Back when we were (serial) Fashions on the Field contestants, spending our time swanning around the Fashions on the Field enclosure and hoping to catch the eyes of the judges and any roving newspaper photographer, we imagined that one day we would be invited into the hallowed grounds of The Birdcage. That sacred area where celebrities mingle, champagne flows freely and good-looking waiters serve cute little canapés on silver platters.

It took us a few years, a few wins, and couple of changes of careers and hometowns, but we finally got there. After years of longing for the comfort of the corporate Birdcage marquees, was it everything we hoped it would be? As sad as this will sound to my purist racegoer friends – yes, yes it was.

This year, and thanks to this little website, we were lucky enough to experience the elaborate natures of four of the marquees in the Flemington Birdcage: Myer, Lexus, G.H. Mumm and Herald Sun. And, of course, we documented every detail.

MYER MARQUEE

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The Myer Marquee has a reputation amongst Birdcage revellers as being the “party marquee”. Anyone who’s been there and has stayed until kick-out time (around 7pm) knows that any of the following can, and most likely will, happen: 1) Myer CEO Bernie Brookes will perform karaoke to American Pie, 2) designer and Myer Fashions on the Field host Jeff Banks will tear it up on the dance floor, and 3) milliner Richard Nylon will do the splits, assisted by “the best rower in the world”, James Tomkins.

This year’s theme was titled “The Australian Homestead” and followed on from Myer’s SS14 collection shoot, which took place in the Australian wilderness. The wood-panelled marquee was decked out with native flora, while nibbles and drinks had a distinct outback feel (think bush lime mojitos and mini pavlovas).

A plethora of big-name celebrities were spotted in Myer this year, including Dita Von Teese, Tyson Beckford, Whitney Port, Jennifer Hawkins and Rebecca Judd.

LEXUS DESIGN PAVILION

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With Angela and I both being previous Lexus owners (selling my IS300 was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do), we already knew Lexus was synonymous with luxury, finesse and Japanese perfection. Experiencing this year’s Lexus Design Pavilion was a little like jumping in the driver’s seat all over again – it was luxurious from the minute you step through the doors, the feel was incredibly comforting with superb attention to detail, and the pavilion gave a great and reliable all-round performance. In short, it just doesn’t disappoint.

Inspired by Lexus’ Japanese roots, the Hecker Guthrie-designed interiors featured traditional Japanese motifs and Katsushika Hokusai’s signature artwork The Wave Off Kanagawa. Lexus ambassador Jamie Durie, he of the mad gardening skillz and Manpower dance moves, once again designed the Sky Deck, allowing guests to experience a little soothing nature in a minimalist outdoor setting while they look to the track and cheer on their charges.

But arguably the best part about Lexus was the food. After chasing trays of canapés all week, chef Simon Denton’s Hihou pop-up restaurant on the second floor was truly a delight to be savoured. We gleefully devoured delicate miso cigars filled with salmon tatare, buckwheat crepes with slices of duck breast, and decadent Hihou hotdogs: gotzinger pork sausages in the lightest, crispiest broiche buns. Heaven on a plate. But if you did want to partake in some canapé chasing, über chef Neil Perry provided plenty of delicious morsels that were worthy of stalking around Lexus’ tri-level surrounds.

Celebrities who took the Lexus Design Pavilion for a spin this year included Naomi Campbell, The Veronicas, Jamie Durie, Kate Waterhouse and Australia’s Next Top Models Montana Cox and Melissa Juratowitch.

G.H. MUMM MARQUEE

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It may be positioned behind the infamous “Millionaires’ Row” and smaller in size than its loftier counterparts, but don’t think the G.H. Mumm Marquee contains any less glitz, glamour and exclusivity than the previously-reviewed party tents. Entitled “La Maison”, the marquee was a celebration of the finer things in French life, including Paris’ famous Moulin Rouge, with 16 dancers making the trek from the City of Lights to perform each day during the Melbourne Cup Carnival. Marquee ambassador Pia Miller was on hand to introduce the artists, who don’t travel lightly and brought with them over 1,000 kg in costumes and accessories (which is surprisingly quite a bit more than Angela and I have flown in with previously).

Designed to reflect Mumm’s distinctive white, red and gold label, the classically-styled marquee contained a lively dance floor, an astroturfed outdoor deck, a chef’s tasting table where guests could sample chef Mark Best’s delights matched with Mumm’s luxurious cuvées, and an area to learn the art of sabrage (which translates to “opening a champagne bottle with the flick of a sword” – for further info on how it’s done, see my review on the Champagne Region).

VIPs seen quaffing the French bubbles in La Maison included Danielle Spencer, David Koch and the Sunrise crew, Deborah Hutton, Matt Preston and Lucy Durack.

HERALD SUN MARQUEE

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As one of the newer marquees on the Birdcage’s illustrious Millionaires’ Row, the Herald Sun changed its event planners and refined its offering this year, turning out a tastefully decorated marquee with a relaxed, friendly vibe.  This was demonstrated to perfection upon entering the marquee on a cold, blustery Stakes Day around 4:30pm, where we were greeted with chocolate chip cookies as big as our heads and offered a selection of coffees or teas to accompany it – not a drink as cold as the outside temperature, but something warm and welcoming.

Proving it was designed with the (well-heeled) public in mind, the Herald Sun marquee was decorated to incorporate the newspaper’s “We’re for Victoria” campaign, bringing elements reminiscent of Melbourne icons such as The Arts Centre, Federation Square and Southern Cross Station into its fit-out. While clearly not as flashy as some of its neighbours, it provided a sanctuary within the hustle and bustle of the often-crazy surrounds of the Birdcage; an oasis of calm with plenty of winning features, including an easily accessible tote window, the right amount of comfy lounge seating, and a menu designed by Masterchef favourite Matt Preston, who could be seen happily obliging for photos with fellow guests on a daily basis.

By Lisa Tan and Angela Menz