World’s Longest Lunch in Melbourne elevates outdoor dining to new heights

The event was set on the grounds of sunny Kings Domain.

This year's feast took place on the grassy, sun-drenched grounds of Kings Domain (Photo: World's Longest Lunch)

Good food is the cornerstone of a bonded community, especially in multicultural countries such as Malaysia. Perhaps this is one of many reasons that Melbourne, Victoria — as a melting pot of cultures, people and, subsequently, a myriad of gastronomic influences — is a popular holiday destination. After all, eating well is sacrosanct and vacation calories do not count, right?

Knowing this, the best time to visit the city is during the annual Melbourne Food and Wine Festival (MFWF). Founded in 1993, it began with a humble 12-event programme that has since grown to become one of the most awaited culinary fairs in the world, with over 400 happenings across the city alone and more throughout the greater state of Victoria. From large-scale spectacles attended by thousands of guests to intimate bespoke dining experiences, the fête is one of the most fun ways to get acquainted with the local food and drink scene, not to mention the geniuses that keep foodies around the world coming back for seconds.

Discourse on F&B masterminds would be amiss without mention of chef and restaurateur Andrew McConnell. Lauded as a king of hospitality, McConnell is a prime example of the archetypal Melburnian chef, owing largely to his years cooking in the vibrant and diverse landscapes of Shanghai, London and Hong Kong. After returning to the city where he was born and raised, he went on to bring his worldly touch to his ever-growing line-up of award-winning restaurants that stand at the forefront of Melbourne’s contemporary gastronomic realm. (Gimlet, Cumulus Inc, Cutler & Co or Supernormal ring a bell, anyone?) So, it was welcome news when he was announced as the latest head for MFWF’s anticipated opening event — the World’s Longest Lunch (WLL).


WLL is led by a different culinary personality and held against a new backdrop each year (Photo: World's Longest Lunch)

Led by a different culinary personality and held against a new backdrop each year, 2024’s feast took place on the grassy, sun-drenched grounds of Kings Domain, the area between Linlithgow Avenue south and Domain Road, encompassing the Shrine of Remembrance Reserve, the Sidney Myer Music Bowl’s surrounding parklands and the spaces south of the Royal Botanic Gardens. Outdoor dining is a great Australian love, especially when skies are clear and temperatures mild, making this event that much more distinct from any other.

The arrival at the park was a grand sight to behold: more than 600m of clothed table set up across a portion of the pathway and a straw hat awaiting guests at their seats. Large patio umbrellas offered patches of shade through the afternoon, and at each table setting was a bottle of foaming sunscreen courtesy of Mecca Cosmetica (which, if you know anything about the harshness of the Aussie sun, was thoroughly appreciated by the 1,500 attendees).

The afternoon started off right with cups of Joe from Inglewood Coffee Roasters, the specialty venture of former Aussie Rules football player turned director of the highly successful Only Hospitality Group, Julien Moussi. The caffeine was swiftly followed by flutes of bubbly by Victoria’s oldest family-owned winery, Tahbilk. Beyond the wine list, guests also had their choice of beers from Brick Lane Brewing, flavoured and sparkling waters by Capi, or non-alcoholic spritzes.


Chef and restaurateur Andrew McConnell (Photo: Shelly Horan)

Farm-to-table is the new hot thing thanks to the concept’s ability to highlight the best of seasonal produce and local agriculture. The entrée was an exemplary dish of this trend, featuring zucchini flowers stuffed with feta, accompanied by grilled peppers and pickled heirloom tomatoes. A green sauce garnished the vegetables for a bright touch.

For the main course, tender chicken confit was paired with salade Lyonnaise, salty smoked sausage, tangy kohlrabi rémoulade, tarragon and curly frisée lettuce. The main protein was sourced from Aurum Poultry Co, the country’s top provider of ethically cultivated poultry, further demonstrating the event’s celebration of Australian producers.

Meals are best completed with a little something sweet. Thus, dessert in the form of chocolate tart with a dollop of Chantilly cream was in order. Ruby-like sour cherries helped cut through the rich ganache, creating a sweet midday pick-me-up.


Salade Lyonnaise, confit chicken, smoked sausage, kohlrabi rémoulade, tarragon and frisée (Photo: Genie Leong)

For foodies, nothing is worse than sitting down to a good meal only to be too full to continue halfway through. If this is a concern while considering adding the WLL to your Melbourne bucket list, rejoice in knowing that courses are fairly spread out, as the on-site kitchens finish service of each one before sending out the next,  a task which takes time due to the event’s scale. In between dishes, feel free to temporarily leave your seat to check out the several beverage booths (inclusive in your ticket) or take a walk through the park to digest.

Visitors looking to add to their MFWF experiences, or those unable to score seats for WLL, may also book the World’s Longest Brunch, which operates following the same al fresco format with different chefs at the helm. As with most modern Australian dining, dietary restrictions are easily accommodated with notice upon booking.

This article first appeared on Apr 22, 2024 in The Edge Malaysia.


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