What Would They Know? Fiona Scanlon of Peter Rowland Catering

by | Food & Catering Wisdom, Venue Wisdom, What Would They Know?, Wisdom


Polka Dot Bride

Fiona of Peter Rowland Catering

Delicious food served with style is always a talking point at any occasion, and we often hear at Polka Dot Bride, how food is one of the most memorable aspects of the wedding. For over 50 years, Peter Rowland Catering has been at the forefront of the hospitality scene,  earning a reputation as a premier caterer with access to some of Melbourne and Victoria’s most iconic and stunning venues. Not only do they make beautiful and innovative food, their wedding consultants and concierge team will help you decide on everything from the perfect venue and styling to stationery, to help realise the vision you have for your wedding day. Fresh food, fresh ideas, fresh styling – all under the one roof! We’ll start the ball rolling with the all important food and to get our mouths watering, we look at Peter Rowland Catering, and then explore several gorgeous venues which are definite possibilities for your wedding.

Peter Rowland Catering

Please tell us about Peter Rowland Catering – its history and the present.

A true hospitality pioneer, Peter Rowland OAM created the business in 1962, establishing a new style of catering and has been a shining light in the hospitality arena for over 50 years. Now with over 3000 employees, Peter Rowland Catering is the appointed caterer for some of Melbourne’s most iconic cultural institutions, major events and corporate elite. Bringing innovation, creativity and flair to the industry, Peter Rowland has made Peter Rowland Catering a quintessential part of Melbourne’s food scene.

Peter Rowland Catering was founded and continues to operate because of our passion for produce, quality, flavour and sharing food experiences. In our pursuit it has become an intrinsic part of Melbourne’s food culture, partnering with world renowned cultural institutions and chef’s alike.

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Images by Fiona Scanlon Photographer

What is Peter Rowland Catering’s food philosophy and style?

We are about celebrating with fresh food and produce, sourced organically and sustainably where possible. Staying on trend with current market demands we can create almost anything our clients desire. Service is also a significant part of the process – the seamless delivery of events is just as important as what’s being served on the plate. We understand that our staff are fundamental to the business and create that extra element that makes an event so memorable.

Whether it’s a cocktail celebration or a pop up activation, a lavish banquet or enthralling food installation, our team of experienced chefs and food designers create a totally personalised gourmet experience. Imagination is the only limitation…

Our philosophy is that what customers want, they can have. After all, it’s their event, be it a wedding, a product launch, gala dinner or wowing the elite at the Melbourne Cup Carnival. The team are able to deliver every style of cuisine as well as source just about any ingredient or menu item. We believe food creates a special connection between people and sharing a table creates memories that last a lifetime.

Our ability to manage a vast variety of event spaces sees us partner with the city’s most iconic and unique venues. Our expertise sees us synonymous with Melbourne’s major sporting and cultural events. Our team of world class chefs, food designers, stylists, event producers and hospitality managers can deliver any style of event – anywhere, anytime. We thrive on bringing the art of food, drink and hospitality to life.

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Image courtesy of Peter Rowland Catering, Image by Fiona Scanlon Photographer

What is the Peter Rowland Catering link to these venues?

Peter Rowland has long standing relationships with some of Melbourne most unique and iconic venues that often go back to the beginning of a venue’s emergence into Melbourne’s art, sport and historical cultures such at the Flemington Race Course, the National Gallery of Victoria or Rippon Lea House & Gardens.

Is there an event planner available for each of your venues?

We have dedicated event specialists for each of our exclusive venues to ensure we can cover a 7 day a week business, especially over the period wedding season of October to April. In addition, our teams are also well experienced to be able to assist our brides and grooms across our entire portfolio which means they can deal with just one person should they wish to hold a ceremony at one venue and the reception at another.

We pride ourselves on the knowledge, passion and flexibility our staff possess, which at the end of the day, makes our couples’ experiences all the more pleasant and enjoyable

You also have a Wedding Consultant. What is that person’s role in the wedding?

