SYDNEY is a city with great weather, great food and great spirit, so why can’t it get its act together and treat the punters right?
Perhaps the question began with the barbecue festival where people lined up for hours to be told they’d run out of meat, leading angry patrons to dub it the barbe-queue.
Or maybe it was when the same dilemma went down at Kylie Kwong’s Chinese New Year markets, where the food disappeared before some ticket holders arrived.
Then there’s the Luke Mangan debacle on Bondi Beach where the wine ran out and the lack of food had people ordering pizzas.
Surely the event organisers have learned their lesson?
Unfortunately not. This weekend it seems Sydney has done it again – this time, at The Domain’s Lost Picnic.
Dubbed as the city’s ultimate outdoor experience of food, potential punters were promised delicious gourmet hampers and a beautiful spring day.
OK, so I guess we can’t blame them for the gloomy weather.
Early bird tickets were $89 plus a hefty booking fee taking even the cheapest tickets to nearly $100 each.
The line-up of acts including Sarah Blasko, Montaigne, The Beatle Boys and headliners Fat Freddy’s Drop promised sweet sounds.
You were absolutely not to bring any of your own food and drink (even water), but the bars and the gourmet hampers created by chef-driven vendors were guaranteed to please.
Pretty exxy. But might be fun, right? Sure. People everywhere started clicking ‘interested’ on the Facebook event. Eventually those turned to ‘going’.
So what went wrong?
We could start with the bar that tried to sell Aussie sparkling Chandon at $65 a pop before we convinced the poor lads that Moet & Chandon and Chandon are rather different products – and you really shouldn’t sell them warm.
Or the Pimm’s bar selling the summer-favourite cocktail in jugs but ran out of said jugs within one hour of opening.
But hey, we’re here for a good time. These things happen. Drinks were bought and picnic blankets thrown down – and for a minute there, life was looking good.
In the lead up to Lost, there was a big push to pre-order hampers and this seemed like a plan, with Mamak, Chur Burger and Puntino Trattoria in the mix.
People started slinging down $50 for a hamper to feed two. It’s pricey, but hey, it’s Sydney – we get it.
What we don’t get is why on earth you’d pre-order a hamper if you still have to queue for at least 20 minutes to have your ticket scanned.
But we queue. We’re polite. We’re trying to work with you, Sydney.
The stand in question is pumping out the food but there’s an increasingly large gaggle of people clutching numbered tickets, without food. 77 is called. Fabulous, that must mean our golden 79 ticket is almost useful.
Hold on, did she just say 23? 90? 54? What on earth is this system?
And how has that person who was 10 people behind me got their single-order burgers before these elusive pre-ordered hampers have appeared?
Damn it, Sydney.
Fifteen more minutes, we’re assured. A friend has to leave to brave the Portaloos.
A mother is feeding her three-year-old broken crackers from the bottom of her handbag. I’m sure I just saw tears rolling down that guy’s cheeks.
The crowd starts to chatter. “How long have you waited?” Cheers start to spread when people’s numbers are finally called like the gorgeous spring picnic has turned into some kind of reverse Hunger Games.
One hour in after a second plea to the poor girl defending the stand from what feels like 2000 hungry revellers, and after some confusion in the “kitchen” when I’m pretty sure our docket has floated off to the blissful tones of Sarah Blasko, we’re apparently next.
Come at me, two hampers. I’m handed one.
“There’s supposed to be two?” I explain, lip aquiver, sweaty palms, scanned tickets seemingly more pointless than ever.
There’s panic. They hand me a second and I’m pretty sure I just nicked number 42’s food but it’s everyone for themselves by this point. I practically run away.
I pick my way back to my emaciated friends through the patchwork of blankets in increasingly cramped spaces. Victorious, if famished.
Chomping into our food the half-smiles disappear; the burgers are cold. So are the sweet potato fries.
And there’s no way we’re braving the limp prawn salad after an hour of watching these things get packed. Nor the salad with questionable cubed meat (is it chicken? Is it ham?) and an anaemic bread roll.
Most of it goes into the bin. Hunger Games, indeed.
Time for another drink. All the queues are big. I’ve done my time so friends take the challenge while I try to contemplate another disappointing food festival in a city that offers so much great dining. Thank goodness for wine.
Except there is no wine. After queuing for more than an hour (it appears to be a theme), we’re told the wine is sold out.
Not just sparkling. White, red, rosé: all of it, gone. It’s 4pm; the festival goes until 8pm.
The queue is still hundreds of people long and they are refusing to tell the parched partygoers there’s no wine until they make it to the front.
People who bulk-ordered wine before it ran out begin to look protective of their bottles as queue-weary crowds walk past with drinks they didn’t want.
We sip our mass-made G&Ts from the can, but the resolve to make this fun has been utterly broken. This day can’t be saved.
Hungry and thirsty, and not the only ones, we leave before the headline act.
Unfortunately it seems Sydney has failed to deliver again – this festival was a lost picnic in more ways than one.
The organisers issued the following statement on Wednesday afternoon:
“Lost Picnic 2017 was nine months in the making and we continually strive to put on high end, quality events.
“We sincerely apologise for the long wait times and agree there were numerous operational issues on the day. We will be addressing all of these well in advance of next year.
“ We hope the 8500 attendees still enjoyed the ambience, amazing music line-up, kids entertainment, beautiful venue & epic closing set by Fat Freddy’s Drop. Thank you to everyone who attended and for your support.”