Ever wondered what it’s like inside the Birdcage marquees for the Spring Racing Carnival? This year I was lucky enough to be invited to attend the James Boag marquee on Derby Day. It’s one of the handful of marquees that actually overlooks the race track so it’s the place to go for serious racing and beer fans alike. With chef Matt Moran on board the James Boag marquee is also attracting attention for the food on offer.
This year you enter the James Boag marquee up a red carpet staircase surrounded by lush greenery. It’s a nod to James Boag’s Tasmanian origins with Moran serving up a Tasmanian inspired grazing menu to the lucky punters and celebrities inside.
It wouldn’t be the races without chicken sandwiches to start but there were also tiny curls of confit Tasmanian salmon topped with a dollop of macadamia tahini and a jewel like pomegranate seed. I’ll be stealing this combination at my next party: delicious in its simplicity. These went equally well with the Crozier champagne which was free flowing and that champagne of beers Little Creatures pale ale.
Lunch included posh takes on a fish finger sandwich and a meat pie. Moran served up crumbed salt and pepper whiting in buns with a slick of xo mayonnaise and tiny flaky duck and pea pies. It teamed perfectly with James Boag’s premium ale especially given the rain had disappeared and the sun was beaming down on the trackside balcony.
There were also more substantial plates of pork belly with pumpkin and cushions of gnocchi wrapped in a creamy sauce of King Island blue cheese, roast huon mushrooms and a sprinkle of thyme crumble to add crunch.
On race days sweets are served around 3pm and included the cutest little choc top ice-creams ever made with layers of Bridestowe lavender, frozen custard and a chocolate base. There was also mini cubes of chilled apple presse on crunchy toffee squares and a decadent chocolate malt mousse with peanut butter fudge and cracking candy.
My favourite part of the day though is what caterers call “the soak” where the fried food comes out to soak up all that booze. Of course this was as glamorous as fried food gets. Think cones of frites with mayonnaise, jamon and raclette toasties and balls of popcorn shrimp with spicy shichimi mayonnaise. The recommended pairing was a Guinness which really is a meal in itself anyway.
I’m often a champagne drinker on race days but my visit to the James Boag marquee made me appreciate how well beer can pair with food (especially when it’s food by Matt Moran!) at the races. It was wonderful to get a peek inside life inside the Birdcage with James Boag.
Big thanks to James Boag for having me as a guest.
Details: James Boag Marquee, The Birdcage, Flemington Race Course.
Damage: Priceless. Money cannot buy this experience.