Our wedding consultant heads up the Weddings by Peter Rowland Concierge service, which offers couples the next level of planning from what they receive at a venue level. This includes sourcing stationers, making appointments with photographers and bridal boutiques, overseeing the styling aspects etc.

The services provided by our wedding consultant and concierge team enable brides the convenience of a dedicated planner who guides them from start to finish and is who is with them every step of the way, from helping to source the right venue, down to ensuring their wedding gifts are taken care of at the of night.

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Image by Sarah Wood Photography and Nikole Ramsay Photographer

How do couples approach you to start their wedding planning journey?

Most of our enquiries come through the internet however we do have a strong client base and referral network. Often we may plan weddings for entire families over the years across our various venues, making it really special for both the family and Peter Rowland Catering. It’s such an honour for a family to entrust us through the decades with each of their milestones, from weddings, engagements and christening celebrations.

Once we’ve set up appointments for our couples to view the various spaces of interest, our event specialists step them through how the day or night would flow, walking them through the respective spaces to ensure they can envisage themselves at various points of the celebration, as well as offer tips and suggestions of how they can make their wedding extra special and which best compliments their vision. It’s not just about food and drink for us, it’s about creating an event, an entire experience and wonderful memories that will last a life time.

How do you help them choose the perfect venue for them?

We like to ask our couples as many questions as possible to ensure we’re able to find them the right match. It’s essential that we understand what’s important to our clients, how they want the day or night to flow and if there are any special formalities or personal touches they want to include. There’s no point suggesting a traditional, historic venue to a bride and groom if they want something modern and low key, or booking a venue that is going to make their preferred table arrangements and layout near impossible to execute.

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Images by Fiona Scanlon Photographer

What are your best tips when planning the wedding menu?

Ask for advice and be open to suggestions! Sometimes a couple may have an idea or concept in mind but when we start to talk through it with them, we soon realize there are many other factors they haven’t considered and which may affect the end result. Our team has the knowledge and experienced to offer alternative ways of doing things so the couple still achieves the same or similar outcome but in a way that won’t rely on chance or be set up for possible failure

We also suggest that couples keep their guests in mind. Of course it’s a bride and groom’s day but you want to ensure guests are comfortable and are enjoying the day as much as possible. For example, don’t expect your guests to enjoy being out in the cold for a winter ceremony with no protection from the rain or wind whilst the bridal party stand comfortably under a canopy, or assuming guests won’t mind “wandering around” for an hour or after the ceremony whilst the bridal party head off for photos with no entertainment or light refreshments to keep them occupied.

NGV (National Gallery of Victoria)

What unique features does this venue offer the bridal couple?

The National Gallery of Victoria is located in Melbourne’s arts precinct and considered one of Australia’s finest cultural institutions. As an event space, the NGV is truly unique, boasting two elegant and timeless venues suitable for intimate and grand celebrations alike. Where else can couples have wedding photos taken amongst world famous artworks and the most unique and beautiful commissioned art installations. What makes these installations even more special for the couple is that they’re often on display for just a few months at a time, meaning they’ll be only one of a handful of couples photographed with such exclusive surrounds.

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Image by Luma

Please describe the spaces available for weddings here? How many guests do they hold?

The Great Hall is a large capacity event space famous for its high, stunning stained glass ceiling by Leonard French, a perfect venue for large dinners and cocktail receptions. Pre-dinner drinks can be held in Federation Court, beneath the glass ceiling or on the Terrace overlooking the Grollo Equiset Garden. We can accommodate guest numbers in here from around 180 through to about 500.

The Garden Restaurant, a smaller event space by comparison, transforms from a highly regarded restaurant by day to a contemporary and elegant venue for wedding celebrations by night. Overlooking the manicured Grollo Equiset Garden, the space is framed by a backdrop of the city skyline, creating an artistic and stylish setting and features a private boardwalk entrance. This space typically holds anything from 80 to 120 guests for a seated dinner, more for cocktail parties.

