Plaza Ballroom. Even the name instills a sense of wonder. Immediately you envisage chandeliers, lavish decor and all the trimmings. Descending down the stairs for the second annual Melbourne Food and Wine Festival event, Truly, Madly, Deeply Melbourne, every expectation you have of the space is met, and exceeded. It is a venue that’s beautiful, and steeped in history.
Opened in 1930, the venue’s original intention, to be a ballroom and cabaret theatre, was quickly reconsidered. It was during a period of prudence and prohibition, and many venues were vying for a notoriously elusive liquor licence. Thus, the Plaza Ballroom was converted into a cinema, one of the first multiplexes in the world.
Fast forward to 2017, and the Plaza Ballroom has been restored to its primary purpose: a grand space for holding grand events.
The Truly, Madly, Deeply Melbourne event promised a night that would showcase and celebrate what the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival is all about: excellent food with beautiful regional wines.
The evening began with oysters, bubbles, canapes, and cocktails. Excited chatter filled the room, as guests gathered in the pre-function space; a large organza curtain obscuring the grand dining room. The Melbourne Gin Company-inspired cocktail and matching canape was a standout: the classic G&T, paired with a compressed and carbonated cucumber slice, with cucumber sherbet and gin infused marmalade.
Soon, the curtain was parted, revealing a grand space, styled to perfection. It was an impressive set up, with fresh orchid centerpieces on long banquet tables, set for hundreds of hungry guests.
Guests began eagerly poring over the wine tasting notes and menu. The four courses were cheekily understated: ‘tinned tuna’, ‘cheese and tomato’, ‘lamb and sea shrubs’, ‘peaches and cream’. On the reverse side of the menu was the true nature of how carefully considered each dish was, and how complex some elements really were.
The first course, ‘tinned tuna’ was really sashimi yellowfin tuna, with scampi caviar, puffed black rice, sesame, wasabi oil, bonito infused soy, and umami jelly. The jelly itself involved roughly 30 ingredients and took four days to make.
When presented to the table, you immediately knew the night was going to be a feast for the eyes, ears and tongue. The entrée arrived, a large flat tin, complete with lid, liquid smoke flowing onto the table. Inside were two pieces of ruby-red tuna, glistening amongst a bed of the umami jelly. Smooth, a hint of sweetness, and the perfect balance of flavours that neutralised the mouth, before proceeding onto the following courses.
This balance was the main intention for lauded executive chef, David Riccardo, formerly of culinary powerhouses Pearl and Chin Chin.
“It was about using beautiful ingredients and creating a balance of flavours.”
This intention was carried throughout the meal.
The ‘cheese and tomato’ course was a showcase of fresh flavours: stracciatella, heirloom tomatoes with truffled milk crisp and shaved truffle.
‘Lamb and sea shrubs’ was a sweet combination of Flinders Island salt grass lamb rump, dukkah, date puree, freeze dried blackberries, mushrooms and sheep’s milk labne.
But the real showstopper, the most understated item on the menu, was the ‘peaches and cream dessert’. As soon as it landed on the table, guests were grabbing their phones to point and shoot. An elaborate latticed white chocolate ‘cage’ (which took over 100 man hours to construct) enclosed a brilliantly coloured glazed mascarpone mousse with liquid peach centre, preserved peach pieces and blood peach gel dotted around the plate. Many paused, spoons raised, afraid to destroy the beautiful dish that sat before them. But the temptation was too great - and soon mumbled hushes fell across the room as people only spoke between mouthfuls to mutter praise.
It was an incredible feast. Each course was paired with wines from notable regional growers such as Santa & D’Sas. There was a whiskey bar, serving up an espresso whiskey digestif. Chocolate cigars then were passed around the table, as people excused themselves to head towards the cheese tower for a final taste.
Looking around the room, people were beyond sated, satisfied after spending an evening celebrating the finer things in life in a most refined way.
You don't have to be planning a Melbourne Food and Wine Festival event to utilise the Plaza Ballroom – book your next event at the Plaza Ballroom via Venuemob >>
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