The good news is that after years of decline Taste of Melbourne has rejuvenated itself, upgrading the restaurants exhibiting their food and moving to Albert Park.
The bad news is that if the weather turns bad – and the forecast is for showers and a temperature that won’t rise above 19C – then you’ll be damp and cold queueing for your credits and food at the MoVida and Mamasita stalls on the grass left patchy from the Grand Prix.
You’ll find plenty of gushing reviews of Taste of Melbourne thanks to free hospitality and a chauffeur driven tour of exhibiting restaurants for bloggers who were required to guarantee publicity.
This is an independent view despite receiving a media pass to the VIP launch. It was backed by free champagne, a cold wind, intermittent showers and some men I’d never heard of from London giving awards for the best dishes of the show. The best was judged to be Albert Street’s Minted Mermaid – a peas and mint soup costing 10 credits. The runners up were Mamasita’s Cerdo en Nogada – mulato rubbed pork fillet, walnut sauce, raisins – and The Botanical’s Yuzu cloud, coconut pearls and guava sorbet.
The first night wasn’t busy but the queues for Mamasita were as long as they are down the stairs and onto Collins Street in town – with the credits tent and MoVida attracting equal crowds.
So what do you get for your money? Entrance is $30 unless you can snaffle a free ticket. Credits ($1=1) have to be bought in round numbers with smallish savoury dishes mostly costing 10 to 12 and desserts 8. The most expensive dish is Mr Hive’s dessert bar flavours for 30.
It’s going to cost $60 without a drink. It’s easily an $80-100 day out for an individual, which makes it comparable to eating out at any one of the exhibitors’ restaurants if you are careful in ordering.
What I like is the curated choice of restaurants that, in addition to those mentioned above, include The Atlantic, The Aylesbury, Libertine, Mahjong, The Point, Sake, Taxi Dining and Josie Bones.
The interesting thing is that the newspapers don’t engage with this event leaving space for Google and Zagat, which launched in Australia this year, to exhibit and offer prizes of notebooks and headphones for voting on their restaurant listings, which will be published on Google Maps (much as Yelp is published on Apple maps)
If you don’t get out to restaurants often then it is probably worth a visit; if you live in them or are a cynic like me then you’ll want to stay away.
The thing to remember is to pick a sunny gap in the weather, wrap up well as bitter onshore winds blow across Albert Park and bring a sturdy umbrella.
Oh, and your left over credits you couldn’t spend? I can’t help on that I’m afraid.