Both spaces have access to outdoor spaces, ideal for pre-dinner drinks in the warmer months. Garden ceremonies can also be held prior to the reception in the Grollo Equiset Garden under a beautiful arbour adorned by shady vines and surrounded by artwork by world renowned artists.

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Image by Tania Savage Photography

How can bridal couples bring the delights of such a unique venue into their wedding to create a different experience for their guests?

With the most amazing stained glass ceiling, lots of couples choose to make use of this Great Hall feature by bringing the colours down onto the tables either through the use of mirrors or matching coloured floral installations. The venue also features state-of-the-art audio visual capabilities enabling couples to create some amazing installations, suspended high above their guests for something truly unique.

The Garden Restaurant is the restaurant that is the smaller event space. How would you describe the food served here?

The food we serve in the restaurant during the day is a little different from the menus we offer in the evening, due to the logistics and preparation time needed to execute a high standard dining experience for wedding groups of up to, say 120 or 130 guests. All of our menus however are focused on flavor, presentation and quality regardless of the venue space or the event for which it is being served. The Garden Restaurant is very much about produce to plate with herbs and other items picked fresh daily from the veggie patches in the gardens which it overlooks. Head Chef, Nuno Gabriel comments, ‘Garden Restaurant is the perfect place to showcase Victoria’s excellent local produce. Our food is classic in its simplicity, showcasing ingredients and lets flavours speak for themselves. Our commitment to produce and thinking locally is demonstrated by our new kitchen garden. We grow and pick herbs, alongside a small selection of veggies to complete your plate.’

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Image by Tania Savage Photography

Can you give us the chef’s favourite dish for the coming winter months?

We have some wonderful winter wedding dishes ideal for either seated dinner or cocktail parties, full of robust flavors – such as Beef Bourguignon or Roast Duck Curry. We also have some fantastic new dishes on the menu for restaurant dining, from starters and small plates of Grilled calamari, sweet and sour eggplant with zhoug dressing, to sharing dishes for two of Slow roasted lamb shoulder lettuce wraps and Piri piri relish and our selection of grills including Local market fish with spinach and tarragon puree, mushrooms and macadamias.

To make the most of the Great Hall are there any interesting food presentation ideas you’ve seen?

Food stations are a great idea at almost any wedding but they do work well in the Great Hall, given the size and layout of the space. Many of our couples opt to create a lounge at one end of the Great Hall so that once formalities are out of the way and mains have been devoured, guests can choose to either kick up their heels on the dance floor or catch up, other than at their tables, grazing their way through a delectable dessert bar or sumptuous cheese station in a dedicated lounge area.

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Image by Fennel & Fox Photography

Are there any restrictions in the use of this space?

The NGV is first and foremost a working gallery so couples need to be respectful of this when developing their styling and theming ideas. We’re not able to simply take artwork off the walls or move an installation. But this is what makes the gallery so unique, to be surrounded by such amazing artworks.

We’re also not able to hold day time events, with the gallery being open to the public 7 days week from 10am to 5pm, so we focus on evening celebrations instead. It’s not necessarily a problem in summer however, as day light savings affords couples the flexibility of a later on-site ceremony before flowing through into the reception.

Rippon Lea House and Gardens

What are the special features of this property?

Rippon Lea is a hidden oasis in the middle of the outer suburbs of Melbourne. Set in 14 acres of heritage listed gardens, it’s a truly impressive venue. The Estate was built back in 1868 and is a perfect example of 19th century luxury. With a prominent Art Deco feel, the Grand Ballroom, overlooking the pool and terrace, was renovated in the early 1900’s and alive with “Gatsby” style soirees for Melbourne’s elite through the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Complete with an impressive grand chandelier and an ornate balustrade overlooking the large original parquet dance floor, the Grand Ballroom is an impressive setting for stylish and classic wedding celebrations alike. For more relaxed celebrations, the alfresco entertaining space on the pool terrace is ideal for summer cocktail parties as guests mingle to the sounds of live music. There is nowhere else in Melbourne quite like it, such grandeur and with such expansive grounds perfect for endless photo opportunities and garden parties.

