Food festival season is upon us once again, as Sydneysiders grow more selective about their wining and dining options. The restaurant and bar choices around town have grown exponentially in recent years to every foodies delight. So with the abundance of alternatives, how do food lovers weed out the gastronomic pretenders and find the true culinary masters? The March into Merivale Food and Wine Festival is a good start on your exploration toward Sydney's dining elite. This festival is a fantastic opportunity for punters and foodies alike to sample what each restaurant and bar under the Merivale banner has to offer, and all for a fraction of the usual cost. What better way to discover your food, wine and restaurant preferences.
With the vast number of Merivale venues sprouting across the Sydney CBD in recent times to the point of over saturation, it can be quite overwhelming to decide where to dine. Quantity does not always equate to quality, and this is no different with Merivale. The brand's restaurants can range from the award winning three hatted est., all the way to the forgettable hole in the walls that will not be specifically named here.
However the March into Merivale Food Festival has always been a resounding success in previous years, now celebrating it's fifth year anniversary. This years theme will be "Born to Cook". It all starts on February 12th with the March into Merivale launch party. It would seem that the launch party gets bigger each year. This years launch will take place along Ash Street lane way in addition to the Ivy Ballroom, Palings and what is known as Ivy level 2. As always food and wine will be accompanied by musical entertainment, however this year will also feature aerialist performances by artists from Pacha nightclub. To be a guest will cost you an entry fee of $35 plus booking fee, which provides patrons the privilege of food and wine tokens to use on the night. This is much like how Taste of Sydney food festival utilises crowns as a way for foodies to purchase a limited selection of dishes from each restaurant's allocated stall.
Various dessert choices from Lorraine's Patisserie
The launch party is only the start. From then on, a collection of over 60 food and wine events will take place primarily during early to mid week, all the way through March and into early April. The events are often quirky in Merivale fashion, with various themes ranging from "Kiss for a Cocktail" on Valentines Day to "Green Fairies at Felix".
Kiss for a Cocktail will involve guests having to "pash" their significant others in order to receive a complimentary cocktail for two. Pecks on the cheek are frowned upon and will consequently be excluded from the offer. The Valentines day promotion will be available at both Palings and Pool Club on the night.
Green Fairies at Felix is essentially an Absinthe tasting night on March 10th. The French bar team from Felix will be hosting a masterclass paying homage to the mysterious spirit featuring various cocktails and snacks. The night will cost $45.
If you fancy yourself as a beverage connoisseur, then Merivale also has you covered with all the essential building blocks to add to your resume. For starters Tequila Arriba at El Loco on February 15th will feature a Tequila masterclass. So prepare yourself for an afternoon of tequila, cocktails and Mexican food. Tickets cost $50.
If you prefer an element of mystery to go with your beverages then Pop Up Wines will be for you. Every Tuesday night from February 18th to April 8th will feature a secret pop-up wine tasting. The only catch is that you will need to crack the cryptic clues on twitter to find the hidden location. Make sure you follow @ivy_Bottle_Shop on twitter if you are interested and would like more information.
Fish burgers from the Fish Shop at the launch party
Wednesday evenings during the festival will feature an event named Pool Side Pig. There are no surprises here. The event at Ivy Pool Club will be serving up succulent pig from the spit along with salads, fresh bread and beverages for $30.
The recent resurgence of the high tea has been a major trend across Sydney over the past few years. If high teas are your thing, then Puttin' on the Ritz will be the event for you. What makes this event significant is that it will be held at the three hatted est. You can expect exquisite canapes, petit fours and fancy finger sandwiches along with tea, coffee and of course champagne. Dates for the high tea will include February 22nd, March 1st and March 8th. The cost will be between $70 and $125 depending on your need for unlimited champagne.
Those looking to increase their culinary skills will be happy to find out that Roll Your Own sushi classes will be back at sushi e once again this year. This highly social occasion will be under the guidance of sushi samurai head chef Nobuyuki Ura. Expect to learn the art of authentic nigiri and maki roll making, while you enjoy a glass of wine or Japanese beer over dinner. The class and dinner costs $120, and will be held on February 25th and April 1st.
Perhaps the culinary skills your were looking for were of the sweeter variety? If that is the case, then Lorraine's Patisserie will also feature Pastry School. In each two hour class Lorraine Godsmark will take you through the art of Meringue, Rustic Cakes and Chocolate on February 22nd, March 15th and March 22nd respectively. Expect sample tastings, notes and dessert wine to go along with your education. Each class costs $80.
For more details and information about the various events, go to the March into Merivale event website.
In addition to all the food and wine related events, March into Merivale's famous $33 meal deals will return again this year. Participating restaurants will include:
Ash St. Cellar
The Beresford Hotel
The Fish Shop
El Loco at Slip inn
The Grand Hotel
The Royal George
Restaurant deals will comprise of a meal and a drink, while pubs under the Merivale banner will include two meals and two drinks for the price. Drink options will include Villa Maria wine, Heineken beer and Aqua Panna water. Bookings can be made by contacting Merivale on (02) 9240 3000.