Food festivals, pop up stores and new restaurant openings to satisfy the culinary explorer in all of us
WINE AND DINE
There’s no better time for a gastronome to visit Melbourne, with the annual Melbourne Food and Wine Festival taking place on 16-25 March. The 10-day calendar is packed with events that range from large-scale celebrations like the River Graze, which transforms the banks of the Yarra into a food and wine lover’s playground for an entire day, to intimate ticketed sessions like A Historic Cocktail Journey at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. Other noteworthy events include the Organic and Wild Food Tour at the Queen Victoria Market, a tour of King Valley’s vineyards and a slew of International Chef Dinners led by some of Australia’s finest chefs.
Bali’s famed Cuca Restaurant will host two sets of culinary events in Penang and Kuala Lumpur this month in what promises to be a one-of-a-kind dining experience. Its first pop-up in George Town, Penang is at the inaugural Macalister Mansion Gourmet Weekend on 2-4 March, where it will present bestselling dishes selected for Malaysian palates. It then takes its act to Kuala Lumpur, where it will team up with chef Jeff Ramsey’s Babe Restaurant on 9-10 March. Swig & Nibble @ Babe is touted to be an off-the-charts collaboration of like-minded talents. The Jimbaran-based restaurant has been voted one of TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice top ten restaurants in Asia.
DINING WITH A VIEW
One of Singapore’s most talked-about additions to the dining scene is Lavo Italian Restaurant & Rooftop at Marina Bay Sands. Located at Sands SkyPark, the New York-inspired restaurant, bar and club is the result of a collaboration between Marina Bay Sands and Tao Group, one of the most profitable nightlife, entertainment and dining businesses in the U.S. The kitchen is led by executive chef Ralph Scamardella, who brings his 30 years of experience to showcase the best of Italian-American cuisine through dishes like chicken parmigiana, penne a la vodka and the restaurant’s signature one-pound meatball topped with an insane amount of ricotta cheese.
January saw the opening of The Spread Eagle, London’s first vegan pub in Hackney that features food and drinks without any animal by-products like egg and dairy. The food is not bland – boring salads and hippie hemp juice aren’t on the menu – thanks to Meriel Armitage, founder of cult favourite Club Mexicana, who brings Mexican-inspired street food like tacos with vegan chorizo, vegan fried chicken scallops and beer-battered “tofish”. At the bar, you’ll find a range of 16 beers on tap that are made by vegan producers, a concise list of organic wines, and a range of cocktails that employ innovative vegan twists.
After five years in South Bondi, Sydney, Panama House recently relocated to Campbell Parade and now overlooks Bondi Beach. Ever since it opened, the Latin American restaurant and bar has been a hit among locals and tourists, who come here for the all-day brunch (made even better with bottomless mimosas and Bloody Marys from Friday to Sunday), shared plates and sundowner cocktails. Helming the kitchen is head chef Sean Kiely, who merges Latin American and Australian flavours to create signature dishes like gumbo omelette stuffed with prawns and chorizo on a bed of habanero corn bread; chargrilled octopus with chorizo esquites and salsa verde; and slow-roasted mojo-marinated pork belly with celeriac slaw and jalapeno cream.