Inside the Birdcage at the 2016 Melbourne Cup

You might not see a horse all day, but you will definitely spot a few peacocks. This year's Birdcage at the Melbourne Cup Carnival will swarm with celebrities and influencers jockeying for position at the extravagantly-curated marquees.

For 2016, it's all about offering bespoke experiences to keep the dandies and the peacocks looking and feeling their best throughout a day of indulgence.

So which tent is leading the pack when it comes to high-end hospitality?

Who gets to be a Birdcage VIP?

The lavish and opulent Birdcage marquees can seem a little over the top to the average punter, but who exactly gets to enjoy all that gourmet food and flowing champagne?

Myer's atelier

The coveted Myer inclosure features a grooming trifecta that's hard to beat. Men can choose a fragrance to spritz, select a pocket square or flower for their lapel and even have a race book embossed with their initials as part of the exclusive experience.

You can even pop over for a shoeshine outside the French-themed Atelier Myer marquee that comes with the kicker – 'By Appointment Only'.

"Dandies were a very select group at the races many years ago, but now we're seeing them everywhere," says fashion designer Alex Perry.

"The landscape has changed for men and that's why Myer is offering these extra personal touches for the guys who take grooming seriously," explains Perry.

"Guys are wearing suits that are more tailored and they're more aware of the colours for each race day. You can't just put on last year's suit – men are making as much of an effort as the women and it's great," he says.

Hungry like the Wolf

Over at Wolf Blass, it's all about enjoying bold red wines, relaxing in lounges and embracing the striking contemporary art that has been created by Melbourne artist David Bromley.


There's even a Cuban cigar-themed retreat for those wanting to chill out between races.

"I love the element of the old cigar bar in the marquee this year," says Bromley.

"It's where you can maybe step out of the party atmosphere of the Birdcage and relax," he says.

Hello Mumm

At Mumm, Ibiza-style summer style rules – girls in blazing red swimwear and guys in tight trunks will shimmy beside the Birdcage's first ever pool. It's a daylight disco that's part-camp and part-acrobatic fun. It's also where men can discover why the French prefer rosè over white wine.

According to Chris Sheehy, Mumm's official Champagne Ambassador, it's time to indulge in rosè cocktails and discovering why male drinkers in France and the USA are going pink.

"They drink more rosè in France than they are consuming white wine," says Chris Sheehy of the variety's rising profile.

"It's a perfect drop almost built for male taste-buds. Rosè is more structured and generally men tend to enjoy the flavour profile of this drink."

Loving Lavazza

Espresso king Lavazza taps into its Italian cultural connection and points to Milan for sartorial inspiration this year. Designer Neale Whitaker leans on Milan's Galleria for the marquee's theme. The shopping destination of international fashion houses is an ideal inspiration for the preening bloke.

It's also the place to experience the notion of the 'passegiatta' - a social stroll. Don't forget to come here for coffee hits and indulge in the crème brulee (because Italian men love sweets and coffee too) from a menu created by Tonka/Coda's Adam D'Sylva.

I still call Emirates home

Emirates goes Australiana this year with cocktails named after Ned Kelly (a creation of white rum, farm berries and lemon myrtle syrup) and dishes developed by Wolgan Valley One & Only Executive Chef Nancy Kinchella. Think South Australian kingfish and Victorian lamb loin with an outdoor BBQ takes place on the deck.

Stylist Joey Scandizzo is at the helm in the Emirates Lancome beauty and hair room. Peacocks can pop in for a hair styling session – with products at the ready. According to Scandizzo there's a definite '90s vibe when it comes to blokes hair this season – think 90210 meets a male Ralph Lauren pin up model.

"It's hair that's sleek, sophisticated and tailored," he says. "It's all about dried texture with some length in hair while short shaved and sides isn't such a big deal."

Boag's business

When it comes to eating in the Birdcage, it's all about the bespoke experience and gentleman can enjoy a fine dining experience amid the hubbub of race day. 

James Boag's has an exclusive dining room for 12 people in a Zen garden meets Tassie rainforest setting. Under the guidance of Biota Dining's James Viles, it features Tasmanian sashimi grade calamari, seaweed that hangs above diners to hand pick and add to dishes while chefs cook for the guests within eye's view.

"Men can expect to find a tactile dining experience here," says Viles. "It's like a private dinner party in your own home ... The menu also includes delights such as wagyu beef cooked over coals and served with fresh wasabi."

Unfortunately you can't book, so you'll have to work your contacts to get yourself a tree-trunk seat. 

Next Lexus

At Lexus, 4000 cardboard cylinders climb their way around the interiors of this multi-level marquee created by the innovative Joost Bakker. Again, the bespoke gent will be impressed by the classy addition of private dining rooms including one curated by Franklin's head chef David Moyle. The 44-seated space also requires a booking upon arrival at Lexus and the one-hour lunch will see four dishes presented which is perfect for the calorie conscious gent wanting a mix of protein and vegetables.

"It is fairly light dining experience," says Moyle. "We begin with raw fish and mustards then move onto a vegetable course with bone marrow, peas and lentils and then a roasted pork neck comes out with an iceberg salad and toasted seaweed. It's about enjoying a peaceful dining corner with friends."

Taming of the Shewry

Upstairs, Attica's legendary Ben Shewry returns – this time cooking with six chefs for eight special VIPs if you can manage to score a spot at the table.

"I think you need to get here early to reserve a spot and ask nicely," says Shewry.

Shewry says men have become more sophisticated in their dining taste and have taken more of an interest in what's on the menu.

"I don't create big bloke food, says Shewry.

"It's not feminine either, but we serve 23 courses at Attica, so we have to not crush people with that constant flow. We use lots of acid and refreshments for your palette so you can keep going and guys get excited about this as much as the ladies."

Come to your Sensis

The party place to be is the Sensis Marquee who claims top real estate on the Millionaire's Row this year.

"The dandy will love Sensis," says Valentina Jovanoska, marquee designer.

"We have the LED wall outside the marquee which is made up of two screens and where everyone can see and interact with the performances inside and have selfie footage of themselves as well. It's very voyeuristic and fun."

When it comes to entertainment, DJ Grant Smilie appears on Cup Day, Alex Dimitriades is on the decks on Derby Day. The entire colour scheme changes to suit the race day, starting with black and white for Derby, moving to yellow on Cup Day, red on Oaks Day and accents of orange for Stakes Day.

Meanwhile hot cafes Top Paddock and Higher Ground are collaborating with Epicure to deliver the best in canapes and cocktails.

Schweppes' hot favourite

Speaking of cocktails, Schweppes is your destination if you have a palette for drinks with a twist. We love the scented marquee that's got a diffuser burning all day long with lemongrass and other citrus notes for an olfactory stimulation.

Head mixologist Kevin Griffins says guys usually come into the Birdcage drinking beer, but at Schweppes it's about luring a sophisticated gent to consider The Hot Favourite – a cocktail that's brimming with tequila, lime and fresh chili.

"We encourage men to eat as well as drink and it's probably not a bad idea to find a cocktail you like and stick with that," say Griffins. "And don't forget to drink water in between!"

Check out the gallery above to see what the VIP experience is all about.