Now in its 27th year, the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival is a 17-day banquet of delicious experiences. Some are heavyweight culinary events with price-tags to match, but there’s free and low-cost indulgence too. We’ve gathered some of the festival’s best budget-friendly foodie adventures that you won’t want to miss!

Free events

Long Chim Full Moon Festival

Thailand’s full moon parties come to Crown Riverwalk as one of the precinct’s favourite restaurants turns up the heat and tropical flavours. Long Chim Full Moon Festivalincludes Thai street-food stalls, bars, live entertainment and a few neon-lit surprises. It’s only happening for three days, on 22-24 March, so put it in your diary now!

Gradi Italian Festival

Whether you’ve got Italian heritage or just wish you were in Tuscany, the Gradi Italian Festival is not to be missed. Hosted by Crown’s Italian hot spot, Gradi, it’s three big days of food, drinks, live entertainment and kids activities. From pizza (including gluten-free) to pasta, cannoli to gelato, this taste of la dolce vita is on 15-17 March.

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San Antone Smokehouse Festival

Set that snag in Wonder White bread aside, because Texas-style barbecue is on the menu. Follow the smoke and savoury scent to the San Antone Smokehouse Festival, which is all about 14-hour slow-cooked meat. Have a taste, watch the big smoker in action, and kick back to live blues during the Labour Day long weekend.

Mercato Vucciria

Osteria Ilaria, one of Melbourne’s best new modern Italian restaurants, is hosting a party on 10 March. Inspired by Palermo’s famous market, Mercato Vucciria will be a lively mix of music, dancing, street food, natural wines and good times. Saluti!

River Graze

One of the festival’s final events is also among its busiest. River Graze sees an entire kilometre of the Yarra River’s bank transformed into a foodie’s playground for one massive entertainment-filled weekend. Scores of local producers, winemakers and food trucks gather to offer a taste of Victoria on 22-24 March. Kids will love the free cooking workshops overseen by no less than Maggie Beer and Stephanie Alexander. For thirsty grown-ups, there’s Starward’s Whisky Garden, Stomping Ground Beer Garden and muscat masterclasses.

Events $40 and under

Restaurant Express

Packed schedules and tight budgets can make getting together with family, friends or colleagues for a top-notch lunch challenging. The festival’s much-loved Restaurant Express program is the solution. Enjoy two courses and a matched drink for $40 at more than 70 leading restaurants. Newcomers to this festival-long favourite include Asado Bar y Grill and Pilgrim Bar.

Salty Jime’s Fish and Chips

Shannon Bennett’s Iki-Jime seafood restaurant is turning on a special lunchtime take-away for the festival on 22 March. The Salty Jime’s Fish and Chips experience is simple: fresh, gently fried fish and hand-cut chips dusted in clam salt for $20. Perfect.

Transit’s Picky Providore Picnic

The country comes to the city at Transit Rooftop Bar’s one-off lunchtime event on 9 March. Yarra Valley winery Dominique Portet’s French-style rosé and charcuterie from the sustainable Murray River farm Bundarra Berkshires are yours for $38. The folks behind this gourmet goodness will also share stories about their family-run businesses at Transit’s Picky Providore Picnic.

The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival is on 8-24 March.