March into Merivale, the self proclaimed signature food festival of Sydney, will be making its triumphant return once again this autumn. However on this occasion it will be making its arrival earlier than usual, by quite a considerable margin. Typically the annual feast of flavours has held its official launch party at the end of February. This year all the festival fun will begin on February 5th. Quite a bold move considering the festival is aptly named "March" into Merivale. Yet this is no real surprise, since the unusual timing can be directly correlated to the overwhelming success of Merivale's two latest pop-up restaurants and bars. El Loco at the House and The Cove at the House have been extremely popular over the past month, establishing themselves as the must attend venues over the summer. This success has provided the Merivale group with the perfect opportunity to flex their marketing power and cash in on all the recent publicity.
Chef Dan Hong at the Ms G's pop-up at March into Merivale Launch Party
This year's March into Merivale will include sixty specialty food and wine events, evenly distributed across the multitude of Sydney restaurants, bars and eateries to be featured under the Merivale banner. This is all under the guidance of twenty of Merivale's world class chefs, who will be cooking up a storm with this year's festival focused on the finest Australian ingredients. There is also the undertone of sharing food among newly made friends and old neighbours, which is reflected by a number of communal and long table dinning experiences on the event list.
March into Merivale has been notoriously popular in previous years. So successful in fact, that Merivale now charges $30 admission to the launch party. There is also a fee for additional tokens to satisfy guests looking to sample additional menu items as the night progresses. During the festivals inception the launch party was a free event, with the goal of encouraging newcomers to sample the Merivale dining experience. At times it became a free for all, with guests dashing for all the best complementary food and wine on offer. This new system has given Merivale slightly more control over proceedings, and the additional fee has not appeared to have affected the party's popularity so far. Last years launch party attracted 1500 revelers, all keen to construct their own degustation for the night. The $30 admission cost provides guests with eight food and drink tokens to start their foodie experience, much like the format of Taste of Sydney.
Live artwork at the March into Merivale Launch Party
Merivale has created what can only be described as a gourmet food market, garnished with all the fabulous merviale style and entertainent. The must attend event begins along Ash Street just behind Ivy Bar, before it gradually winds its way up to the Ivy Ballroom where most of the top chefs and featured entertainment are located. Conveniently sandwiched between Ash St. Cellar and Felix, guests are greeted by a warm carnival like atmosphere featuring music and living art work in the form of models decorated in gastronomic attire. This year's launch will also incorporate the newly opened Palings Kitchen & Bar, which has filled the void left by the absence of Mad Cow and the Ivy Kitchen. The additional space means there is even more food and wine to taste. The launch party really does provide the ideal opportunity for guests to sample all their favourite Merviale restaurants all in the convenience of one location. Guests to the launch party will also be the first to sample offerings from the yet to be opened Latin American restaurant Abajo.
Sushi e pop-up eatery at March into Merivale Launch Party
In addition to all the culinary creations and delicious cocktails to be experienced at the launch party, March into Merivale's signature meal deals will also return again this year. From February 5th until March 28th guests will be able to indulge in a meal and alcoholic beverage at each Merivale eatery for $33. This offer is available Monday to Friday during both lunch and dinner. Menu items have been specially selected for the promotion and allow guests the perfect opportunity to try each restaurant for a reasonable price. It should be noted that these prices a significantly less than typical menu prices, especially when you consider that restaurants like est. have consistently been awarded three hats in the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide and are run by super chefs such as Peter Doyle.
Some restaurants to feature the $33 meal deals include: - est.
Gastronomic events to feature at this year's March into Merivale range from communal dining experiences and wine tastings all the way to innovative chef competitions where guests have a say in the outcome. Stand out events include "Happy Chinese New Year" at Mr. Wong and "Hither Slither" at Ms. G's. Both events will feature a banquet style menu with up to seven courses, in celebration of Chinese New Year ushering in the Year of the Snake. Ms. G's will also feature a lunch in tribute to Dr. Seuss called "Green Eggs and Ham". The lunch on March 2nd will include four courses and a Dr. Seuss "Cat in the Hat" inspired cocktail or slushee for $60 per person. Children are also welcome for $30 each. This zany theme will commemorate what would have been the 109th birthday of the famous children's author.
