Whether it’s for two colleagues or 200, a Christmas sit-down lunch or cocktail party at one of these venues is guaranteed to earn the party-planning committee legend status for many festive seasons to come.
Black Bottle, Darlinghurst (20 people for dinner, 80 people for cocktails)
Black Bottle’s small bar space and courtyard were made for parties. There’s no menu at this cave à manger, a European-inspired eatery serving small share plates and wine. Every morning chef the chef goes to the fish markets and buys whatever looks good for that night’s menu.
“We’re flexible,” says co-owner Lucas Cristofle. “We can do whatever you like.”
That could mean canapes of anchovies on toast, scallops on the half shell, oysters or prawns cooked on the konro, a Japanese ceramic barbecue.
Theatre Royale at Hubert, CBD (50 for dinner)
Descend Hubert’s curved stairway down one level, cross Bridge Bon Appetit and you’ll find yourself in the moodily-lit, underground Theatre Royale. It’s the perfect place to have a long Christmas lunch and lose track of the hot day outside.
The banquet menu is the combination of inventiveness and the traditional French that Hubert does so well. There’s foie gras, whole roasted fish with brown butter and capers, kimchi gratin and your pick of the 550-strong wine list.
“We’ve had people hire out the room with a band or some kind of performance – cabaret or a magic show,” says co-founder Stefan Forte. “You can really amp it up however you like because the room is so versatile. It’s a pretty good time.”
Bare Witness, Rhodes (200 for dinner or cocktails)
The vast, 500-square-metre space at Bare Witness doesn’t need much to make it festive. The cement floors are painted pink, garlands of festoon lights and flowers hang from the ceiling, and from the terrace the Parramatta River glitters.
“The view is amazing,” says co-owner Geena Cho. “It’s lovely in the day or night.” The venue caters for sit-down feasts or cocktail and canape events with dishes such as Moroccan lamb shoulder with spiced roasted pumpkin, and miso-baked trout with soba noodles and salad.
Kingsley’s, Woolloomooloo (11 for dinner)
Wearing plastic aprons, eating with your hands and getting covered in sauce is the great workplace equaliser. It’s also the only way to eat crab at Kingsley’s.
Although the venue on Woolloomooloo’s pretty Finger Wharf is known for its steak, the Singapore Chilli Crab deserves its own spotlight. Coated in a sticky sauce of chilli, tomato, ginger and coriander, it’s just right for a tight-knit team to share as a Christmas feast.
Spice House, Chippendale (10-25 for dinner)
Celebrations at Spice House in Kensington Street are the definition of carte blanche (unlimited freedom). There’s no service here. Each guest gets a debit card loaded with a minimum of $25 to spend at any Spice Alley venue downstairs. They bring their takeaway upstairs to eat among friends in one of the three function rooms.
The venue hire at this quintessential Chippendale terrace is free, and it’s BYO everything – drinks, decorations, table settings – which makes for a brilliant Christmas party on a shoestring.