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Free and cheap at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival

The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival is an 11-day banquet of delicious experiences. Some are heavyweight culinary events with price tags to match, but there’s free and low-cost fun too. We’ve gathered some of the festival’s best budget-friendly foodie adventures that you won’t want to miss.

An outdoor event with umbrellas and outdoor furniture

The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival is on from 19 to 29 March

Free events

There’s no entry fee for these events, but bring funds for snacks and drinks.

Attica Presents

This afternoon of talks, performances, art and food is led by legendary chef Ben Shewry. Attica Presents features speakers Leila Nimbadja and Clem Bresson from Maningrida Wild Foods, as well as Dark Emu author Bruce Pascoe. Pre-purchase the bargain $30 lunch prepared by the Attica team. Proceeds go toward rebuilding the Nura Gunyu education centre, recently destroyed by bushfire. Sunday 29 March.

Italian Festival presented by Gradi

Whether you’ve got Italian heritage or just wish you were in Tuscany, the Italian Festival is bellissimo. This three-day event hosted by Italian hot spot, Gradi, offers food, drinks, entertainment and kids activities. From pizza to pasta, cannoli to gelato, it’s a taste of la dolce vita. Friday 20 to Sunday 22 March.

An outdoor foodie event with different coloured bunting hanging over tables

Gradi Italian Festival

Shed X Talks

Culinary talent gathers at Queen Victoria Market for Shed X Talks, a series of thought-provoking demos and discussions. Pamela Clark from The Australian Women’s Weekly test kitchen, and Israeli chef Eyal Shani. Shani’s Miznon restaurants have popped up around the world, including Melbourne. Don’t miss this family-friendly food for thought. Saturday 21, Sunday 22 and Saturday 28 March.

The Big Spaghetti

This Italian-style fair brings pasta back to its street-food origins. Spaghetti slingers include Tipo 00 and Capitano, plus drinks by Bar Americano. The Big Spaghetti also offers live music and guest presenters such as chef Karen Martini. And there’s the unlikely duo of Matt Preston and Sam Pang doing ‘the world’s longest cooking demo’. A good bolognese takes time! Saturday 28 March.

A white plate with spaghetti on it on a white table

The Big Spaghetti

Pontoon Beach Club at Fatto

It’s St Kilda beachside X Melbourne riverside for this takeover that promises to be quite the party. Pontoon Beach Club at Fatto is a one off night of cocktails, bar snacks, summery dishes and DJs. Bring your appetite and dancing shoes. Thursday 19 March.

Take the Cake

This exhibition showcases 40 years of art-meets-carbs from The Australian Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book. William Angliss Institute students and celebs like Chrissy Swan are making some classics for Take the Cake. Will your childhood favourite be among them? Calm the inevitable cravings with mini cupcakes versions, or decorate your own. Wednesday 18 to Wednesday 25 March.

Sichuan Snack Fair

Fuchsia Dunlop, Britain’s queen of Sichuan cooking, is coming to celebrate China’s hottest regional cuisine. She will be joined by the folks from some of Melbourne’s spiciest restaurants for the Sichuan Snack Fair. Visit stalls hosted by the likes of Dainty Sichuan, Lee Ho Fook and Supernormal. Sunday 22 March.

A white plate with red and green food in it

Feast Sichuan style during MFWF

Low-cost events

Welcome to the Jungle

Lush plants, floral prints and all things plant-based are the key ingredients for Welcome to the Jungle. Add live music and you’ve got yourself one wild party. No surprise there’s food by animal-loving Melbourne eatery Smith & Daughters. But who knew the likes of American barbecuers Fancy Hanks could go 100 per cent vegan? The icing on the pineapple cake is that peeps from tiki bar LuWow are slinging drinks. A pre-purchased $25 ticket gets you entry and entertainment, so bring some plastic for the rest. Friday 27 March.

Maximum Chips

Whether you like classic chips, crinkle-cut, shoestring fries or wedges, the taters of your dreams await at Maximum Chips. This one off event also has plenty of condiments and cold drinks for max pleasure. Pre-purchase a $35 ticket for all the chips you can eat and a welcome drink. Friday 20 March.

A wooden plate of french fries

Keep your eyes on the fries at Maximum Chips

All-vegan Rice Paper Scissors

Hawker-style eatery Rice Paper Scissors has an amazing array of vegan options. And for eight days during the festival, they’re going all-vegan. The cocktail and wine lists are getting a tweak too. Your all-in vegan dinner is $37, while lunch is just $32. Sunday 22 to Sunday 29 March.

Aperitivo Arvo on Rathdowne

Kick back for a Saturday afternoon of classic Italian drinks and snacks at The Kent Hotel in Carlton North. Aperitivo Arvo on Rathdowne has all the essential tutto bene ingredients. Vermouth, Italian beers and wines. Spuntini like seasonal bruschetta, salumi, ravioli, mini porchetta rolls and freshly shucked oysters. Plus live jazz and views of pretty Rathdowne Village. A $21 ticket, available online or at the door, gets you in with a welcome drink. Saluti! Saturday 21 March.

Salty Jime’s Fish and Chips

Shannon Bennett’s Iki-Jime is being transformed into budget-friendly chip shop for one lunchtime only. Dive in for next-level fish and chips that will only set you back $20. That’s right, just $20 for ethically sourced fish and hand-cut chips, all cooked to perfection. Salty Jime’s Fish and Chips is walk-in only, so get there early. Friday 27 March.