By Athena Thompson and Meagan Kearney

    Grazeland, a new 6 million dollar development, slated as a permanent festival of food is set to wow the inner west of Melbourne. The Westsider was invited on a tour of the precinct with over 50 new food, drink and artisan vendors and 3 licensed bars. Approximately 80% of vendors are from the western suburbs and they are guaranteed to bring a unique, diverse, deluge of tastes to Spotswood.

    Originally planned to launch in 2020, the 10,000 square metre food precinct with a spectacular framed view of the Westgate Bridge and the city, was delayed due to the onset of covid crisis. Infrastructure like the individually designed, fitted out containers that create this space became harder to obtain, but fortunately as they used a local company, Crown Containers in Altona North, this made the customisation easier to facilitate.

    Push Projects curated the site that was previously an extension of the existing OCI glass recycling plant which had been vacant for 10 years. Leo Dipetta, Grazeland Director explained, “Whilst it was a slow burn, the biggest challenge was keeping up the energy levels, it was really important to help keep the spirits up for the vendors.”

    Most of the vendors come from a festival and events background, an industry that has been decimated over the last year. The new precinct gives small businesses the opportunity to establish a permanent location whilst keeping true to that festival vibe and importantly create over 500 jobs. Grazeland Director, Elias Louie Hayek said, “We really wanted to embrace local family based businesses rather than allow for franchises. We wanted authentic cuisines celebrating culture. We ensured the quality by tasting the food for every vendor applying, much to the detriment of my figure.”

    We spoke with the Kilted Hagus, the Scottish foodies first started out in Laverton in a caravan. Husband and wife team Elizabeth and Colin Paterson were excited to be part of the new venture. Elizabeth had given up her job as registered nurse to fully focus on the new dining experience celebrating their Scottish origins. Colin, with paintbrush in hand on the hot balmy day, eagerly finishing off the last touches to their container suggests that the Haggis is best accompanied by a beer.

    Westside residents, Michele Circhirillo and Fabio Biscaldi, co-founders of 48h Pizza e Gnocchi Bar, were making classic margherita pizzas during our visit. Michele explained, “Margherita is the one pizza you judge all others by, if you make the basics well then all others will follow. We will bring our best sellers to this unique new site.” 48h, was the first vendor to sign up to the Grazeland, welcoming it as a well-positioned extension of their businesses in South Yarra and Elsternwick.

    Designed for entertainment, friendly to all ages, 30,000 people are expected to visit Grazeland each week when at full speed. It is sectioned into four precincts, with two well placed stages enclosed at either end, a large screen and sundeck. A hero stage for a rotating schedule of big acts and smaller more intimate acts all managed by Top Dog Entertainment, local acts are encouraged to approach them for gigs. Plus, there are 8 pop-up market stalls with local arts and crafts selling wares. The open-air space is covered by huge UV rated, weatherproof domes and will allow for over 1200 seats.

    There is more than one way to get to the new food precinct, car, boat, train or bike. Yes, we did say boat, John Forman, Grazeland Director explains, “We are in talks to have access to the pontoon so patrons can arrive with ease from Federation Square via the Yarra River.”

    Grazeland, a unique casual dining experience like no other in Australia and is set to be a major attraction in the west. Hobsons Bay Mayor, Jonathon Marsden said, “It will be a great weekend destination for families and friends to come together to relax and be entertained. We welcome Melbournians from across the city to explore more of what Melbourne’s inner west has to offer.”

    Photos: Athena Thompson

    Grazeland opens Friday 19th March. 20 Booker St, Spotswood (next to Scienceworks). Hours: Friday – 5-10pm, Saturday – Noon to 10pm, Sunday – Noon to 9pm.

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