By Hannah Fortune
You can hear the live music from the far end of the street as the brightly lit domes and colourful shipping containers come into view.
The mouth-watering smells of African barbecue and fresh caramel popcorn fill the air at Melbourne’s newest foodie playground, Grazeland.
Set on 10,000 square meters of an abandoned shipyard in Spotswood, Grazeland is an outdoor food precinct now permanently home to 50 speciality food vendors, three bars, artisan stalls and rotating live entertainment.
After nearly two years of planning and a painful 12 month delay because of Covid restrictions, vendors released a collective sigh of relief when the gates finally opened last Friday night.
Thousands of people lined up for the venue’s launch.
Sandrow Yalda, owner of traditional Mexican street food vender El Taco, said many of his staff had quit full-time jobs in preparation for the original opening, only to be out of work for a whole year.
“We were planning on opening in 2020, around March, but then Covid hit and it was just delay after delay,” he said.
Many vendors were forced to drop out because of its uncertain future, but Yalda said everyone banding together and supporting each other got them through.
“It’s like a big family here, everyone was sort of in the same boat, everyone was just backing each other up and slowly, we got there.”
The large turnout was unexpected. El Taco had completely sold out by 9pm, after just four hours of service. Yalda says he has signed a three-year lease but can see Grazeland “having a much brighter future”.
People came from all over Melbourne to grab a taste of the award-winning pizza from 48H, donut pastry filled with ice-cream from Chimnutz, and crowd favourite Katsu Sangas from Katsu King.
“The atmosphere was fantastic. There was nearly 5000 people on opening night so it’s great to see that word has got out,” Poked operations manager Mark Laughton said.
Covid restrictions hit the Poke restaurant chain hard. Six of their restaurants closed and nearly 100 staff members were stood down.
The company said the opportunity to expand outside of the city was exactly what they needed and they have taken on four brands at Grazeland.
“So, we have Katsu King, Bao Down, The V spot and BBL Tea. All four restaurants are fairly new concepts to us, but we decided they would be a good fit for Grazeland.”
Laughton said the guys at Poked were “late to the party”, only getting on board a few months before the opening.
“We feel very privileged to be a part of this. Feedback from opening weekend has been so positive already,” he said.
“I know for a lot of other food venders this is their bread and butter, so the delay has been incredibly hard on them. It was great to see so many smiling faces and we know it will only get better from here.”
Hobsons Bay mayor Jonathon Marsden told Urbanlist he was excited for the new weekend destination for friends and families to come together and be entertained.
“We welcome Melburnians from across the city to explore more of what Melbourne’s inner-west has to offer,” he said.
Situated along the Yarra River next to Scienceworks and showcasing an incredible view of the Melbourne city skyline, Grazeland will be open every Friday, from 5pm and Saturday and Sunday from 12pm. Grazeland is 17 minutes by train from Flinders street station, alternatively there is on-site and street parking is available.
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