For the seasoned festival goer, the experience of dining on-site can be just as memorable as any headlining act. Take, for example, a meal I had at last year’s Splendour In The Grass. While eating one of my festival favourite snacks, a [redacted] wrap, I bit down on a piece of glass – its microscopic shards splintering, dancing their way across my palette with near choreographed precision. A simply unforgettable performance!
That intensity of mouthfeel will hopefully be harder to come by at the beloved restaurant Chiswick’s inaugural residency at the festival, though the experience promises to be no less memorable for it. Chef-owner Matt Moran, of Chiswick Woollahra and Chiswick at the Gallery, is bringing his farm-to-festival concept, fresh produce and seasonally driven menu to the annual Byron Bay blow-out for the first time.
“Our ‘planted to plated’ philosophy is such a great fit for the Byron region, which has always had the most amazing sense of place and an incredible food culture,” Moran tells GRAZIA, explaining that he loved the concept of collaborating with the festival from the get-go. “We’ve curated a Chiswick menu specially for Splendour in the Grass using produce from the surrounding area to create a really spectacular dining experience where people come together. It’s really a celebration of people, place, great music and great food in a unique and memorable location.”
As for the location, it’s certainly one of the festival’s better-kept-secrets. Chiswick will take over a roped-off section of the site ordinarily reserved for after-hours staff parties: a ‘Tackle Shack’ cabin overlooking a lake in a densely wooded valley not far from the main amphitheatre. You can expect similar flourishes to the Woollahra restaurant’s conservatory for the 80 seat pop-up, including long table seating and a menu you’ll want to linger over, long lunch style (for your allocated two hour session).
The three course menu, which has been curated by Chiswick Head Chef Tom Haynes, will include share plate options such as Cos lettuce, spanner crab and avocado tacos; Moran Family lamb shoulder, with eggplant and red pepper chutney with flat bread; roasted beer can chicken, with baby corn and pine nuts; and a ‘Splendour-colada’ with roasted pineapple, coconut and rum, and more from the pop-up’s Botanicals Bar. Both vegetarian and vegan options will be available too, in the spirit of the festival and the kind of elevated dining experience you would expect from a restaurant of Chiswick’s caliber.
“I think people are increasingly [demanding] of a quality experience no matter where they are, and food is a huge part of delivering on that,” Moran says, accounting for the importance of and demand for better dining options at festivals. “We’ve seen a growth in people eating out and searching for that next level, dining experience and I think the opportunity to enjoy a brand outside of its original venue, transported somewhere new, creates almost that bucket list, one-of-a-kind experience.”
As for his own unforgettable festival dining experiences, Moran is well placed to make this his first. “I’ve been a chef since I was 15-years-old and used to work 100 hour weeks in the kitchen for many years,” says the chef. “The upside to that is that I loved it and the hard work paid off, I developed a great career. The downside… less time for music festivals! I’ve been to a fair few concerts in my life and I’m great mates with a lot of musicians, so music’s a big part of my life.”
With that said, the chef hopes to be making a headline debut appearance of his own at the festival, should a gap in his busy schedule allow for it (he’s in the middle of filming his TV show). On his festival hit-list? “Ben Harper, Lorde, Angus & Julia Stone – I could go on.”
Splendour In The Grass takes place from July 20-22 at North Byron Parklands.
Tile and cover image: Courtesy of Chiswick