Melbourne's inaugural Night Noodle Markets, which took place in November last year as part of The Age Good Food Month, bordered on a noodle-driven frenzy.
It was expected that Melbourne would embrace the al fresco Asian food markets with the same enthusiasm as Sydneysiders have for the last 15 years. This is Melbourne, home to eaters, land of the long queue. It's just that nobody expected the whole city to show up, all at once, every day for the full two weeks they ran.
Almost 300,000 diners gave the 25 vendors and the grassy expanse of Alexandra Gardens a real workout. This year, the festival coordinators have come armed and ready. The markets, which are again the flagship event for Good Food Month will run for 17 nights from November 14. They will also be moving across the Yarra to Birrarung Marr, a new location that is nearly twice the size and will hold double the number of stalls. The 50 restaurant vendors and four food trucks will be dotted between four bars and several seating areas which will double as stages for live music, DJs and art installations.
"I know it's a cliche to say that the markets keep getting bigger and better, but we've really kicked things up a notch," says Good Food Month festival director Joanna Savill. You can still expect the lantern gardens, a new, giant lucky cat mascot and lion dancers working through the crowds, but this year, you'll also find an artist creating a new artwork on the back wall of the Schweppes Hawkers' Square, every night, and notable DJs spinning in most areas. Yalumba will build a two-storey viewing deck out of shipping containers lined with recycled timber from the winery. The team from Mercedes Benz will be creating a giant open lattice dome of plantation timber. It will essentially be like the Birdcage at the races, only with fewer hats and door lists. And more dumplings.