'Cocktail yoga' and family-recipe dumplings keep Mother's Day fresh in Melbourne

Yoga instructor Nicole May will run a 'Stretch and Sip' class at The Distiller in Northcote on Mother's Day.
Yoga instructor Nicole May will run a 'Stretch and Sip' class at The Distiller in Northcote on Mother's Day. Photo: Chris Hopkins

Combining mountain poses with martinis at a Stretch and Sip class is definitely at the quirkier end of potential family outings this Mother's Day.

But if neither alcohol nor exercise seem an appropriate gift to bestow on Mum, how about the chance to turn her signature dish into a dumpling? 

This Mother's Day on May 8, over in Northcote, urban distillery and bar The Distiller will stage a Stretch and Sip class, which bolts together yoga moves and a couple of drinks. The format has proven a popular in many cities around the world, despite being an unorthodox take on traditional yoga practice.

The cocktails showcased at The Distiller's class (from left): Mamaroon Top, Amari Bloom, Grainshaker Mum Tai.
The cocktails showcased at The Distiller's class (from left): Mamaroon Top, Amari Bloom, Grainshaker Mum Tai. Photo: Supplied

Instructor Nicole May, who's running The Distiller's class on Mother's Day, says it can be a good ice-breaker for people intimidated by the yoga studio.

"A lot of people might have a perception of yoga that it's very serious and you need to be quite calm and very yogi-like. This is a bit more fun."

Later that day, The Distiller will host a cocktail classroom for dozens of mums and their daughters, sons or best friends to learn how to mix three different drinks.

Oriental Teahouse is getting into the Mother's Day spirit with a competition to turn one mum's signature dish into a ...
Oriental Teahouse is getting into the Mother's Day spirit with a competition to turn one mum's signature dish into a dumpling served in their restaurants. Photo: Supplied

"It's like bringing mums back to school," says bar manager Hugo Borralho.

But it's not all serious shaking and stirring. "One of the cocktails has a cheeky macaron on top so you can enjoy that with the drink at the same time," he says.

Throughout the Mother's Day weekend, Oriental Teahouse will be serving a limited-edition dumpling that's wrapped in memories for one particular family: it will be based on a favourite dish their Mum makes.

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The dumpling house ran a competition asking people to submit beloved dishes to be transformed into dumpling form. A similar competition in 2017 produced a dumpling, The Flamethrower, that's still on the menu today.

"On Mother's Day, I always think about my mum and everything she does for me," says general manager Yanan Zhou. "I wanted to do that back, but for our diners."

This week Zhou and her chefs sifted through more than 100 entries, from gnocchi to chicken pie to a Greek meatball soup called youvarlakia avgolemono. Next they'll test a shortlist to see if they translate to a dumpling filling.

Taking mum to her favourite restaurant or cafe is still a top choice for many. Reservations platform SevenRooms says 70 per cent of reservations for May 8 this year are between 10am and 3pm. Competitor Open Table reports a similar figure for lunch bookings.

SevenRooms says Mother's Day bookings are up 4.4 per cent nationally compared with last year. But Melbourne is lagging with 6.4 per cent fewer bookings. Compared with 2019, however, Open Table data shows growth of 35 per cent in Sydney and 60 per cent in Melbourne, proof that diners are happy to be out.

Reservations for May 8 are not a concern for Rebecca Yazbek, co-owner of Nomad, which has two restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne. Even so, her venues will be rewarding those who celebrate with them by giving mums a $50 voucher.

"It's not really about trying to drum up business," she says. "It's giving mothers another reason to come in with their girlfriends or come in on a date night, instead of just celebrating that Hallmark holiday."

Paul Hadida, Asia-Pacific general manager for SevenRooms, says that extra touches, such as a complimentary glass of wine for mums, or a set menu that makes ordering as a table easier, give venues an edge.

"Venues must create memorable experiences that make this day extra special for their guests. It's these experiences that help engage and retain guests," he says.

Open Table's vice president of growth markets, Robin Chiang, says his business has seen more than 120 restaurants across Australia create special Mother's Day experiences.

Northcote cooking school Free to Feed's classes are led by refugees or asylum seekers who are building their skills and seeking employment in the food industry.

On Mother's Day, two classes will be run by two women who are also mothers: Wroud from Syria and Marjan from Iran.

Loretta Bolotin, chief executive and co-founder says the classes, "provide an opportunity for [those in] our community who celebrate motherhood to share in what motherhood means across different cultures".

