Escape the crowds at Embla, the new CBD wine bar from the Town Mouse team.
Escape the crowds at Embla, the new CBD wine bar from the Town Mouse team. Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen

Nola James

This Saturday is the fourth annual White Night Melbourne, a free 12-hour cultural festival of bright lights, live tunes and performance art from 7pm until dawn.

The festival takes over the CBD from Southbank Boulevard, up Swanston Street and over to the Carlton Gardens.

Glow-in-the-dark ice-cream GloCones, one of a number of food stalls that will be open around the city for White Night.
Glow-in-the-dark ice-cream GloCones, one of a number of food stalls that will be open around the city for White Night. Photo: Ellen Dewar

In the heart of the action plenty of your favourite walk-in restaurants will open late (Lucy Liu and Pastuso​ until 11pm, Chin Chin until 11.30pm, Supernormal until midnight) but unless you've got the patience to wait multiple hours (remember, there could be up to 500,000 people in the city) you're better off roaming the streets and picking up snacks along the way.

With that in mind, here's an hour-by-hour account of what to eat and drink as you wander.

7pm

Burn City Smokers will be smoking brisket all night long.
Burn City Smokers will be smoking brisket all night long. Photo: Supplied

Start the long night with a hand-held dinner at Burn City Smokers: its reverse offset smoker will smoulder through brisket ($15 a bun), pulled pork ($12 a bun) and smoked Texas hot links ($10 a bun) all night long.

7pm-7am, Alexandra Gardens (by the skate park), burncitysmokers.com.au

8pm

The view of the Arts Centre spire from Riverland is pretty spectacular; nab a waterfront perch to watch Cmd. Ctrl. Decipher (an installation that changes the colour of the spire) as you knock back a ketchup and cabbage doused bratwurst ($11) with an ice-cold pot of cider ($6.50).

Open 7pm-1am, Vaults 1-9, Federation Wharf, Federation Square, 9662 1771, riverlandbar.com.

9pm

Take a trip down Neon Lane (in the Monkey Business precinct) for a mash-up of urban lights and contemporary dance, then stop by the 196 Below stall for glow-in-the-dark ice-cream in fruity flavours such as pine-lime and mango-passionfruit ($6.50 one scoop, $8.50 two scoops) served in a GloCone waffle cone (from the Original Cone Co.).

7pm-7am, Bourke Street (between Swanston and Russell streets), 196below.com.au

10pm

This is peak hour; get off the street at Embla (the new wine bar from Carlton's Town Mouse crew) for cheese, charcuterie and an Aperol spritz ($16). They're trading until 3am (walk-ins only) so you could just stay here for a while.

4pm-3am,122 Russell Street, 9654 5923, embla.com.au

Dutchess steakhouse is hosting a supper club.

11pm

New York-style loft bar Dutchess (at the Duke of Wellington Hotel, pictured above) will host a white-themed supper from 11pm, donating 10 per cent of proceeds to White Ribbon Australia. Eat lobster rolls ($15, two pieces) while drinking a White Dove (Tanqueray, orange liqueur, lemon, whites, $11).

11pm-3am, Level 2, 146 Flinders Street, Melbourne, 9810 0055, dutchess.com.au

Midnight snack time

What you really need now is sugar and protein that's easy to eat while you walk the curated light trails. Try a frozen banana coated in 74 per cent dark chocolate from Absolutely Bananas ($4).

7pm-7am, Bourke Street (between Swanston and Russell streets), absolutelybananas.com.au

Heartbreaker bar.

1am

You've earned a stiff drink; head to Heartbreaker, Melbourne's nicest dive bar, for batch-bottled cocktails – negroni, martini, old-fashioned or a manhattan ($18 each) – and some great late-night bar food; Philly cheesesteak fries ($14) are not to be missed.

5pm-3am, 234A Russell Street, Melbourne, 03 9041 0856, heartbreakerbar.com.au

2am

In the Big Top precinct run away with the circus: there'll be acrobatics and heart-stopping aerials under the stars. Watch while rehydrating with an iced peach juice from the Healthy Slushies trailer ($5).

7pm-7am, Carlton Gardens (near the Exhibition Building), healthyslushies.com.au

3am

Up all night or making an early start ... caffeine is your friend. The baristas at Mr Tulk are doing double duty: grab a takeaway brew ($4) and cut through Bowen Lane to underwater exhibition Incubator at The Melbourne City Baths.

6pm-7am, 328 Swanston Street, 8660 5700, mrtulk.com.au

4am

We all like to knock China Bar but really, who else is consistently there for you at 4am? The Swanston Street restaurant is in the middle of the action, serving pan-fried Shanghai dumplings ($5.80) through the wee hours.

Open 24 hours, 257-259 Swanston Street, 9639 6988, chinabar.com.au

5am

Head to Bourke Street Mall for Grooves on Bourke – live jazz with New Orleans street party vibes – then stroll through the laneways to refresh with a pint of Sample pale ale ($11) at Hell's Kitchen; find a window seat and watch the revellers below.

Noon-7am, 20A Centre Place, 9654 5755

6am

The party animals at Nieuw Amsterdam are throwing a 12-hour White Night UV shindig; hide from the White Night under black light with a glow-in-the-dark "pa-glow-ma" cocktail (Cazadores tequila, grapefruit and tonic, $15).

Noon-7am, 106-112 Hardware Street, 9602 2111, nieuwamsterdam.com.au

Stalactites souvlaki.

7am

You've made it. You've been awake for 24 hours (unless you had a little kip in the Carlton Gardens). Do you want to go home and eat cereal? No. You want to go to Stalactites and get a bacon and egg breakfast souvlaki ($10.50). Do that, and call it a day.

Open 24 hours, 177-183 Lonsdale Street, 9663 3316, stalactites.com.au