It’s the first day of "Splendour In The Grass" and the streets of Byron Bay are framed by young hitchhikers eager to get to the festival parklands. We arrive late afternoon (ever so stylishly in the Volkswagen Arteon) and realise it has been years since we’ve attended a music festival. Ahead of us a sea of millennials flood the entrance, their excitement thick on the afternoon air, the sound of a distant beat and bassline…
It’s Splendour's 18th year and we are here to attend a lavish lunch held within the festival grounds. Acclaimed Sydney restaurateur Matt Moran is bringing Chiswick Woollahra to Byron Bay via a pop up restaurant seating 80 people.
Spread across hundreds of acres this festival is absolutely huge and the secret location of the Chiswick pop-up was only revealed to its guests just 2 days prior. Performance marquees are interspersed with clothing stores, food trucks, pop up bars, as well as everything from makeup and hair pavilions to creative knitting tents.
Winding our way through the crowds we realise the fashion this year for Splendour (much like Coachella) still has Boho chic top on the list for our festival girls. Flowing hemlines, tassles, braided hair along with stunning face jewels, it was pretty and feminine and for us Annalise Mclachlan nailed the look.
Our guide reveals we are almost there as we make our way up a steep hill. We reach the very top and just over the verge the land drops down into a lush valley of greenery. Set on the outskirts of the festival right by the lake, we spot the restaurant and it’s a picturesque setting.
With the afternoon sun peaking through the trees, we are handed a “Kings Dead Tonic” cocktail, cucumber infused Smirnoff vodka is mixed with elderflower, grapefruit, basil oil and tonic water. It is fresh and uplifting, perfect for the sunny afternoon.
The Chiswick Marquee is stunning and the views are verdant and breathtaking. White Bentwood chairs run the length of 3 long wooden tables. Name cards mark each setting and fresh flowers inject vibrant pops of pink. It may be the first time Chiswick has collaborated with Splendour but we have the feeling it won’t be the last. Moran’s paddock to plate / garden to kitchen philosophy seems very fitting, the perfect marriage for this iconic Byron Bay music festival.
It’s not long before Chiswick’s head chef Tom Haynes is before us, welcoming the group to the feast about to ensue. He informs us that one of Chiswick Woollahra’s favourite dishes is on our menu, the “Barra Masalata” and it turns out to be our favourite entree. It’s a celebration of contrasts; the crunchy tangy barramundi skins are offset delightfully by the creamy base.
The “Spanner Crab Tacos” are also a crowd pleaser and we are treated to yet another dish from the Woollarah menu – the “Roasted Jerusalem artichokes.” The artichokes have a nutty, earthy flavour lifted by peppery watercress and macadamia nuts.
The cocktails keep coming, and we happen to be sitting by co sponsors Diageo who have devised a drinks menu of Smirnoff Vodka based elixirs. They are a warm and friendly bunch, welcoming us to their crew and explaining that the journey of cocktails were carefully created to compliment each course.
For mains, Moran’s “Family lamb shoulder” hits the table, along with a “Roasted beer-can Chicken” which is finished by the waiter pouring beer right over the bird! There’s a “Chickpea Miso Eggplant” to accompany the fare along with “Chiswick Greens” dressed in zesty hemp oil vinaigrette.
We take a break to stretch our legs and pop out front to admire the new Volkswagen Polo Beats. At first glance it looks more like a Golf and we are told that’s because the Volkswagen design team recently grew the Polo into its new impressive bigger size.
Considering we are at splendour it’s also an opportune time to showcase the Beats model, a collaboration with BeatsAudio™, with six separate speakers and streamlined acoustics. It’s a drivers experience with a difference… there’s even a subwoofer in the spare wheel compartment!
Heading back inside, the consensus is that Tom Haynes and his team have absolutely nailed it! Desserts arrive, and the “Splendour-colada” roasted pineapple is insanely good. The sunny rounds of pineapple are topped with a creamy meringue mixture with toasted shaved coconut and ruby red cherries.
“Banoffee Pie” is its decadent rival, a chocolaty creation where the sweetness is offset by pretzels and salted caramel popcorn. The sounds of spoons scraping plates substantiates a grand applause… well done Chiswick, your pop up is very much a headline act!