The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 is off to an exhilarating start, and what a way to kick things off. The Matildas marked a historic victory in the opening match on their home turf against the Republic of Ireland. The electric atmosphere of the pumped-up crowd, whether within the stadium or gathered around giant screens in parks, added to the excitement.
While the thrill of sports is undeniable, there’s always been something special about the food accompanying these events. Traditionally served on paper plates or packed in cardboard boxes, the fare is known for being greasy and affordable. These handheld treats are devoured in just a few bites, ensuring minimal mess. Or so it used to be.
During 2022, the renowned CEO of Merivale, Justin Hemmes, assumed control of the food and beverage offerings at the Allianz Stadium. Under his direction, an array of Merivale venues stepped in to fill all 64 food and beverage spots. Now, your cravings for classic stadium fare are met with a gourmet twist, like indulging in an old-fashioned hot dog crafted by El Loco or savouring a mouthwatering smash burger from Burger Shack. For a unique fusion experience, you can even enjoy cheeseburger spring rolls and salt and pepper squid from the creative minds at Dan Hong’s Ms. G’s Noodles and Dumplings.
Those in the fancy seats, also known as the member’s area, will find a range of pasta from the believed Totti’s alongside sumptuous grilled lobster bathing in garlic butter from Bert’s Bistro, and a selection of fresh oysters. Gone are the days of soggy nachos in grease-soaked cardboard trays.
At the start of last year, Melbourne’s MCG started offering gourmet options. Today, you will find chefs Guy Grossi, Alejandro Saravia, and more slinging simple but good food, such as Korean fried chicken from Gami, Royal Stacks burgers, and pizza from SPQR Pizza at the stadium.
“One might say you could hold a slice in one hand and a cold beverage in the other and shout advice at the umpire, Saravia told GoodFood in an interview.
In the MCG’s Committee Room, Grossi has introduced a small menu of European-influenced dishes, including his famed parmesan-crusted lamb shoulder, wagyu bresaola, and a champagne trolley to start. That’s not all. For the first time, the general public can stroll into the room and enjoy a mid-week lunch from Grossi’s a la carte menu, making stadiums not only a place to watch sports but a dining destination in its own right.
However, the quest for elevated gourmet experiences extends far beyond stadiums. The annual Australian Open in Melbourne has taken the initiative to assemble an impressive array of chefs tasked with crafting fresh and enticing stadium food and beverage options for the event’s attendees. In the previous year, renowned hospitality favourites like Shane Delia, Jacqui Challinor, and Sydney’s esteemed Josh Niland graced the game courtside, infusing their culinary artistry into the overall dining experience.
In the form of pop-up stalls, attendees could savour a famous Niland-style fish and chips, or Supernormal’s beloved lobster roll, along with several other of Melbourne’s favourite restaurants.
In Sydney, Niland has once again been called upon to create a tasty treat for sports fans during the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023. Attendees of the FIFA Fan Festival in Tumbalong Park will be able to grab his famous Yellowfin Tuna Cheeseburger from Niland’s food stall.
So, what defines good stadium food? According to Niland, it has to be tactile, something you can eat by hand. It also has to get you through a full 45-minute half of soccer.
“The Sydney Tuna Cheeseburger, which I created exclusively for FIFA Fan Festival is an iteration of the Yellowfin Tuna Cheeseburger I serve at my restaurants. It includes a single patty of ground NSW Yellowfin Tuna seasoned with sea parsley, salt, black pepper and ground fennel, topped with cheese. It is served in a nice soft-toasted burger bun with a pepper berry spiked BBQ sauce, yellow mustard & dill pickles,” said Niland.
As for the price, you might be pleasantly surprised by the affordability of this new wave of grown-up stadium food. The prawn har gow dumplings available at the ANZ stadium cost $17 for a generous portion, while the beef pies from Sonoma are priced at only $8.50. The hot dog from El Loco is priced at $12, still reasonable considering the elevated experience it offers compared to the standard stadium dog that typically costs around $5.50. Additionally, a wrap from Jimmy’s Falafel is priced at $17, which isn’t much different from what you would expect to pay at the restaurant.
Unlike the often steep prices of airport food, stadium food prices remain surprisingly reasonable, even with the captive audience that stadiums naturally attract. The focus seems to be on offering a satisfying culinary experience that enhances the enjoyment of the game without breaking the bank.