Feature F1 Unlocked
DESTINATION GUIDE: What F1 fans can eat, see and do when they visit the Australian GP
Formula 1 paddock stalwart Amy Overy – aka food blogger F1 Foodie – gives us a guided tour of the best eats, treats and things to do when fans visit Melbourne for this weekend's Australian Grand Prix, with help from local lad and F1 rookie Oscar Piastri...
From most places on the planet, Melbourne is really quite far to travel to and from. However, with its vibrant food and drink scene, world-class sporting venues, historic Southbank on the Yarra River and location on the coast, the city has something to reward everyone who makes the trip Down Under.
The vibe in Melbourne is always pretty chilled and laid-back, but the city really comes alive when F1 is in town just as the Australian summer is slipping into something more autumnal, and soon the memory of the long flight and discombobulating jet lag quickly disappears when watching the world go by at a pavement café with a cold VB beer in your hand.
Melburnian born and bred, rookie McLaren driver Oscar Piastri left the city to further his racing ambitions in Europe as a teenager – but for him there really is no place like home.
“Despite moving to England when I was 15 to pursue my dream of racing in F1, when I return, memories and moments from my childhood come flooding back when I see places and areas of the city that I used to visit as a kid,” he says.
“When world-class sporting events like Formula 1 come to town, you can feel the buzz and energy around the city, and you can sense everyone is talking about it. Formula 1 becomes the centre of attention and I love that. To be coming back as an F1 driver for the Australian Grand Prix in my home city is an extra special feeling and I can’t wait.”
Where and what to eat
In a few short years, Melbourne has evolved into becoming arguably the gourmet capital of Australia, thanks mainly to its hugely diverse population and the resulting melting pot of cuisines, coupled with a ‘throwing out the rule book’ mentality. In fact, the best description of Melbourne’s attitude to food is ‘relaxed’.
But don’t let this laid-back approach fool you, because there is one meal that Melburnians take very seriously indeed – brunch. Brunching is almost a competitive sport in this city, with countless options in every neighbourhood where you can enjoy the most important meal of the day right through until evening if you so wish.
Set among the office blocks of south Melbourne and nestled under a sleek glass tower is the heritage listed cafe Kettle Black. The building was a traditional Victorian terrace and has maintained its ornate frontage with delicate fretwork detailing, while inside the space is clean and modern with a menu to match. Signature brunch dishes include the very Instagrammable ricotta hotcake with seasonal berries and edible flowers (see below), which looks almost too pretty to eat.
A 40-minute stroll through the Royal Botanical Gardens and over the river in Richmond, you’ll find Pillar Of Salt, whose innocuous exterior on a road full of furniture shops and showrooms belies its charm within.
With exposed brick walls and an airy courtyard filled with reclaimed seating, it’s a popular spot where – like so many places in Melbourne – they take the business of coffee seriously, with an eclectic menu to accompany your caffeine hit. Try a quirky twist on popular brunch staple eggs benedict with the Reuben benedict, made with roast beef brisket and homemade sauerkraut.
Successfully swapping carbon fibre composite layers for dough lamination, former Williams aerodynamicist and Australian GP Ambassador Kate Reid opened Lune croissanterie after a stint learning the fine art of patisserie in Paris after leaving the sport.
Struggling to recreate her days off in the French capital where she would enjoy a delicious croissant with her coffee, Reid decided to reverse engineer the perfect croissant and open her own place – and now has queues snaking down the street with people desperate to get their hands on an everchanging menu of croissants and cruffins, while watching the expert bakers work with precision in the temperature-controlled glass cube in the middle of a characterful old warehouse in Fitzroy.
Ever wondered what a ring of deep-fried choux pastry glazed with delicious flavoured icing would taste like? Well wonder no more, because not content with producing the ‘world’s best croissant’ – according to the New York Times – Reid opened a sister enterprise in 2020, Moon, just along the street from Lune’s flagship building. With flavours as varied as Earl Grey and candied yuzu, this weekend-only bakery is just open until they sell out, so get there early to avoid disappointment.
Naked for Satan has arguably one of the best views of the city from its rooftop terrace, and is the perfect place to sample a cocktail and share small plates of delicious food while imagining the quirky building as an illegal vodka distillery during The Great Depression in the late 1920s.
This moonshining enterprise was a closely guarded secret headed by a Russian immigrant named Leon Satanovich, affectionately nicknamed ‘Satan’, and those who came to refill their empty bottles would use the code phrase “let’s get naked for Satan” to gain entry to the building.
The nakedness allegedly refers to the fact that due to the soaring temperatures of Melbourne summers, coupled with the heat from the burners under the stills, Satanovich would often work close to naked in just his underpants.
