Whether you’re a diehard sports fan or somebody with an aversion to footy and cricket, it’s impossible to not enjoy the Tour de France. The world’s leading bicycle race, where competitors complete 21 grueling stages equaling around 3,500 kilometers over 23 days, is watched by hundreds of millions of people around the world. Essentially, all you need to know is that the race leaders wear coloured jerseys, 10 Australian cyclists including dual national road champion Simon Gerrans are competing, and that the rolling French countryside will have you planning that next European holiday. Here are five spots to watch the Tour de France in Melbourne, plus our pick of French-themed venues where you can truly get into the spirit of the race. Vive la France!
Middle Park Hotel
If you want evidence of the Middle Park Hotel’s commitment to all things Tour de France, just check out the red polka dots that currently adorn the building, in honour of the Tour’s famed climbing jersey. You can watch all the Tour de France action on eight plasma screens across the entire venue, and enter the draw to win an official Orica Green Edge prize pack. As for food, the Middle Park Hotel’s weekend roast menu has a French theme all month. For just $45 for three courses, diners can enjoy dishes like Roquefort & caramelised onion tart with witlof and walnut salad, and duck and foie gras terrine with prunes and bitter leaves. It’s the closest thing to being there without leaving Melbourne.
Another top spot to watch the Tour de France in Melbourne is Carlton gastropub, The Lincoln. The pub, one of Melbourne’s oldest, re-opened its doors late last year after some refurbishments. The art deco bar remains, and is coupled with a menu of seasonal produce and new twists on old pub favourites by head chef Lachlan Cameron (formerly of MoVida Aqui and Supernormal). The comfortable front bar, where you can select from a dozen beers on tap, is where you can track the Tour de France live.
It makes sense that Brighton’s Half Moon is screening the Tour de France live—after all, Brighton is one of Melbourne’s favourite spots for lycra-clad cyclists. Half Moon underwent a facelift four years ago that has the circa-1960s building feeling fresh and stylish, all recycled timber, high ceilings and room to pull up a stool at the bar, where you’ll be made to feel like a local immediately. The menu is self-proclaimed honest pub food—expect pizzas, burgers, steaks and seafood. The Tour will be shown on three screens throughout the pub.
Smack bang in the middle of the Tour de France is Bastille Day, the French national holiday held on July 14 each year. South Yarra’s Botanical Hotel will be showing the whole Tour live on two big screens, but true Francophiles will want to make a booking for Bastille Day, when the Botanical will showcase a four-course Tour de France-inspired menu. The menu features regional cuisine from six regions of France including Paris, Brittany and the French Alps. It’s $95 per person or $130 with matching wines, and bookings are essential.
Domestique Pop Up Bar
You know the Tour de France is back when Domestique Pop Up Bar makes its triumphant return. Each year, the Domestique sets up shop in a Melbourne bar, screening the Tour until late at night and with plenty of food and drink on offer. This year Domestique will take over Fitzroy’s Mighty Boy eatery for select mountain stages of the race between July 18 and 26. Mighty Boy will be serving its famous south-east Asian fare, and the place will be packed with cycling enthusiasts. What more could you need?
The best of the rest
City restaurant The French Brasserie will welcome Le Tour de Cuisine, which will see the kitchen present a special dish each week of the Tour to highlight the region the competitors are cycling through.
When you think of French food you think of crepes, and Northcote’s Myrtle’s Crepes is one of Melbourne’s best. Choose from more than a dozen different fillings—savoury or sweet—and enjoy with a coffee, beer or wine.
French-themed bistro Mr Mason will celebrate Bastille Day with a three-course dinner of authentic European flavours ($65 per person or $100 with matched wines), and offer a weekly Tour de France menu with provincially-inspired dishes showcasing the unique flavours of each region.
Enjoy a meal at Prahran’s Chez Olivier, which describes itself as a “Frozzie” restaurant—that is, traditional French dishes and cooking techniques married with Australian ingredients and interpretations.
Image credit: Cycle House