Ever been to lunch with 1,700 diners? At the World’s Longest Lunch by Bank of Melbourne, we had the chance to enjoy a feast just outside the city of Melbourne along the scenic banks of the Maribyrnong River.
The World’s Longest Lunch was the opening event for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival (MFWF) 2018, which ran from 16 – 25 March 2018. This yearly affair celebrates the culturally diverse Melbourne food scene, together with artists and musicians providing the entertainment.
We made our way over to Footscray, a short train journey away from central Melbourne. Located along the Maribyrnong River, the 500m-long table was impressive indeed. Every utensil, plate and glass were in place and ready to receive us!
Wandering around the area before the lunch started allowed me to take a look at the preparation for the event. The area was bustling with staff members rushing around to put the finishing touches as diners streamed in.
Friendly waiters were hanging around offering drinks, and I even managed to grab a cuppa from Lavazza!
Each table setting had a seat number, so I was able to find mine easily – little details like this are crucial when you’re planning a lunch for so many.
There was also a comprehensive menu with the dishes and the corresponding chefs who were preparing them. One of the chefs was even raised in Singapore, which made us really proud.
Did I mention that there was free-flow wine throughout the lunch? To start the meal off, we popped a bottle of Tahbilk Coueslant Chardonnay Pinot Noir NV. It’s never too early to indulge, after all.
The vino helped set the mood for all the entertainment; in-between each course, cultural performances were aplenty.
The African drummers definitely got our blood pumping with their energetic beats! Our first dish was almost as bright as the colours of their outfits.
The first course arrived, courtesy of Chef Adam D’Sylva. This entrée consisted of Cured Ocean Trout with Coconut Turmeric Dressing, Yarra Valley Caviar and Rice Crackers. To the Singaporean palate, the rice cracker was basically our local favourite, keropok.
I enjoyed the hint of lemongrass in the dish, which went well with the briny flavour of the trout. The slight crunch of the rice cracker also paired well with the very savoury caviar which popped in my mouth with each bite.
The Coconut Turmeric Dressing was the element which held the dish together, but also brightened it considerably. The creamy sauce had a pleasant nutty fragrance and was slightly sweet too.
This came with a bottle of Tahbilk Grenache Mourvedre Rose 2017, which added a subtle sweetness to the course. The millennial in me couldn’t help but be delighted by how pretty the pink drink was.
Here comes the band! If quirky is your thing, this guy had a whole truckload of it. He’s a one-man band, with a ukulele, horns, and more. I certainly enjoyed how he made his merry way along the tables as he played his little ditty.
The second course was prepared by Chef Jerry Mai, whose culinary creations bring authentic Vietnamese flavours to Melbourne. This main course was a duck dish, with Roasted Yellow Duck Curry and Jasmine Rice, accompanied by Cucumbers and Ginger Pickles.
The star of the dish was, of course, the duck. Gamey, savoury and tender, the meat was easy to pull off the bone. I liked how the curry was fragrant, but with a solid earthy flavour that grounded the dish. The addition of cucumbers and ginger pickles also helped to cut through the meatier and heavier flavours.
This course was accompanied by a deep red, the Tahbilk Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2015. With peppery hints and just enough tannin, this shiraz went down smoothly with the duck.
We also got a surprising taste of home – there was a lion dance performance! With two pink and purple lions, and pounding drumbeats, this reminded me so much of Chinese New Year back in Singapore.
The final course was the dessert, prepared by Pastry Chef Kay-Lene Tan. Melbourne-born and Singapore-raised, her culinary creations reflect her global travels.
The dessert to cap off the meal was a comforting banana cake: Roasted Banana Cake was accompanied by Finger Lime, Lavazza Coffee Mousse, and Chocolate and Meringue Shards.
Simple and comforting, the light and spongy banana cake went well with the richness of the chocolate. The coffee mousse added a bit of bitterness to the sweet confection, which undercut the sweetness.
With such scrumptious courses, lively entertainment and free-flow wine, this was a lunch to remember. The venue was perfect as well as we could take a stroll by the riverside after the hearty meal, and drink in the sights and sounds.
I can hardly wait to book my seat for the lunch next year, and you should gather all your mates to do the same!
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If a long lunch isn’t your kind of activity, why not check out the other things you can do in Melbourne? From wildlife experiences to extreme sports to food tours, there’s something for every kind of traveller. What’s more, you can get an even better deal with the code VISTMEL20, when you book Melbourne activities.
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Expected damage: AUD$175 (approx. S$177.30) per pax