"Everyone's pretty over the top at the moment," says Sophie Storen of Cookes Food. Her catering business has seen bookings for private events during spring racing carnival soar, now that people can gather at homes or outside.
Throughout next week, Storen is dispatching waiters and chefs to backyard parties for as few as 10 people; others will help hosts prepare for picnics at the park.
"We'll send over a chef, they'll slice up the eye fillet for them, put it on the platters and wrap it up so it's ready to go."
People are in the mood to celebrate the major race days, but many aren't quite ready to face large crowds and big parties (even if they could get one of the very limited tickets to Flemington).
Instead, they're bringing the razzle-dazzle to them. Waistcoated staff, elaborate hampers and Birdcage-worthy hors d'oeuvres are all hitting the roads this week.
Kombi van-powered picnic company Indie and I will be busy on Melbourne Cup delivering cushions, umbrellas, furniture and fresh flowers to picnics at St Kilda Botanic Gardens and on the self-drive boats that cruise the Yarra.
"People just turn up, get to enjoy it and then walk away and we clean up."
"People just turn up, get to enjoy it and then walk away and we clean up," says founder Megan Campbell.
Events staffing business Our Boys & Girls has added a new service specifically for parks and gardens, with staff available to set up picnic furniture, pour prosecco and offer around platters of charcuterie. You can even request "powder room packs" with your furniture, containing the soap, toilet paper and tissues that are often missing in action from park toilets.
Peter Rowland Group and Flemington are like a horse and carriage, so to speak, with the high-end caterer a key ingredient of the Spring Racing Carnival since the mid-1990s. Normally the team serve racegoers across members' stands, car parks and Birdcage, preparing 1.2 million canapes.
But this year its famous chicken sandwiches are being boxed up and delivered far beyond Flemington. Residents in Bacchus Marsh, Emerald and the Mornington Peninsula, a new delivery area, have all been ordering up.
As well as finger sandwiches, hampers have been flying out the door, filled with poached prawns, slow-cooked salmon and grilled chicken breast with pistachio mayonnaise. CEO Michelle Biddle says more than 1,000 have been ordered by Victorians who are keen to do "fashions on the front lawn" this year.
Chef Shane Delia's events truck is ready for Spring Carnival and beyond. Kitted out with a full commercial kitchen, he says the truck can handle everything from a 16-course degustation to chips and kebabs for a more relaxed party.
"The truck comes with whatever you want. It can be as elaborate or as whimsical as you like."
Trackside bites come to you
Finger food gets a flavour hit with small bites from Tunisian, Kenyan and Bangladeshi asylum seekers, all available for easy online ordering. Catering packages also available. Orders 48 hours prior for delivery up to 20km or pick-up from Fitzroy North. catering.asrc.org.au
Impress with French party fare you didn't have to whip up yourself, like chicken liver parfait and charcuterie, or a seafood platter to go with bubbles. Orders close 48 hours prior; delivery up to 25km or pick-up from Southbank. orderbistroguillaume.com.au
The Fishmonger's Son
Blini boxes, prawn and lobster rolls, and seafood barbie kits are yours for the taking throughout spring. Order the day before for pick-up from Fitzroy North. firstname.lastname@example.org
The party professionals have created two hampers for racing season. Make It Pop is more cocktail snacks while Trackside is all about mac and cheese croquettes and mini lamb burgers. Orders for Melbourne Cup close 29 October; for other race days, order 48 hours prior. Delivery across metro Melbourne. peterrowland.com.au
Known for offering set-menu boxes, the restaurants on this delivery platform also have snacks galore. Check out Di Stasio, Palermo and The Hardware Club for small bites, plus cocktail sets from The Ugly Duckling. Order at least 24 hours before for delivery Wed-Sun. providoor.com.au
Order grazing boxes or multi-course picnics with cheese, dips, roast chicken, salads and desserts, with orders for as few as two people accepted. Order 48 hours prior to delivery. sigridspicnic.com.au