"Refugee women, particularly mothers, deserve to be celebrated in every way possible," she says, adding that many of them have risked everything for a better life for their families.

Special Mother's Day experiences to try

DINING

Agostino, $95

Make her feel truly spoiled with a four-course set menu that ticks the boxes of Moreton Bay bug pasta, rump cap and chocolate tart. A raft of snacks and a free glass of prosecco kick things off.

293-297 Lygon Street, Carlton

Cutler & Co, $150

Enjoy mum's company over four courses of cosy autumn fare, including dry-aged Aylesbury duck breast and a tarte Tatin of locally grown apples served with Calvados-laced creme anglaise (pictured).

55-57 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy

David's, $72

If mum likes her siu mai and Peking duck in more refined surrounds, you'll want to book a table fast for this perennial favourite on Melbourne's dining circuit. Each table also receives flowers from LVLY and prosecco to start.

4 Cecil Place, Prahran

Pastore, $99

Italian favourites meet wood-fired cooking and top Victorian produce at this Scott Pickett venue, located a stone's throw from Chadstone. The Mother's Day menu features four courses, finishing with lemon tart.

1341 Dandenong Road, Chadstone

The Hotel Windsor's afternoon tea, a Melbourne ritual. For Mother's Day the team are adding special dishes to the tiered stands and free-flowing wine.
For Good Food, 21 April, 2022

The Hotel Windsor's afternoon tea is getting a Mother's Day makeover with some special extras on the tiered stands. Photo: Supplied

DEALS

Dining vouchers at Nomad

Mums get rewarded at Nomad just for stepping out to celebrate their day. All mothers dining at the mod-Mediterranean restaurant will get a $50 voucher to use whenever they're ready for round two.

187 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Afternoon tea at The Hotel Windsor, from $128

A favourite Melbourne ritual gets extra sparkle on May 8 with special dishes including a peach melba religieuse, involving choux pastry filled with poached peach, raspberry compote and vanilla ganache. Plus there's two hours of free-flowing wine: sparkling, rosé, white or red.

Available May 7-8. 111 Spring Street, Melbourne

Pizza and shopping vouchers at Baby

Mum's in for more than just salumi and gnocchi at this bold and bright Italian diner. All Mother's Day bookings receive a $75 voucher for Melbourne clothing designer Henne. Specials for the day include scallops with confit garlic, parsley and pangrattato.

631-633 Church Street, Richmond

Refugee-led cooking school Free to Feed is running cooking classes on Mother's Day featuring Syrian and Persian cuisine. Pictured is instructor Wroud.
For Good Food, 21 April, 2022

Refugee-led cooking school Free to Feed is running cooking classes on Mother's Day, including one by Syrian instructor Wroud (pictured). Photo: Stephanie Stamatis

EXPERIENCES

Cocktail class at The Distiller, $65

It's Sunday school, but with drinks. Make three cocktails – two shaken, one built – with fun flourishes such as edible flower confetti or a raspberry macaron on top.

530 High Street, Northcote

Cooking and connection at Free to Feed, $350 for two people

These cooking classes, run by women of refugee or asylum seeker background, offer more than just instruction. You also hear about someone's traditions and culture. On Mother's Day, choose from classes on Persian or Syrian dishes, with added extras like flowers and two glasses of bubbles.

539 High Street, Northcote

People's choice dumplings at Oriental Tea House

Yum cha is back for one day only, and you can try the dumpling that honours the home-cooking of one lucky mum. The limited-edition flavour is on offer the whole Mother's Day weekend (and possibly beyond).

455 Chapel Street, South Yarra; 378 Little Collins Street, Melbourne

Gin masterclass at Bass & Flinders Distillery, $165

Working with local botanicals such as samphire and coastal saltbush, the gin maestros at Bass & Flinders will guide you through a library of flavours as you blend your own gin perfectly suited to your tastes.

Classes run May 7 and 8 at 40 Collins Road, Dromana

Japanese high tea, Ishizuka, $215

A special bento box to enjoy at home combines the best of Japanese and western tea-time cultures. Handmade treats both large and small, including chestnut pie and mochi, can be paired with matcha, included in the kit.

Pre-order by May 5 for CBD pick-up or delivery up to 15km

Stretch and Sip at The Distiller, $35

Give Mum the best of both worlds in this session by instructor Nicole May that's bookended by two cocktails. There's 50 minutes of breathwork, meditation and some yoga flow moves suited to beginners and others. Who says alcohol and exercise don't mix?

530 High Street, Northcote