mess of duck, apple, etc served in a cup with croutes sticking out"
Doesn't look like that either.
A dissapointing dish - The rillettes were dry and the bread was way too hard and oily. [Cost: 10 crowns]
A lovely slice of pork on a very sweet bun - the crackling was definitely crispy. [Cost: 10 crowns]
One of the stand out dishes - lovely spicing in the yellow curry, excellent rice and very soft beef. [Cost: 12 crowns]
Melbourne Wine Room and Mr Wolf
Lovely veal but there seemed to be a curry flavour to the sauce. Left a bit of a harsh flavour in the back of your throat. [Cost: 10 crowns]
Mezzo Bar and Grill:
Another excellent dish - the pork cheek was very tender, you could cut it with a fork, enjoyed the sweet elements brought in by the raisins and marsala and the white polenta was well cooked [Cost: 8 crowns]
Don't think this dish was helped by being served somewhat tepid, full of prawn flavour but texturally had gone a bit rubbery. [Cost: 8 crowns]
Quite a surprisingly good dish - lovely flavour in the filling but the pastry was its crowning glory, gorgeously buttery and flaky. [Cost: 10 crowns]
There's a dish we didn't have but seems to be extremely popular judging by the queue:
they are waiting for the The Palace Wagyu burger [Cost: 10 crowns]. If you are attending and want to try it, you probably should aim to go there first.
So what's our final verdict on this years show.
It wins on venue - how can you not love the Exhibition Building. It is a good concept, trying dishes from various restaurants, though whether it is good value is questionable. Perhaps if they didn't give away so many tickets, everyone could benefit with lower entry prices. As consumers, the PR practices are a turn off and are a disservice to the restaurants.
Friday 27th August
5.30pm to 9.30pm
Saturday 28th August
12pm to 4pm and 5.30pm to 9.30pm
Sunday 29th August
12pm to 5pm
For further information, visit the Taste of Melbourne website.