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Image by Warren Photography

How would you describe the atmosphere of Rippon Lea and its surrounds?

Peaceful, relaxing, picturesque, idyllic… I could go on. The venue, whilst traditional, lends itself to so many types of celebrations, and the fact the venue is surrounded by 14 acres of gardens means guests feel like they’re an entire world away. It’s hard to believe you’re in the middle of suburbia when you’re celebrating on the lawns with a champagne and all you can see are manicured gardens and expansive grounds. It really does take you back to a bygone era of the 1900’s. The venue exudes elegance and charm with understated overtones; nothing here is “overdone”.

How is the ambience of this venue best enhanced for a wedding? Do you have some styling suggestions to offer for this space?

We definitely encourage couples to make use of the pool terrace, summer or winter; whether it be for simple pre-dinner drinks, a dessert station later in the night, or have it become the focus for the entertainment and dance floor. Styling in this space can vary greatly and even though lots of our couples go for modern, minimalistic furniture and theming it works just as well. Classic theming such French provincial also works really well and it goes without saying that Art Deco furniture and styling fits like a glove! Don’t be afraid to think outside the square when it comes to theming and styling for Rippon Lea.

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Image by Leo Farrell Photography

What style of wedding do you most often see at Rippon Lea?

Seated receptions are definitely the most popular style of celebration at Rippon Lea however in saying this, we more often than not, include elements of a relaxed cocktail party such as wandering entrée and/or dessert canapés. This further instills the notion that whilst the venue is very traditional, there is a lovely, relaxed feel about the property where guests can let their hair down and enjoy the celebration in their own way, be it on the dance floor.

Cocktail parties are popular in the warmer months, when the focus of the night is outside around the pool to the sounds of some light jazz to get things started, moving to a DJ later on to get the dance floor going. Food stations and cocktail bars are also a great addition to this style of celebration.

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Image by Fiona Scanlon Photographer

The gardens are heritage listed. Please describe some garden ceremony locations.

Whilst there are a number of locations couples can choose from for their ceremony, the two most popular locations are down by the lake under the shade of old trees, known as “Duck Exit” and the grand open space of the Central Lawn, set in front of the Mansion. The Lake is just stunning and so peaceful in the summer months as the shade helps keep guests cool and the calming sounds of the waterfall running into the lake just adds that extra special touch. For couples wanting a formal and traditional ceremony, the Central Lawn is perfect. The lawns are spacious to be able to seat every guest and what could be more “Rippon Lea” than the historic mansion featuring as the backdrop for the “I Do’s”!

After ceremony formalities, guests are able to then wander leisurely through the 14 acres or enjoy a cocktail while playing croquet and bocce on the lush lawns as the bridal party take time out for photos. This is a fantastic way to entertain guests before the official start of the reception.

How many guests are able to be seated for the reception in the Grand Ballroom? Does this leave room for a dance floor?

The Ballroom can accommodate up to 160 guests for a seated dinner with a generous dance floor for guests to dance the night away under the glow of the ballroom’s grand chandelier. For larger groups of up to 180, and absolutely perfect for the Spring and Summer months, a custom built parquetry dance floor can be placed out on the Terrace, where guests can groove to their hearts content under strings of fairy lights and soft white draping of the terrace’s canopy, all of which overlooks the Art Deco style pool which is beautifully light at night and features a large fountain to add extra atmosphere to the alfresco entertaining space.

For couples preferring a full cocktail style celebration we can easily accommodate anywhere from 80 to 250 guests.

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Image courtesy of Peter Rowland Catering

Is there any accommodation for out of town guests nearby?

There is apartment style accommodation just a few minutes from Rippon Lea. However there is also an abundance of hotels just 20 minutes way at the nearby suburbs of South Yarra and Toorak, including the luxurious and contemporary Art Series Olsen Hotel, with whom Peter Rowland Catering have a great relationship.

