The mantra of 'out with the old and in with the new' couldn't ring truer as the Lexus Design Pavilion takes over where Emirates once peacocked within the Birdcage at Flemington this year.
As the new naming sponsor of the Melbourne Cup, Lexus makes a mighty statement in a modern three-storey setting on Millionaire's Row. Dubbed Utopia, it houses the largest ever dining space within the Birdcage's history and brings a kooky sense of culinary adventure too.
A magic mushroom dessert created by chef Shaun Quade of Lume will surely be the most talked about – but it won't be so easy to book a spot here, with all invited VIPs required to put their names on a waitlist to wine and dine. This 76-seater restaurant comes with a four-course dining experience where avant-garde drives the message home.
But before you climb to the top, you're greeted with food on Level One by Melbourne restaurant Future Future and a Mecca Beauty Lounge where guys can be pampered as well.
And let's not get started on the toilets (there's two for men) and an upgrade in class since Emirates left with five cubicles in the ladies.
A garden oasis of Australian foliage is set among a Japanese ambience where elegance reigns in the hands of landscape architect Jack Merlo.
On Level Two, chef Neil Perry curates a casual dining space where spanner crab with wasabi tartlet, kingfish sesame and The Burger Project give the beef patty a VIP makeover.
A tactile voyage
According to industrial designer and design ambassador for Lexus, Henry Wilson, Utopia is a state of mind as much as it is a tactile voyage.
"We wanted to create an idea of Japanese warmth and hospitality – that philosophy is always embedded into Lexus's drive for creating events," says Henry Wilson.
"It's like that moment when you travel to Japan where they preempt every need with a desire for a seamless experience. That's what Utopia is all about at Flemington."
Lexus has always been an impressive marquee within the Birdcage, but the car manufacturer truly shines in its new headquarters being everything you anticipate and more. Now that Myer is no longer rubbing shoulders alongside it, it could just well be the most fashionable place to be too.
Drinks with Mumm
G H Mumm's marquee goes intergalactic this year with its very own rocket ship marquee. Dubbed the Space Odyssey, the champagne house is proof they're in a modern-day space race of its own.
Inspired by the Mumm Grand Cordon Stellar, they are rushing to be the first house to serve the new drop on a commercial space flight [yes, they're in talks with everyone from Virgin to Galaxy].
Considering they were the first official drop to be served on the first Concord flight back in March 1969, anything is possible at ground control.
"This is the new frontier of luxury tourism," says G H Mumm Ambassador Chris Sheehy of the 12 metre rocketship.
"We want to be synonymous with space travel and we're in discussions with all airlines looking to create that first space trip experience," he says.
The first champagne bottle designed for space travel took three years to create with NASA engineers and the Spade design team in France.
It's housed in a glass cabinet for all to see upon entry – making it the only bottle available in Australia and is one of 30 worldwide with no price tag attached just yet.
"We want people to start thinking about space travel," says Sheehy.
"Our brand is steeped in tradition and history but we're all about looking to the future and encouraging you to go on the journey to space with us."
There's a space-themed menu too from breakfast gels to the 'astronauts' breakfast', freeze dried fruit salad and pearls in obulato triangle, and a dessert of titanium white apple mousse sitting on Mumm red raspberry 'spaghetti' and champagne foam.
At the House of Kennedy, luxury comes with a price tag and the temptation to spend with a watch display around the marquee valued over $2 million dollars.
Kennedy Executive Chairman James Kennedy takes a different approach in 2019, focusing on his customer base instead of big international names.
A collaboration with Brunetti welcomes a Marie Antoinette fantasy dessert moment where a rotating selection of sweets match a signature cocktail, while the wall décor conjures the internal cog of a watch – only time will tell if it translates to more sales on the day.
Some of the brands on show include Patek Philippe, Rolex, IWC Schaffhausen and Cartier.
"We wanted the House of Kennedy to feel like our luxurious boutiques," says James Kennedy, from Kennedy Luxury Group.
"This year we're even more focused on customer engagement and servicing them," he adds.
Beer for the boys
The perfect man cave moment comes with a crafty makeover at Furphy who makes it debut on Millionaire's Row taking over from James Boags. This is a very classy watering hole that's got some gastro pub snob about it, but it's about reminding the blokes that beer matters most.
The 10-metre-long bar serves six varieties on tap and large seated indoor and outdoor areas makes it the ultimate male hideout.
"While everyone else is busy drinking champagne, we're here to remind the guys it's all about levelling it out with a beer," says Sam Furphy of the brand his family started in Shepparton.
"We're enticing traditional old school beer drinkers to try a refreshing new beer," says Furphy. "And the Birdcage is the place to do it."