Dinner and a movie is an easy standby when it comes to planning a date. But what if the movie was accompanied by a pre-film cocktail? And the dinner was prepared at a pop-up by a local chef? And the movie theatre was literally overlooking the most iconic harbour in the world?
From now until February 22, Westpac OpenAir Cinema is transforming Mrs Macquaries Point in the Royal Botanic Garden into a massive outdoor movie experience – complete with three-storey-high cinema screen and delicious al fresco dining.
Add in local wines, beers and cocktails and a slate of FBi Radio DJs, and you’ve got some of Sydney’s best food and culture right at your feet.
Here are some tips on perfecting your night out.
Take your time picking a film
Choosing the right movie is key to any cinema visit, so it helps to know your date’s personal preferences. If you enjoy watching world-class auteurs at work, there’s Paul Thomas Anderson’s Valley-set coming-of-age yarn Liquorice Pizza (starring Alana Haim in her film debut), Wes Anderson’s reliably quirky anthology The French Dispatch or Mike Mills’s C’mon C’mon. Foreign film lovers will enjoy Pedro Almodovar’s layered Spanish dramedy Parallel Mothers. Or if you just want to be swept to the streets of New York with top-tier singing and dancing, head for Steven Spielberg’s update of the enduring musical romance West Side Story. If ambitious sci-fi set pieces are a plus, you’ve got the sand-swept epic Dune and the gloriously meta The Matrix Resurrections. For pure action, there’s no beating No Time to Die, Daniel Craig’s final outing as James Bond.
Get there early
You don’t have to wait until the sun goes down and the movie starts to head to Fleet Steps. Before the screening every night, top local DJs sourced directly from FBi Radio will set the mood, and of course the scenery is no slouch: settle in to panoramic views of the Harbour Bridge and the Sydney skyline. Every bit of comfy atmosphere counts when you’re on a date, so don’t rush anything. Get there early to soak it all in.
Make a meal of it
The outdoor dining experience is half of the appeal of OpenAir, so make sure to select the dining package when you book your tickets. Sydney chef Mike McEnearney will be serving up signature Kitchen By Mike dishes at the Heineken Green dining area, with mains including roasted free-range chicken, ash-baked eggplant and grilled Rangers Valley flank steak, with fresh salads and sides. And if you get there before 7pm, a free Heineken is yours on arrival.
McEnearney is also branching out into a bespoke taqueria on The Point dubbed Mexican by Mike, a playful reimagining that includes pork, chicken, Yucatan-style mackerel or zucchini-flower tacos. Grab some grilled corn with either lime and chilli salt or chipotle mayo and cheese, or bulk the meal with stacked corn chips. There’s even a cheese hamper or dark chocolate mousse with caramel and malt cream to help bookend the Mexican spice. Again, get in before 7pm and you’ll get a free cocktail (or non-alcoholic cocktail).
If you really want to impress your date, go the VIP option in The Croser Lounge, McEnearney’s full-service restaurant highlighting local summer produce. The dinner includes assorted share plates and a set menu to remember, complete with indulgent desserts like Apricot Tarte Fine with vanilla ice-cream and Pecora Jamberoo Mountain blue sheep’s milk cheese with live honeycomb.
Get a pre-movie drink
Whatever your beverage preference, you’ll be well covered. Partner brands like Hendrick’s, Glenfiddich and Fever-Tree will be concocting some summery cocktails and straight-up spirits, Petaluma and Croser have the local wines sorted and Heineken is covering all the bases on the beer front. And for something lighter, Lyre’s will be serving non-alcoholic cocktails that will ensure you can drive home safely after the movie.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Westpac OpenAir Cinema.