In case you’ve been hiding under a fascinator-wearing rock, we feel it’s our duty to tell you that race season is in full swing, and what a year it’s been so far!
Hot on the heels of the Caulfield Guineas and Caulfield Cup are the next two big dates on the racing calendar. First up is the Cox Plate, which takes place at Moonee Valley Racecourse on Saturday 24 October. Then the Melbourne Cup Carnival kicks off at Flemington Racecourse on Saturday 31 October.
In anticipation of these awesome events, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to the Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup Carnival, giving you our top picks for brunch, lunch, dinner and drinks in the area. Because nobody wants racing carnival ‘hanger’ to ruin their day.
Before: The Ultimate Pre-Race Brunch
Whether you’re after a healthy breakfast (anyone else’s carnival dress already feeling a little, um, restrictive?) or a massive fat feed, there are heaps of cafes and brunch spots in the Moonee Valley and Flemington areas. Here are 4 cafes that you should be booking your pre-carnival table at.
Ascot Food Store, Ascot Vale
This name probably rings a bell because of their incredible doughnuts, but Ascot Food Store is home to a variety of brunch options, from decadent brioche French toast, to eggs with toast soldiers, to coconut infused clean-eating options. Be sure to try out their delicious daily specials, and why not pick up a doughnut or two for the road?
Johnny Pump, Essendon
Freakshakes are the order of the day at Essendon café Johnny Pump but, if you’re not quite up to that much sugar before hitting the Cox Plate or Melbourne Cup Carnival, you’ll find heaps of delicious options such as mushrooms with poached eggs and dukkah, corn fritters and smaller pastries, as well as healthy fresh juices.
Unbeknown to most, Johnny Pump also serves some incredible dining options, so if you’re hankering for saffron crispy-skin salmon or a juicy steak at the end of the day, you know exactly where to go.
Fifty-Six Threads, Kensington
Looking to do your good deed for the day AND pick up a killer coffee? Fifty-Six Threads in Kensington is a socially minded café that serves incredible breakfasts including classics (hello, avo on toast) and some cracking vego options. The café supports migrants within the local community as well as serving tasty food from 7.30am. Don your Melbourne Cup Carnival suit or frock and hot-foot it to Fifty-Six Threads for a pre-revelry caffeine hit.
North & Eight, Essendon
North & Eight is one of our favourite cafes in Essendon and makes for the perfect Cox Plate races brunch. Not only can you sample local cakes from Le Petit Gateau, you can also order polenta chips for breakfast, which makes this cute café a stand-out in our books.
During: At-The-Grounds Eateries
Hill Square, Flemington Racecourse
Hill Square is completely free to access on Cup Day, making it the perfect foodie find for grabbing some lunch at the racecourse. You’ll find The Nest Bar serving Wolf Blass wines all day, as well as a Lavazza ‘Create Your Taste’ espresso pop-up. Looking for some bubbles? Hill Square at Melbourne Cup will have all the G. H. Mumm champagne you can handle!
The Rose Room, Flemington Racecourse
If money is no object, go for broke with morning tea, a five-course lunch, afternoon tea, drinks and more at The Rose Room, Flemington’s own five-star dining venue. You won’t miss a second of the action either; the dining area overlooks the track to make sure you catch every race.
Pure Pleasure Enclosure, Moonee Valley Racecourse
Sometimes the simplest option is the best option, and that’s what you’ve got at the Pure Pleasure Enclosure at the Cox Plate. For $249 (members) or $299 (non-members), you’ll get all the beer, wine and soft drinks you can sip on, plus delicious platters with hot and cold nibbles and some fantastic live music. How could you NOT have an ace day?!
After: The Dinner & Drinks Venues You Should Know
Scoozi, Ascot Vale
One of Ascot Vale’s hidden gems, Sicilian restaurant Scoozi serves up mouth-watering pizzas, pastas and local and imported wines, making it an awesome venue for a post-race group dinner. Give them a call on 03 9370 0100 to book a table and get ready for some feasting, the Italian way.
Brickmakers Arms, Essendon
A grand establishment on Mount Alexander Road, Esssendon, the Brickmakers Arms serves European a la carte fare in traditional luxe pub environment. The menu is packed with delicious options, from nibbles (the smoked trout rillettes is a must) to more hearty dishes and, if you can’t decide, the chef’s board (pictured above), which combines charcuterie with the chef's choice of starters is a fantastic option. Book your table early, folks.
The Quiet Man, Flemington
The Quiet Man is anything but. One of Melbourne’s best Irish pubs, it’s a cracking low-key spot for some drinks and hot chips after the races and, with 12 local and world beers on tap (including Guinness, obviously), it’s definitely one for you beer drinkers who want to sink a few more pints before calling it a night.
White Rabbit Record Bar, Kensington
Looking for something a little quirkier after a day at the Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup Carnival? White Rabbit Record Bar in Kensington combines a love of music and cocktails in one retro-inspired space. The record store-cum-bar is definitely one for the more left-of-field of you, but if Alice In Wonderland cocktails and vinyl for days are you thing, you’ll love White Rabbit Record Bar.
…In the CBD
If you’re headed back into the CBD after the Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup Carnival, you’ll find some awesome race day festivities at top Melbourne restaurants. For a full round-up of restaurants throwing functions, check out our list here.
For more raceday eating options head to food central on the Spring Carnival hub.
Image credit: Brickmakers Arms by Jenna Fahey White for The Urban List
Editor's Note: This article is proudly sponsored by the Spring Racing Carnival. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make The Urban List possible. Click here for more information on our editorial policy.