A canopy of glowing lanterns have been strung up, Lucky Cat presides over the gate, and 15 stalls are preparing to dish out Asian street food. The Enlighten Night Noodle Markets are ready to open in Canberra for the first time.
The gates will be thrown open at 5pm on Friday at Reconciliation Place and the markets will run for two weeks alongside the Enlighten festival in the parliamentary triangle, until March 8.
The noodle markets feature half a dozen different types of noodles alongside gyoza, yum cha dumplings and desserts.
Many of the stalls have come from interstate, bringing Filipino barbecue, teppanyaki noodles, Malaysian chicken skewers and more to the lawns between Questacon and the National Portrait Gallery.
Let's Do Yum Cha co-owner Rowan Bates brought his food truck to the capital to serve up a menu of dumplings while the gelato technicians at N2 Extreme Gelato have driven eight hours from their Melbourne branch for the markets. Operations manager Jes Lau said they brought 3000 litres of liquid nitrogen to create their gelato, which is made from scratch and frozen with the liquid nitrogen.
"We got quite excited and when we came down – Canberra's really beautiful and the team's very excited," she said.
The Night Noodle Markets will be surrounded by the bright lights of the Enlighten festival with art performances, concerts, and colourful installations.
For 10 nights, Canberra's cultural institutions will be lit up with dramatic artwork projected on to the walls of Parliament, the National Gallery, Questacon, Old Parliament House, the National Library, and the Portrait Gallery.
Some of the institutions will also stay open late so that visitors can see an exhibition, have a drink at a bar, or attend a special Enlighten event.
Singer Katie Noonan will perform and one of main attractions this year will be Voyage, an art installation of 300 illuminated paper boats floating on Lake Burley Griffin.
The Night Noodle Markets are run by Fairfax, publisher of The Canberra Times, and the ACT government has invested $200,000 to bring the event to Canberra through its tourism body VisitCanberra.
The markets attract crowds of hundreds of thousands in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane as part of Fairfax's Good Food Month. In Canberra, there will be a series of dinners, lunches and other events for Good Food Month which will run until March 15.
Ms Lau is a dab hand when it comes to the Night Noodle Markets – she persuaded N2 founder AnnGee Yeoh to enter the markets in Sydney and Melbourne and has helped churn out thousands of litres of gelato since.
She said it was always a good experience for her team, even if they usually encountered a rush of diners looking for dessert at the end of the night. "When the lanterns are up, we're very excited."
Meanwhile, Enlighten organisers are on track to illuminate the parliamentary triangle – including colourful projections on some of Australia's most iconic buildings and the Australian premier of Voyage, 300 origami-style paper boats floating on Lake Burley Griffin.
Creative producer Nicole Warren said it was difficult to choose a highlight. "It's like choosing a favourite child – all six buildings are going to look absolutely stunning," she said.
"The two weekends will be very unique. We've tried to create an atmosphere where people do want to come back."
The Enlighten Night Noodle Markets start on Friday, February 27 at 5pm at Reconciliation Place. Stalls open every night from 5pm on weekdays and 4pm on weekends until March 8. See canberra.goodfoodmonth.com and enlightencanberra.com.au