MELBOURNE | Whether it’s sitting on Henman Hill at Wimbledon or walking through the multi-sensory playground that’s the Australian Open, I’m always up for a spot of tennis. For the Australian Open 2018 The City Lane was lucky enough to be hosted by Lavazza, one of the Australian Open’s major partners and, in fact, the only food & beverage partner for all four Grand Slam tournaments.
To be honest I didn’t know much about Lavazza before this week, but it turns out there’s a lot of history behind the brand, which is still owned by the Lavazza family to this day. The company was founded in Turin in 1895 by Luigi Lavazza, who invented the idea of blending coffee from multiple sources in his grocery store. At Lavazza’s Innovation Centre in Turin today they still experiment with different blends, but more interesting to me, is that they experiment with food and coffee.
The theme for the day that we attended was, beyond tennis and coffee, the use of coffee is an ingredient for cooking rather than simply as the basis for a drink. I’ve been experimenting with coffee in my BBQ rubs and with other dishes at home so it’s something that I was very interested in. A series of chefs were tasked with creating dishes for us that used coffee in this way.
The day started at the Lavazza Cafe at Grand Slam Oval. Lavazza coffee is being served up across the various food & drink venues at the Australian Open but the two story cafe, which is open to the public, is where you go if you want something a bit different. Along with the usual suspects like espressos, cappucinos, and flat whites, there are cold ones like a Nitro Cold Brew and the smooth slushie-like Cremespresso. We enjoyed a few of these, paired with Brunetti head chef Simon Moss’ take on an eggs Benedict. Simon’s version featured a confit potato hash brown topped with toasted bread sauce, quail eggs, coffee caramelised pancetta and Italian Osietra caviar. It was divine.
Next stop was the Lavazza Superbox in Rod Laver Arena where we settled in for the day with a prime view of all the center court action. A charcuterie and cheese board kept us going until it was time for the second course of the day. This saw chef Paolo Masciopinto from South Yarra’s Bar Carolina creating a dish of coffee cured trout with tangy yogurt. Simple and delicious, with a nice subtle balance of flavours.
It was then over to chef Giovanni Pilu from Sydney restaurant Pilu at Freshwater to put his modern spin on classic Sardinian food. A team of chefs entered the Superbox and proceeded to plate up the next course step by step with all sorts of layers, foams, and sauces. The result was lamb rump with a Lavazza coffee infusion, served with pea puree, asparagus, lemon, mint and an egg emulsion. The textures and flavours worked really well together, and the dish brought an uncharacteristic silence across the room – “can’t talk, eating”.
To finish it was a trio of coffee infused desserts that helped clean the palate before settling in to watch more tennis.
I was very impressed by the event that Lavazza hosted in conjunction with Kate & Co. Great food, great coffee and great company made for an enjoyable day, and provided me with further inspiration to experiment with coffee as a ingredient in my home cooking. Now to find a way to get to Turin to visit the Lavazza Innovation Centre…