✦ Simple, and so delectable, the Swiss-French dining experience Raclette is coming to the eastern capitals this winter. Travel writer Susie Boswell is making a booking.
It was on a skiing holiday in the elite Swiss alpine resort of Verbier, midway between Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn, that I first discovered and marvelled at the dish known as Raclette.
At the centre of a dining table shared with my husband, beside the blazing log fire in our chalet, a half-round of Swiss cheese rotated slowly on a mini-rotisserie set over a glowing grill.
We scraped the melting cheese onto steaming hot roast potatoes on our plates, and savoured the pairing along with a delectable French wine. Just cheese and potatoes. Yet it was one of the finest dishes I’ve ever enjoyed.
Now this unique cultural experience, a traditional cuisine of France and Switzerland, can be indulged in here at home during a three-week season in Melbourne from Friday May 19 to Sunday June 11 (the King’s Birthday long weekend) when the public is invited to visit cosy “Raclette Igloos” set up in the Victorian capital to herald the start of winter.
The experience will then travel to Canberra and later on to Sydney, during July’s Bastille celebrations, around Circular Quay and The Rocks.
Meanwhile: Melbourne? Well, it’s just two hours away from the Hastings now, from Thursday May 4, thanks to budget airline Bonza’s flights between Port Macquarie and Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport. Flights in each direction are on Mondays and Thursdays, afternoon-early evening, from $69.
(It’s an ideal opportunity also to see the staging of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, at Melbourne’s Princess Theatre, before the show leaves Australia after its final performance on Sunday, July 9).
At the city’s drawcard venue, Federation (“Fed”) Square, 14 igloos will take over the Skyline Terrace rooftop. The catch is that an igloo can only be booked by discrete parties of six, seven or eight guests, including children. So, unless you’re a party of at least six - say, meeting up with Melbourne friends - it’s no go: organisers won’t mix strangers together because, they say, the idea is for “shared intimacy”.
Bookings can be made for the evenings/nights and also at lunchtime on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
The igloos, set among “snow” and pine trees, will be decked with fairy lights after dark. Guests will be welcomed by French-speaking staff who’ll guide them through how to enjoy raclette - paired with charcuterie, cornichons and pickled onions - amid the aroma of spiced mulled wine. Additionally, there’s a mini bar in the igloo with a selection of French wines, available at extra cost, chosen to pair perfectly with the dish, as well as soft drinks and still and sparkling water.
As a perfect ending to the event guests gather around the crackling warmth of an outdoors fire pit to toast giant marshmallows to gooey golden perfection.
For information and enticing images, go to racletteiglooexperience.com.au and also see Instagram and Facebook. The organisers offer to help set up for a special occasion, to hide a surprise or arrange the candles for a birthday cake. The cost: $99pp for 1.5 hours.
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