As Melbourne is an ocean city, it would be remiss not to add in a place to eat where you can sit and watch the kite surfers and spectacular sunsets over Port Phillip Bay. Republica is just the ticket. Located next to the St Kilda Seawater Baths, this beachside restaurant, serving a crowd-pleasing menu, is the perfect spot to enjoy a glass of something chilled and a bite to eat whilst gazing at the ocean.
The Builders Arms Hotel in Fitzroy is one of the oldest pubs in Melbourne. Built in 1853, this classic boozer has undergone many incarnations since then, most notably as a place for social and political gatherings of marginalised groups in the 1940s through to the 1980s.
The pub, and indeed area, have undergone enormous change in the following decades, but what remains is the charming front bar where you can order a wide selection of Australian beers and wines, and no-nonsense pub grub which you can enjoy at a pavement table while you continue the noble art of putting the world to rights.
Despite hailing from New South Wales, Aussie former Red Bull driver Mark Webber is a big fan of the food scene in Melbourne. “There are about a dozen awesome eateries along or near Flinders Lane between Swanston Street and Exhibition Street,” says the nine-time Grand Prix winner. “And don’t order – tell them how hungry you are and ask to be fed. You’ll get lots of small serves of their best dishes. My favourite restaurant is Tonka.”
Where to stay
There are many familiar chain hotels around the CBD area of Melbourne with easy access to Albert Park, thanks to the frequent tram service which is free to use in certain zones during Grand Prix week. Look out for the smiling volunteers who will cheerily direct you to the correct tram.
Where to watch the race
There are lots of general admission areas around the track, so pack up a picnic and relax on the grass as you watch the drivers battle it out in the parkland setting. Alternatively, the Brabham Grandstand on the outside of Turn 2 is a great place to watch the cars jostling for position.
Join the legions of Instagrammers and wander down Hosier Street in Melbourne’s CBD to marvel at the incredible street art on display – and adorning everything from walls and doors to wheelie bins.
For another dose of vibrant colour, head to Brighton Beach (the Australian one, of course!) to see the iconic Victorian bathing boxes which line the foreshore. These 82 bold and bright wooden structures built well over a century ago retain classic Victorian architectural features – and when viewed together, they turn the beachscape into a collective work of art that can change by the hour depending on the season and light.
“From Brighton Beach, there’s a spectacular view of the Melbourne city skyline and it’s also a popular spot for windsurfing and wakeboarding,” says Piastri. “I used to give it a go when I was growing up and loved it!”
Feeling active? Try Webber’s favourite running routes: ”The best run is the Tan [the Tan Track – a 3.82km track around the city’s Royal Botanic Gardens]. Counter clockwise is harder… most people go clockwise! Also along the foreshore of St Kilda or the bush trails along the bay in Hampton are great too.”
But if getting around on two wheels rather than two feet is more your thing, Piastri has your back. “Beach Road, which runs through Melbourne’s bay side suburbs, is hugely popular with cyclists,” he says, “so it’s a good place to head on a bike as the views are immense.”
If jetlag has you waking up before dawn, take the opportunity to catch the sunrise at St Kilda Pier, and then head back at sunset to see the resident colony of delightful Little Penguins as they return to their burrows for the night.
Stroll around the city’s historic lanes and arcades which date back to Victorian times. Once used as laneways for horses and carts, they are now home to many independent cafes and boutiques.
You can also book a tour of the legendary Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), setting of many historic sporting victories over the years.
“Melbourne is the self-proclaimed sporting capital of the world,” says Piastri, “and there is the small matter of Australian Rules Football. The sport is a religion in Melbourne, with 10 of the 18 teams based in and around the city.
“If you are in town during the AFL season (March-September) an absolute must is to catch a game at the world-renowned MCG, one of the biggest stadiums in the world with a capacity of over 100,000. Four teams call the ‘G’ home, including my team: the Richmond Football Club.”
Built in 1912, the Great Scenic Railway at Luna Park in St Kilda boasts the title of the longest continually-operated wooden rollercoaster in the world, and is one of only seven remaining rollercoasters that requires a brakeman to stand in the middle of the carriages.
A cosmopolitan city of beaches, green spaces, world-class sports, a thriving arts scene and incredible hospitality, Melbourne is an excellent choice at any time of the year – but it feels only right to let Piastri have the final word…
“Anyone that knows me will testify that I’m pretty chilled out – and Melbourne is one of those cities where I find it easy to relax and unwind. There is a really easy-going vibe across the city and I like the laid-back feel.”
MELBOURNE AT A GLANCE
Currency: Australian dollar
F1 race held since: 1996