Wednesday evenings during the festival will feature a night named "Mamma's Table" at The Beresford Hotel. This event will feature a communal dining experience ideal for those looking to get to know the neighbourhood. Dishes will include pastas, salads and pizzas "just like mamma used to make" for $40 per person. On a similar note, a Mediterranean theme will feature at the one hatted Uccello on March 5th, when Michelin Star Chef Ricardo Ferreira will be paying tribute to his homeland of Portugal with a Portuguese inspired menu. March 12th will also feature an event at Ash St. Cellar called "European Laneway". Guests will have the opportunity to take a gastronomic voyage through France, Spain and Italy for $40 per person. This includes eight food and drink tokens.
Live artwork at the March into Merivale Launch Party
Seafood lovers will need to head to The Fish Shop on Saturday March 16th. In an event called "Battlefish!", the head chefs from Ms. G's and The Fish Shop will go head to head in a seafood cook-off as guests determine their favourite dishes via Twitter. The Fish Shop will also host the "About Trout" event on Saturday March 9th for $75 per person. Guests will learn how to fillet and cook Petuna ocean trout from head chef Jeremy Strode prior to the freshest of seafood lunches along with Tasman wine.
The fabulous "Learn to Sushi" classes will also return this year. Hosted at Sushi e and under the guidance sushi samurai Nobuyuki Uru, guests will be able to learn the art of sushi making. The hands on class will be followed by dinner and an alcoholic beverage in the form of wine or beer, with Kirin typically being the potion of choice. Classes will be available Feburary 12th and March 5th with a first session at 5:30pm and a second at 9:15pm. The cost is $110 per person.
There will also be an array of wine tasting events ranging from Bordeaux at the Ivy Bottle Shop, Riesling at The Beresford Hotel and Shiraz at Bistrode CBD. Champagne aficionados will also be pleased with the return of the ever popular "Lovely Bubbly" Champagne tasting night. The event on March 6th will be hosted at Hemmesphere. Twenty French champagne houses will be featured in addition to accompanying canapés for a price of $99 per person. The pinnacle will be the "Aussie Wine Month 2013 Tasting" on March 25th at Ivy. The event only costs $30, and features over 150 wines from 25 wine regions around Australia. Winemakers and Merivale's top sommeliers will be available to answer wine related questions while the events team provides refreshments.
Those with a sweet tooth will be happy to know that two events will be totally focused on dessert. "The Sweet Spot" hosted at Lorraine Patisserie will feature a three course pop-up dessert degustation on Thursday nights during the festival for $35 per person. However, the stand out will have to be the "Sweet Somethings" event. It will feature a six course dessert degustation constructed by dessert specialists Jane Strode and Lorraine Godsmark. Both chefs, who once cooked together at Rockpool, will be showcasing there skills for the one off event on March 28th at Bistrode CBD. This event is priced at $77 per person.
A number of unique events will also grace the March into Merivale calendar. "Beef & Burgundy" at Felix bar and bistro will feature four beef courses and one cheese course, all of which will be complimented by matched wines of the Burgundy variety. "Venice on the Rooftop" will be hosted at Ucello. This event is actually a masquerade dinner featuring a Venetian themed four course menu including matched wines and a cocktail on arrival. Prizes will be awarded for the best mask on the night. Finally, the "Generation Next" dinner to be held at the three hatted est. The event to be hosted by Australian Gourmet Traveller will feature the next generation of rising chefs displaying their unique culinary creations. The dinner will include six courses combined with unique matched wines that guests may not have had a chance to try at previous venues around town.
The month of March will also feature the "Time Out Taste Test" to be held at Uccello. Sydney's rising culinary stars will compete for the approval of diner's taste buds, with the winners going off to compete at the "Time Out Taste Test" final on March 25th. Best of all, guests get to vote on which apprentice chefs go to the final. Each competition will feature a minimum of six courses starting at $75 per person.
March into Merivale food stalls at the Launch Party
Guests should note that many of these events require booking through the Merivale restaurant reservations centre. If you plan to attend it is wise to act quickly, as the specialty events do tend to sell out. It is a good idea to check the Merivale website for additional events once the festival has begun. On occasion new events are added to the calendar as the festival gets into full swing. March into Merivale has a multitude of must attend events this autumn. At the very least it makes sampling Merivale restaurants much easier on the budget, and provides the ideal opportunity to channel your inner food critic.