It’s even more compelling when there’s a home team battling to hang on, going point for point against an away team all the way to the end of the fourth quarter. Even for me – and look, I love going to live football games, but I’m not a fanatic – I can’t take my eyes off the field. The tension is palpable.
I’m here to see the Collingwood Magpies versus the West Coast Eagles at Marvel Stadium. No fanbase is more committed than the ‘Pies. Many beers are spilled as supporters leap from their seats to celebrate a goal or protest a call, with the battle cry, “COL-LING-WOO-OOD”, reverberating around the arena.
AFL is one of the city’s most quintessential pastimes and a good time is guaranteed no matter where you are in the stadium. However, Marvel has taken it to a new level with its bougie new hospitality offerings.
Iconic Melbourne restaurant Lee Ho Fook, famous for serving contemporary Chinese dishes and delicious cocktails at Duckboard Place in the CBD, opened a satellite restaurant at Marvel in early 2020. Needless to say, it still smells brand new when you walk into its atmospheric entryway on Level Two.
Tickets are arranged via the Medallion Club and the restaurants can be accessed through Gates Eight or Nine. The hospitality package includes an eight-course banquet menu with a minimum of four guests (although drinks come at an additional cost). Prices vary depending on the game and the seat.
It’s undoubtedly the bougie’s way to watch the footy.
For starters, the glass-walled restaurant offers uninterrupted views of the oval as well as the big screens, meaning you have an excellent view of the action. There’s also a lot more room to sit and roam as you take in the game and you obviously never have to worry about missing the seat on your fold-up chair.
But it’s the food that makes this experience worth the price tag. Created by Victor Liong, it’s easy to see why the original Lee Ho Fook was “hatted” by Melbourne’s Good Food Guide. The menu is exquisite.
Collingwood scores and the crowd goes wild. We dine on crispy skin chicken, with black vinegar sauce and Sichuan chili oil, and Ranger Valley wagyu short rib, with fennel, mustard, and a side of lettuce.
West Coast fights back, intercepting a mark and driving the ball to the forward pocket, where it’s quickly converted. We move onto char siu pork belly, with ginger and spring onion relish and steamed pancakes, as well as exceptional steamed Cone Bay barramundi, topped with ginger and spring onion sauce.
The Pies get a run on, dominating play, but they’re unable to send it through the big white posts, scoring a frustrating string of behinds. As the home crowd shouts encouragement, we tuck into crispy eggplant with spiced red vinegar, spring onion pancakes with silken tofu, and kingfish with black bean and orange.
We finish the banquet and wander into the general admission area to catch the final quarter. Before long we’re shouting just as loudly as the rest of the crowd, drowning each other out because our loyalties are split down the middle. Do we want the home team to prevail? Or are we barracking for the underdogs?
In the end, the visitors snag the win. The score on the final siren was 10-14-74 to 14-3-87, the small but mighty collection of Eagles supporters waving their blue and gold scarves to celebrate their boys.
It’s a satisfying end to a satisfying outing. Our heart rates and adrenaline levels still haven’t returned to normal as we file out of the stadium, so we join the crowd and head into the CBD to kick on.
Kirrily Schwarz travelled as a guest of Visit Victoria. This article originally appeared on Escape and do not necessarily represent the views of australiaexploring.com