From the finest local food, wine and spirits to the world’s most celebrated beers and coffees, Winning Tastes is your go-to guide to the very best in food and drink, showcasing medal and trophy winners from Australia’s leading awards programs.
Those awards programs are the Royal Melbourne Wine Awards, Australian Food Awards, Australian International Beer Awards, Australian International Coffee Awards and Australian Distilled Spirits Awards.
The Old Alphington Swimming Pool
Commandeer a boat from Fairfield Boathouse ($24-$43/boat for the first hour, $5-$9/hour after) and paddle down to the old Alphington Swimming Pool site. The pool was closed in the ’60s and filled with silt, but at this quiet bend in the river, you’ll find a part-excavated monument, and a clearing beneath a sweet grove of oak trees. 1A View St, Alphington 3078.
Picnic match: Follow your seafaring with some Pirate Life Imperial India Pale Ale, with big, fresh, flavours in perfect balance. It’s a Gold Medal winner at the Australian International Beer Awards.
It’s a magical wonderland of trees, crosshatched by bike paths with public toilets, a free skate park and free table tennis (BYO bats and balls). There’s also a rotunda, which is handy if you’re lousy at giving directions on where to meet. St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North 3068.
Picnic match: Plough to Plate Fine Food Tomato and Chilli Dip is a smoky dip handcrafted from scratch using handpicked juicy tomatoes and bright yellow chillies grown in Strath Creek. Judges at the Australian Food Awards awarded it Best Dip.
The six-hectare gardens sit right above St Kilda Beach and have direct access down to the sand. Full of those famous St Kilda palm trees, the gardens feature open-air barbecues and a path leading to the Edwardian-style rotunda. Beaconsfield Pde, St Kilda West 3182.
Picnic match: If barbecuing red meats then you need a Margaret River red wine to complement. Deep Woods Estate 2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, winner of the Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy at this year’s Royal Melbourne Wine Awards, has a palate layered with complex varietal flavours.
Malvern East’s verdant jewel boasts epic views back over Melbourne. A long boulevard of trees runs through the middle and there are Japanese gardens in which to find a nook and/or quiet cranny for picnicking. Ardrie Rd, Malvern East 3145.
Picnic match: Asterisk Kitchen Activated Coconut Charcoal Lavosh is a flat bread with a slightly nutty flavour and black appearance, made with unbleached Australian flour, sesame seed and Activated Coconut Charcoal. It won Best Cracker at the Australian Food Awards.
The enclosed grounds are heritage listed and there’s a huge mansion in the middle as well as stables and a lake with a boathouse. They even rent out croquet sets. Entry to the grounds costs $4 for kids and $10 for big kids. You can’t barbecue or drink alcohol, but this is one of the best-looking patches of grass Melbourne has. 192 Hotham St, Elsternwick 3185.
Picnic match: Prom Country Cheese Venus Blue, Champion Dairy from the Australian Food Awards, is a delicate, creamy blue mould sheep cheese made with unique raw milk cultures.
Giant chess! If that’s not enough of a reason to hit up St Kilda’s 150-year-old beauty mark, perhaps we can interest you in the conservatory, grey-headed flying foxes, and the acres and acres in which to run? Should the weather be looking ominously Melburnian, there are plenty of shelters.Cnr Blessington & Tennyson St, St Kilda 3182.
Picnic match: Whip up a G&T using the Champion Gin from the Australian Distilled Spirits Awards, Kangaroo Island Spirits Distillery Old Tom Gin. It’s lightly sweetened and aged for a short period in French Oak, with an addition of lemon myrtle and anis myrtle.
It’s not quite Central Park, but Princes Park is as much an icon as New York’s urban paradise. It stretches almost two kilometres from Carlton to Brunswick and rivals the Tan for the Inner City’s most popular jogging spot on the weekend. Battle your way past social cricketers and Frisbee throwers to the public barbecues just south of Visy Park, and a short stroll from the public toilets at Princes Hill Tennis Courts. 200-590 Royal Pde, Carlton North 3054.
Picnic match: Re-energise after that jog with a thermos of Grouch & Co Diamond Mule coffee, Champion Espresso of the Australian International Coffee Awards, made from highest quality, ethically sourced green beans and designed to be drunk black.