Kitchen Wench attended the Night Noodle Market as a guest of Citibank, however all images and thoughts are my own.
So after years of seeing blog posts and coverage of these fabled Night Noodle Markets from my Sydney compatriots, a few months ago I was alerted to the fact that the whole Good Food Month would be brought down to Melbourne – and the Night Noodle Market along with it!
Cue much squealing on my part.
Now I was faced with a bit of a quandry. Anyone who knows me well knows that I absolutely detest crowds and queues – and I knew that for a first year food event in Melbourne, there would most likely be both (however even I was surprised that the first night of the event last Monday had to be shut down as over 25,000 people showed up!). When asked when I would like to attend in the CitiVIP pavillion, I opted for the weekend in hopes that the crowd would have calmed down by then.
Well – there were indeed less people, however it was still utter mayhem with long lines snaking through the gardens and people everywhere. Even when the unpredictable Melbourne weather struck and the heavens opened up to flood us, I saw people grimly hunkering down under umbrellas, trees (and even the odd table) – completely determined that a little rain wouldn’t keep them from their food.
Since the event is well-established in Sydney, I was curious to see how well the idea and concept would translate across state lines for it’s debut year and to be honest, I think that they did well – especially considering the fact that the date they picked is the week that features Taste of Melbourne, the Spanish Festival AND the Polish festival (all three of which feature lots of good food!).
The area itself is quite well designed in that there is plenty of space for people to recline on the grass if they haven’t managed to grab a table, and the food vendors were (for the most part) quite easy to find. I was a little disappointed that the food trucks were *outside* the venue, thereby keeping them away from majority of the crowd, but we still got to taste all the delicacies from the Banh Mi Boys food truck with no lines to contest so I guess it worked out okay.
It’s easiest to compare this event to Taste of Melbourne (my favourite yearly event, though illness prevented me from attending this year), and I would say that the organisers need to have a look at how ToM is run and pick up a few tips. One thing that I thought was fairly lacking was the absence of uniformed staff/volunteers to help direct people to whatever area they were looking for (and it would have been very nice to get a hard copy print out with a map of the venue as well as menu lists for the restaurants so you could plan each trip strategically).
Though the event felt a little disjointed as a whole, you have to bear in mind that this is the first year that they have operated this event in Melbourne, and I’d say that Melbournians are just a *little* different from our over-the-border fellow food-lovers, so hopefully we’ll see the event start to settle in and really make it’s mark in the future. But in the meantime, I’d say that the main issue is the FOOD.
Now, while our shredded pork slider from Chin Chin and EVERYTHING that we got from the Banh Mi Boys were delicious, fresh and well-priced, there were a few disappointments there too. I happen to live near Burwood Teppenyaki House and while I’ve never set foot inside (I have a rule never to eat at an empty Asian restaurant), I thought it was a good opportunity to perhaps give them a try. And while their okonomiyaki wasn’t bad as such, I’ve had better ones in the Melbourne Central food court for half as much money.
Some rather forgettable pork and chilli xiao long bao (so forgettable that I don’t remember where I got them) and at 5 for $10, it made the $15 All-You-Can-Eat dumpling extravaganza at Camy Shanghai Dumpling seem ever cheaper than I usually think it is! The skewers from Hoy Pinoy were much better – and while I wasn’t familiar with Philippino food before ordering, I was very happy that I got one of each skewer for each person at our table rather than having to share them.
The main problem with most of the food was that it was somewhat overpriced for what was being offered. I have no problems with paying for quality, but when the dumplings are average and I’ve paid $2 for each morsel, it does leave me feeling like a rather sad panda. And I hope that we’ll see more variety in the future as in it’s current state it feels quite small.
If you’re in the city and happen to be looking for somewhere to recline on the grass, enjoy some music and share some food with your friends, then take a few minutes to wander through the Alexandra Gardens and at least see what’s on offer.
Night Noodle Markets
November 18-30, 2013
Mon-Tue: 5-9pm; Wed: 5-10pm; Thu:-Fri 5-11pm; Sat:4-10pm; Sun: 4-9pm
Alexandra Gardens, Melbourne