The Death Flip & Other Untold Stories

By Michael Harden

With much of the dining and drinking scene driven by fad and fashion, how and why we drink and eat like we do often gets lost in the colour and movement of the where.  But this year’s MFWF is providing great opportunities to hear the stories and the context of how Melbourne’s eating and drinking culture came to be the powerhouse that it is.

It’s no secret that Melbourne has a vibrant bar culture. Changes to licensing laws in the 1990s led to an explosion of small bars in the unused corners of the city and allowed a flexibility in drinking and eating that changed the way Melbourne socialised. It also created a tightknit, talented and supportive community that put Melbourne bars and bartenders on the world stage.

Greg Sanderson, Operations Manager for The Speakeasy Group that includes bars Eau De Vie and Boilermaker House, is holding an event called Famous or Infamous that will trace the origins of Melbourne’s enviable cocktail culture, laced with a selection of some of the key cocktails themselves.

 “The support that we give each other here is quite unique and we wanted to show how that has come about through the drinks that define Melbourne, and the stories of the bars that are no longer around but were incredibly influential at the time,” says Sanderson.

Sanderson mentions a couple of drinks that have been particularly influential. One, the Death Flip, is a highly unlikely combination of tequila, chartreuse, Jägermeister, vanilla syrup and whole egg that was invented by Chris Hysted at the Black Pearl in Fitzroy. Hysted wanted to make a cocktail “using all the alcohols that people blame for their hangovers in the morning and make and incredible drink from it”. He succeeded and the Death Flip can now be found on cocktail lists across the planet.

There are stories of a different kind being told at a three-night event being run by Fitzroy social enterprise restaurant Charcoal Lane.

Charcoal Lane is run by Mission Australia and serves up modern Australian food using indigenous ingredients from across the country. It also serves as a hands-on traineeship program for young Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander aspiring chefs and front-of-house stars.

Charcoal Lane’s MFWF event Aboriginal Fitzroy sees the restaurant team up with local indigenous community gym and social hub to offer a 30-minute walking tour of Fitzroy. The tour takes in places of living indigenous significance and is followed by a three-course dinner highlighting indigenous ingredients and talks by local elders on everything from history to ingredients to music.

Charcoal Lane manager Nick Temple says that they want the event to “go beyond native Australian food to give more of a cultural experience than just our regular dining experience”.

“We wanted to have members and elders of the community to come in to share their stories and their reflections and thoughts on where we are today, where they’re coming from and where we’ve been.”

For those who want to immerse themselves within a story during the festival, the House of Food & Wine Hotel is where you may want to park yourself. For the 10 days of MFWF, the boutique Lindrum Hotel is being transformed, with everything from the mini bar and room service menus to the restaurant food and breakfast buffet created using sustainable practices and Victorian produce.

The building itself provides a background hum of Melbourne history.

Built in the 1900s by Griffith Brothers Tea Merchants to house and sell their range of tea, coffee and cocoa, it became a printing headquarters in the 1940s before being acquired by the Herald & Weekly Time newspaper in the 1960s. In 1973 it was leased by Dolly Lindrum, who came from a family of champion billiard and snooker players. Dolly turned the building into a billiard and snooker establishment until 1988 when it once again returned to the newspaper game before becoming the Lindrum Hotel in 1999.

The hotel still has a billiard room, the perfect place for contemplating history (or your next MFWF event) over a game of snooker, wine from a barrel and a sustainable bar snack. Oh, the stories you’ll tell.