It's been a nail-biting week for some big names at the Australian Open, but the all-star line-up of chefs for this year's event is locked and loaded.
The top tier of courtside dining features Attica's Ben Shewry, Guy Grossi of Florentino fame and Maha's Shane Delia, while Rockpool Bar & Grill will serve its signatures along with three choice dishes by Australian chef Dave Pynt, who cooks at Singapore's Burnt Ends.
Together, this year's menus span treasured family recipes to all-out luxury. They also continue the Open's celebration of Melbourne and Victoria's food scene, says Tennis Australia's Fern Barrett, who is about to deliver her second program as head of food, premium experiences and precincts.
"I felt like there's so much content there, we'd only scratched the surface in 2021. I wanted to celebrate local again but with a global lens."
At The Atrium, Ben Shewry will deliver crowd-pleasers along the lines of his Attica Summer Camp and takeaway menus, putting a fresh and proudly local spin on time-honoured favourites. A chicken souvlaki plate comes with wattleseed hummus; pepperberry seasons hand-cut hot chips while mussels from Port Phillip are simmered in Victorian winemaker Mac Forbes' riesling.
"I think it's the best event in Australia and I don't say that lightly. It's absolutely world-class," says Shewry.
We're bringing it to a level where people can enjoy the food as well as the tennis.Guy Grossi
Building on the success of last year's Atrium, which now sits beside the Yarra River, organisers have scaled up the venue to two storeys with views of the city and, from upstairs, the show courts.
Shewry describes it as a relaxing sanctuary. His menu, though, is lively and fun. Baked wheels of brie, a vegan take on pork rinds, his lockdown calling card of lasagne and a salty, umami-rich kimchi dip are all on offer. "It's one of those things where you start eating it and you can't stop. It really works even though it shouldn't," he says of the dip.
Cocktail king Michael Madrusan, co-owner of bars The Everleigh and Heartbreaker, has created six special serves for the Atrium bar.
In The Glasshouse, Guy Grossi is bringing his A-game with hits such as Cellar Bar's beloved tiramisu, pumpkin tortellini in a sage brown butter sauce, and a family recipe of slow-cooked lamb shoulder with sage and rosemary, which Grossi's father taught him. He's offering three different set menus so that tennis devotees attending several matches throughout the tournament won't get bored.
"We're bringing it to a level where people can enjoy the food as well as the tennis," he says. "People of all walks can enjoy the Australian Open because of the atmosphere it creates… I enjoy the carnival feel that it brings along, I think that's all part of the fun."
While the ground pass is still the most affordable option (and with excellent food to boot), those wanting "luxury lite" can do that with two-course or a la carte menus, rather than the big-bucks packages associated with the tennis.
Half of Rockpool's alfresco area is a bookings-free zone, so anyone with a ticket to a match can swing past and take their pick of Cape Grim steak with Cafe de Paris butter, Mooloolaba swordfish or Burnt Ends' signature pork sandwich with chipotle aioli. Under Perth-born Dave Pynt, Burnt Ends has won global recognition for its wood-fired cooking in Singapore.
Being able to try three of Pynt's dishes at the tennis, regardless of what ticket you hold, sums up the approachable-meets-premium feel Barrett wanted in this year's program.
But if splashing out is a possibility, head straight to the Maha Superboxes. Two of Rod Laver Arena's level-four boxes have been recast as "mini Mahas" for 16 guests. "It's taking everything people love about superboxes but elevating it," says Barrett.
Tartlets of spanner crab, tomato and harissa are among the volley of snacks, while Maha mainstays including salmon tarator and roasted lamb shoulder are paired with house-made flatbreads and condiments for the main event. Dinner alone starts at a cool $12,000 for you and 15 pals.
Australian wine powerhouse Penfolds is flexing across three venues this year: the restaurant with 2001: A Space Odyssey interiors, a moody mid-century bistro and the more casual Max's Rosé Bar.
Restaurant guests will be treated to rock lobster with enoki, corn and XO sauce, while the bistro is more about chicken Caesar salad, grilled barramundi and a Snickers-inspired dessert.
The Australian Open at Melbourne Park runs from January 17-30. For restaurant and dining package details and bookings, head to ausopen.com/premium-experiences
The dining experiences listed below with prices inclusive of tennis can only be booked with tickets to arena matches. All others are available on any ticket type.
Ben Shewry at the Atrium*
Tongue-in-cheek snackage with native Australian twists. From $260 per person for two courses and two drinks.
Guy Grossi at the Glasshouse (25-30 January)
Signature dishes from three Italian institutions. From $300 for three courses and drinks.
Rockpool Bar & Grill x Burnt Ends
A global meets local mash-up starring the grill. From $260 for three courses and two hours of drinks. Walk-ins also available.
Maha Restaurant Superboxes
Luxurious Middle Eastern in some of the best seats in the house. Only available for 16 people in total for $12,479 for multi-course meal and all drinks.
Fine-dining fare in Insta-worthy space age surrounds. From $355 for four courses and matched wines.
Quick, easy dining that's still glamorous. From $155 for two courses and matched wines.
*prices include tennis