Taste of Melbourne 2012: opening night

Disclosure: I attended the opening night event preview courtesy of Taste of Melbourne.

Taste of Melbourne is back over the next few days, and tonight I attended a preview of the event with a group of other bloggers. Over several hours, we were shown a little of what’s happening and available this year.

The biggest change for 2012 is the location – previous years have been held at the Royal Exhibition Building, but this year it’s at Albert Park Lake.

All the exhibitor and restaurant tents were scattered around the grounds of Pelican Lawn and there was lots of space in between to wander around. I really like the Royal Exhibition Building, but I must admit that moving it outside to Albert Park was a great idea. It felt so much more open and less crowded than last year’s event.

The only worry was the weather. This being Melbourne, I was concerned about the weather forecast that said there would be a chance of a late shower. And while there was a little bit of rain during the evening, it was fortunately fairly light and brief.

We started our tour with a drink at the Rekorderlig tent. They are launching a new flavour at Taste: orange and ginger. It’s drier and not quite as sweet as the other flavours, and was kind of like a ginger beer. I don’t generally drink soft drinks, so I find Rekorderlig rather sweet – this flavour was still on the sweet side for me, but I did like it more than the others.

At the Laurent-Perrier VIP lounge we watched the announcement of the Best in Taste Awards – which awards the top signature dishes of the festival.

The Aylesbury won the front of house award for the best decorated tent.

The second runner up for the Best in Taste award was The Botanical for their dessert: yuzu cloud, coconut pearl and guava sorbet.

The first runner up was Mamasita.

And the winner of the Best in Taste award went to Albert St Food and Wine for the “Minted Mermaid”: a pea and mint soup with smoked salmon and apple.

Honourable mentions went to The Aylesbury for their zucchini flower dish, and Josie Bones for their black pudding.

After the awards, we headed to the Dilmah Chef’s Skillery. At the Dilmah Chef’s Skillery, different chefs demonstrate their unique skills, and participate in a Q&A session. Our session was hosted by Nick Creswick from Libertine, who showed us how to debone a chicken.

He made it look really easy. 🙂

As in previous years, Sensology are holding classes that teach you how to make different cocktails. We sat in for a whisky sour session, with other options being espresso martini, southside, original Bacardi, mojito, mai tai and pina coladas. Tickets for a cocktail masterclass costs 10 crowns (including your cocktail).

How awesome is my cocktail? It’s a winner, I’m telling you.

Okay, on to the food! I sampled a few dishes this year, and my pick out of the ones I tried was definitely the lamb skewers at Movida.

My top dish: the chargrilled Moorish lamb skewers (8 crowns) – all charry, salty, delicious meat. Can’t go wrong! 🙂

We also tried a couple of dishes from Mr Hive Kitchen and Bar.

This was the Regal King salmon ceviche with smoked paprika, yoghurt and finger limes (6 crowns). It was beautifully presented with subtle flavours.

I really liked the summer berry Eton mess (6 crowns), although I wished for more meringues. 🙂

We also sampled two dishes from Livingroom.

This was the beetroot cured salmon, vanilla and lime pickled cucumber and horseradish cream (10 crowns). It looked gorgeous, and I really liked the pairing of the spicy but creamy horseradish with the salmon.

Their dessert was a warm chocolate mousse with toasted marshmallows hiding at the bottom, topped with caramel popcorn (8 crowns). This was lovely, though quite rich and sweet.

Libertine’s pressed terrine of chicken, pistachio and orange with grilled baguette and pickled apple salad (10 crowns) was pretty tasty.

At The Point, I couldn’t help but eye up the suckling pig (18 crowns).

But I settled on the shabu shabu: David Blackmore’s wagyu karubi plate, Otway shiitake mushrooms and togarashi (10 crowns). This was TINY – the broth and meat had a nice depth of flavour, but it was seriously tiny.

And finally, I stopped by The Aylesbury.

Where I tried the prawn burger with crustacean aioli (10 crowns). Burgers seem to do well as outdoor / festival food, and I liked that this was a slightly different take with a prawn filling.

Fingers crossed that the weather is fine for the next few days, because I think that the new location really works. There was a nice feel tonight and it wasn’t too crowded.

Are you going / have you gone to Taste of Melbourne this year? What did you think?

Taste of Melbourne
Thursday 15 November – Sunday 18 November 2012
Pelican Lawn, Albert Park Lake