Port Melbourne Yacht Club

Please describe the unique features of the Yacht Club

Port Melbourne Yacht Club is situated on the shores of Port Phillip Bay and showcases some of Melbourne’s best bay views. Floor-to-ceiling windows flood the venue with natural light and showcase breathtaking views day or night. The venue boasts minimalist furnishings, a moveable bar and acoustically treated flooring for the ultimate in contemporary and versatile beachside settings. In addition, the venue itself is architecturally unique, built out over the water. You can’t get more waterfront than that!

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Image by Fiona Scanlon Photographer

What is memorable about having your wedding here?

There is such a fun and relaxed vibe about the Yacht Club and I think that has a lot do to with the views and tranquil surrounds. What’s more is that couples can step outside the venue onto the beach for some spectacular wedding photos.

Are couples able to hold both the ceremony and the reception at the Yacht Club?

Port Melbourne Yacht Club offers flexibility for both sit down or cocktail weddings. Making the most of the stunning views, formalities can be held outside with an intimate ceremony on the large overwater deck, the only one of its kind in Melbourne. Following, guests can soak up the sun, sipping on cocktails as they watch the sunset over the bay. It’s so convenient for guests as it means they do not have to drive from A to B and can get straight in to the celebrations.

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Image by This Day Forward Wedding Photography

How can the couple decorate this venue to build on its views and ambiance?

The views at the Yacht Club tend to be the main feature of the venue however once the sun sets, the most effective styling usually comes down to hundreds of tea light and pillar candles complemented by simple table florals with larger styling pieces placed throughout the venue including the bar, entrance and deck.

We offer a lighting package at the venue which is extremely popular and includes lanterns along the driveway, tealight candles placed high along the industrial style exposed beams and strings of fairy lights out along the decking balustrade. It looks absolutely beautiful and especially fitting in the winter months, with a warm, romantic feel.

How many guests can be seated for a reception?

The Yacht Club can accommodate anything from 70 or 80 guests up to 150 guests for a seated dinner or more for a cocktail party. We also host many lunches at the Yacht Club for smaller groups of 5o or 60 which works wonderfully in the Spring and Summer with the majority of the celebrating able to be held out on the deck.

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Image by Simon L King Photographer

Is there room for a dance area?

The space is so flexible that we can customize a floor plan for each of our couples in order to make the best use of the space, depending on their requirements and size of the guest list. This usually means an ample sized dance floor with room for just a single DJ or large ensemble wedding band.

Please describe the food style, dishes and serving style here?

The Yacht Club is extremely popular for cocktail parties which typically involve themed food stations and dessert bars. With the option for long banquet tables for our seated weddings however, shared dinning is just perfect and growing in popularity. Both suit the venue well and further enhance the relaxed feel of the venue whilst focusing on the social element of the food service.

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Image by Fiona Scanlon Photographer

Mt Duneed Estate

Where is Mt Duneed Estate?

Mt Duneed Estate is a direct drive from Melbourne, literally at the end of the freeway, and just over an hour’s drive. It’s also just a stone’s throw from Torquay or Geelong which affords couples the ability to turn their day into a destination wedding and a weekend long celebration.

Please describe the spaces available for weddings.

Mt Duneed Estate is an ideal winery style venue for weddings of all sizes and boasts two uniquely different spaces; the rustic Barrel Hall, featuring strings festoon lights and flanked by towering wine barrels, and the more contemporary, light filled Vineyard room, overlooking acres of vines and expansive lawns.

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Image by Brett Danielsen

For couples wanting those extra personal touches, both spaces can suitably accommodate food stations and lolly buffets, whiskey bars and photobooths, however for extra wow factor, the Barrel Hall can also accommodate a calligraphy blackboard and caravan bars.

Wedding ceremonies can be held in the seclusion of the Olive Grove which offers couples privacy whilst setting the tone for a romantic and rustic style celebration. Guests can then be entertained with post-ceremony or pre-dinner drinks on the sandstone patio as they enjoy the peaceful views across the sun-dappled vineyards whilst the bridal party ventures around the estate for photos.

