One of the best things about Australia’s grand slam tennis tournament is you don’t need deep pockets to eat well.
At this year’s Australian Open, the whole of Melbourne Park is your oyster, with the return of the hugely popular ground pass giving you access to dozens of bars and restaurants, outside courts and even an artificial beach.
Crowds may be capped, but the 2022 program is full and ambitious.
Find fish and chips, beach tennis, DJs, Piper-Heidsieck champagne, cabanas and more at the brand-new Beach Club, created with 2500 square metres of sand on top of what’s normally a car park. New Albert Park restaurant Pipi’s Kiosk headlines, offering seaside “classics with a twist”, says chef Jordan Clay.
On Grand Slam Oval, long-time favourites Gingerboy and Longrain will be sharing space with sandwich slingers Nico’s.
This year’s event features Indigenous-owned business Big Esso – the second restaurant from Torres Strait Islander Nornie Bero – which opened in Federation Square in July. Now, Bero gets to show off the food and culture of her ancestors on a global stage.
To be part of the Open feels like an amazing achievement. “I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the year,” she said.
Through a menu of playful snacks, she’ll highlight the abundance of ingredients native to Australia that are often overlooked. Loaded fries feature yams while crunchy fried crocodile is a riff on salt-and-pepper squid.
The Open’s mostly Melbourne food line-up is part of an effort to support restaurants after two nightmare years, says Fern Barrett, head of food, premium experiences and precincts at Tennis Australia.
The laneways precinct on Grand Slam Oval mirrors a day wandering in the CBD, with cafes and a pop-up gallery featuring vintage tennis posters sitting beside well-known eateries.
Children (and by default, their parents) are kept happy with a $5 ticket that includes access to a kids’ court, water playground, zipline and climbing wall, plus healthy-ish snacks that are not the hot dogs and chips of most events.
The Australian Open at Melbourne Park runs from January 17-30. Ground passes start at $49. See ausopen.com
Six ace eats at the Australian Open
Pipi’s fish burger with crushed edamame. Photo: Supplied
Pipi’s Kiosk, Beach House
What: Seafood and other dishes you’d love to eat by the sea or, in this case, a beach club smack-bang in the middle of Australia’s biggest tennis tournament.
Don’t miss dishes: Fish and chips, a fish burger with crushed edamame, and an original spin on the potato cake are essential, but save room for tomato and Vegemite flatbread, a creation from Canadian chef Jordan Clay inspired by his early experiences with our national spread. “The umami of the tomato and the Vegemite is pure synergy,” he says.
Good for: A Champagne-fuelled gossip between matches in an unexpected setting.
Big Esso’s kangaroo snack pack. Photo: Supplied
Big Esso, Western Courts
What: Big flavours at the Open’s most eye-catching eatery. The first Indigenous-owned business to feature at the event, Big Esso will shake up your ideas about Aussie snack food.
Don’t miss dishes: Saltbush and pepperberry crocodile for fried and crunchy goodness. Kangaroo tail snack pack, a glorious mash-up of bourguignon-style kangaroo stew with hot chips – what’s not to love?
Good for: A truly Australian eating experience: bring your non-Aussie friends or expand your own horizons.
Hawkers Alley is slinging snacks from a selection of CBD mod-Asian eateries. Photo: Eddie Jim
Hawkers Alley, Grand Slam Oval
What: Top-notch snacks with an Asian tilt from enduring favourites Lucy Liu, Longrain and Gingerboy, plus newcomer Robata, a specialist of charcoal-grilled Japanese cooking.
Don’t miss dishes: Gingerboy’s hot dog with pork sausage, kimchi and chilli jam is a fiery take on a sporting event favourite. Robata’s chicken-thigh yakitori equals hand-held food at its finest.
Good for: Fun festival food that you can eat standing up with mates.
Putting the finishing touches on Penfolds Restaurant. Photo: Eddie Jim
Penfolds Restaurant, Centrepiece
What: Elevated dining in a futuristic and chrome-accented space, while adjacent to the restaurant is Max’s Rosé Bar, a zone of pastel pink upholstery, smooth curves and, yes, rosé.
Don’t miss dishes: The menu changes between the first and second week but Eton mess, aged beef ribs and rose panna cotta sound promising, followed by a pink-hued cocktail in Max’s.
Prices: From $355 for four courses and matched wines (bookings encouraged)
Good for: Those in the mood to spend or do photo shoot for their feed.
Europa Lane, Grand Slam Oval
What: The gyros masters at Stalactites have won over many a visiting tennis player. This year, they’re in the heart of the action, along with Nico’s Sandwich Deli, known for classic sandwiches executed with care.
Don’t miss dishes: Nico’s Cubano is a serious sanga that needs an athlete’s appetite. Vegetarians can get around the mushroom melt, while souva fans will gravitate to the chicken gyros by Stalactites.
Good for: Tsitsipas fans and those needing serious refuelling before an all-nighter.
Oakberry, Beach House
What: Bowls starring wellness favourites like chia, coconut, blueberries and more, from the Brazilian chain Oakberry, which counts doubles player Bruno Soares among its investors. The morning fuel will be available for anyone doing an 8am movement class.
Don’t miss dishes: The Love All bowl, loaded with kiwi, blueberries, honey, oats, cacao nibs and natural yoghurt.
Good for: Your good deed of the day.