GOVERNOR, WITH THESE FINGER FOODS YOU’RE SPOILING US

The 2013 FIA Formula One World Canapes Challenge is officially go-go-go!

It kicked off in some style last night at Government House, an Italianate mansion in Melbourne’s Royal Botanical Gardens which is the residence of the Governor of Victoria. Nice gig if you can get it.

Being the first canapés event of the year I was raring to go and hoovered up the lion’s share from the uniformed silver plate bearers. The Chinese duck earned a coveted F1-SD gold star.

The crowd was a mixture of minted Melbournians, politicians, military, and one or two people who looked out of place, such as a man with his hair dyed in the colours of the chequered flag. But I guess that’s Australia for you. He’s probably the mayor or something. Sunday’s race trophies were on display in the great hall, earning admiring looks from the assembled trophy wives.

The F1 turnout was relatively low, because this was about Victorian rather than paddock society. Nonetheless, Sir Jackie Stewart was the guest of honour. Eric Boullier and Lotus F1’s business development director Federico Gastaldi were there, as were former Minardi owner Paul Stoddart, photographer Keith Sutton, Influence partner Alistair Watkins (who has scooped the Rolex account), Australian GP boss Ron Walker, and 1980 world champion Alan Jones – whose Williams was on display in the garden. Jean-Michel Tibi was hard at work making sure there was video evidence of the whole thing, probably for a Ferrero Rocher ad or something.

Governor Alex Chernov addressed the 300 guests about the first time Albert Park hosted a motor race, exactly 60 years ago. The Premier of Victoria, Denis Napthine, has only been in the job a week and seems pretty excited about the whole thing. Meeting Jackie Stewart was the icing on the cake and I thought the bloke was literally going to fall to his knees and start kissing JYS’s feet. He also paid tribute to Walker, calling him “Mr Melbourne” and spoke of the economic benefits of the grand prix. Well if you’re going to bung all this money on parties you need a major event to justify it, don’t you? Fair play.

Jackie, as always, made a strong argument for keeping the race – something the eco and fiscal warriors (should that be worriers?) would like to do away with. “There are countries vying to get a grand prix, and you’ve got it. So keep it”. Hear hear.

After the speeches, guests retreated to the garden where I made sure a sit-down dinner wouldn’t be necessary. It had been a successful first day’s scoffing. They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch. I’m here to tell you that ain’t the case.

Thursday – the first day back at school – started with lunch at St Kilda beach restaurant Captain Baxters, courtesy of Mercedes-Benz. Lewis, Nico, Ross and Toto were all there, patiently fielding questions from media who feel they need to ask at least one question to justify calories-for-column-inches. It was all very on message, but what struck me is that Toto Wolff sounds exactly like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Lunch was a lucky dip, because you didn’t know what would be placed in front of you. I had red cooked pork with rice, scallop and green chili relish, followed by a delicious baked salmon with prosciutto, sweet potato and a surprising zucchini flower stuffed with salmon mousse. Dessert was a triumph: lemon verbena cheesecake with raspberry sorbet, summer berries and spiced brioche.

What a way to start the season. It’ll all down hill from here, you know.

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Round 1 at Mercedes’ media do.

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Round 2 (thanks @JennieGow).

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Round 3. Amazing.

ImageGovernment House.

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JYS speaks.

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