Whilst most couples are drawn to the venue because of its raw, rustic feel, should they prefer, we can also host marquee weddings of all sizes on the sprawling lawns for a truly memorable and unique experience.

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Image by Brett Danielsen

Please describe some special photo locations around the property.

Mt Duneed Estate affords couples the flexibility of hosting the ceremony and reception in the one location yet not limiting themselves with photo opportunities. There really is no need for bridal parties to leave the Estate, with the exception of some beautiful photos taken on the old railway tracks just down the road.

Couples will delight in a variety of backdrops and settings for their photography from the rustic secluded Olive Grove to the romantic grape vines of the vineyards as well as the expansive open lawns overlooking the Barrabool Hills, stunning for backlit, sunset photos of the bride and groom.

Does the menu use the local produce? Any exciting food discoveries from this region that you use in the menu?

Local, in-house chef, Daniel Duve, prides himself on incorporating fresh, local produce into his menus, even down to the sauces and accompaniments which are usually house made and bursting with flavor. Given the increasing demand in the market for locally sourced, sustainable produce, we’re proud to be able to design and execute menus that are mindful and supportive of the local environment and various businesses. Local seafoods, meats and vegetables feature highly in this season’s offerings.

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Image by Ferne Millen Photography

Are you able to match wines and beers with the menu?

The Estate is known for its locally grown and produced wines and boutique craft beer and cider. The winemaking team source grapes from some of Victoria’s key winemaking growing regions and produce a Blanc De Blanc Sparkling, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay as well as a Shiraz and Pinot Noir, all of which are offered as part of the wedding beverage options. Should they choose, couples can also opt to include a Moscato and Pinot Grigio for a small fee.

Mt Duneed’s Pettavel Road Brewing Co is dedicated to exploring, creating and sharing the craft beer journey with guests of the Estate. Made in small batches, their beer styles are crafted according to the season and ingredients. Their range of boutiques beers include Golden Ale, Pale Ale and Amber Ale. Not forgetting market trends and using a hand selected blend of apples from orchards in Southern Victoria, the team at Mt Duneed Estate also produce the Pettavel Road Brewing Co’s Apple Cider, handcrafted in small batches and all about 100% fresh fruit with no juice concentrate.

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Image by Fiona Scanlon Photographer

Are you able to give us an example of a dish and a wine or beer to match?

Two new additions to the 2016-17 menus can be well matched to the local Pettavel Road Brewing Co’s beer and cider, one of which uses an ale in the cooking process. One is a main course of Pettavel Road Red Ale braised lamb, leek & potato croquette, broad bean purée and baby carrots, the second of Prosciutto wrapped pork cutlet, olive oil mash, pickled cabbage and warm apple chutney is perfectly matched to the Apple Cider.

Is there guest accommodation nearby?

Being a coastal holiday destination, the nearby town of Torquay provides ample accommodation options for guests including the luxurious Peppers The Sands Resort, the RACV Torquay Resort and Wyndham Resort Torquay, all of whom offer special rates for Peter Rowland Catering’s wedding guests.

What attractions are there for guests to see and do in this region?

There are endless activities and attractions for guests to enjoy and experience in the Geelong and Bellarine region with everything from the obvious surf school lessons, shopping at the outlets and numerous boutique art galleries to enjoy. Visitors can live on the edge with a sky diving experience or take a memorable marine tour to swim with the dolphins. Seeing as though we’re all about food and hospitality, why not experience the endless list of local, family owned vineyards and organic farms to wine and dine through a culinary journey to remember.

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Image by Fiona Scanlon Photographer, Image by Ferne Millan Photography

Thank you Fiona for sharing your story with us today. With the Peter Rowland signature stunning food offered at so many beautiful and unique venues to consider for your wedding, you are spoilt for choice! To find out more about Peter Rowland Catering, Mt Duneed Estate, Port Melbourne Yacht Club, Rippon Lea House & Gardens or NGV visit the websites.

Headshot by Fiona Scanlon Photographer.

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