Where to Eat and Drink for Vivid 2024

Updated 3 weeks ago

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Vivid has become a major highlight in the country’s cultural calendar since it debuted in 2008. Now in its 14th year, the festival lasts for 23 days and nights (May 24 to June 15), which gives you plenty of time to take in every inch of the light walk stretching from Circular Quay to Haymarket.

But where to go for dinner and drinks? Vivid Fire Kitchen should definitely be on your hit-list. But this guide also includes limited-edition menus, happy hour picks and cracking vantage points around the harbour. Plenty of these spots take reservations, so there’s no need to leave your dinner plans up to chance.

Circular Quay

  • The best seats at Vivid without the hefty price tag. Come for three festival-inspired cocktails and live music on the harbour-side stage. Or book in for a share-style Asian feast at House Canteen, one of the highlights on the Vivid Food line-up.

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  • Aurorae at Bennelong Bar lets you experience this iconic space and the Vivid lights at the same time. A special cocktail and snack menu by Peter Gilmore is on every night of the festival, with live music on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 8pm.

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  • Another special-edition snack menu at one of Sydney’s best restaurants. The set offering includes two glasses of wine and some of the best views in the harbour. $150 per person.

  • Mary’s supper club is always a highlight at Vivid – and this year’s instalment is no exception. But to fuel up before your festival experience, head here for one of the city’s burgers and a glass of natty wine.

  • With unobstructed views of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, this harbourside diner has all bases covered at Vivid. Book in for pre-show snacks and cocktails or a sit-down dinner of French bistro classics.

  • This Italian eatery is open every day during the festival – but you should definitely book this one in advance. Expect house-made pastas and ciabatta to go with produce-driven share plates and cocktails.

  • A ritzy institution on the Customs House rooftop. The menu bounces between Indian and Italian flavours to create an altogether modern Australian vibe that spans surf, turf and vegan dishes. An appropriate focus on seafood works a treat, given the jaw-dropping views of Sydney Harbour. Book ahead for the window seats.

  • From the team behind Salt Meats Cheese, a rooftop bar (with glimpses of the Sydney Harbour) serving barrel-aged Negronis and antipasto.

  • Vivid is the perfect excuse to get across Maybe Sammy’s new Wes Anderson-inspired cocktail menu. You can also get $7 mini cocktails every day from 4.30pm–5.30pm. It’s a short walk to the harbour from here.

The Rocks

  • This elevated Greek diner is hosting Brazilian chef and Vivid Food headliner Manouella Buffara of Manu, one of South America’s best restaurants. Choose from a seven-course lunch or eight-course dinner, paired with breathtaking views of the harbour and the Sydney Opera House.

  • Book the rooftop or the lounge at this heritage pub for winter-warmer cocktails by Talisker. DJs take over the rooftop from 8pm every Friday and Saturday.

  • Forget happy hour. Sake Hour is where it’s at. Hit this refined Japanese diner – which practically sits under the Harbour Bridge – for $10 cocktails and a $5 snack menu. Mon to Fri 4pm–6pm.

  • A Mediterranean grill and wine bar unlike anything we’ve seen in The Rocks before. Visit Swillhouse Group’s grand-statement venue for two-sip Martinis; dishes cooked over charcoal; and a massive mosaic from Italy.

  • Across the road from the Harbour Bridge, this Edwardian-style pub is one of the city’s best craft beer venues. It’s got you covered with Australiana-themed pizzas, a breezy rooftop, and live music if your Vivid excursion falls on a weekend.

  • This 100-year-old harbourside boozer is a destination in The Rocks. Hit the public bar for heart bistro fare and classic cocktails. Or head upstairs to cocktail bar Henry Deane for sweeping views of the harbour.

  • Sydney's oldest continuously trading hotel is a craft beer holy ground. Sipping a pint of Three Sheets Pale Ale is a rite of passage here, and goes rather well with a warming curry from the flash bistro menu.

  • Take a distillery tour, sip cocktails beneath the chandeliers, and eat Kangaroo tartare with Vegemite toast at this grand palace of Aussie gin. It’s set within a 100-year-old brick warehouse in the heritage heart of The Rocks.

Barangaroo

  • Matt Moran's extravagant table-service rooftop bar, with waterfront views and plenty of champagne.

  • Matt Moran’s Japanese-inspired listening bar has a high-quality sound system pumping out tracks curated by top Sydney artists. It’s also serving up playful Japanese-inspired dishes, two omakase experiences and a huge selection of sake.

  • Did anyone say three-litre, light-up cocktail balloon towers? Get one for $79 every day during Vivid at this fun rooftop bar at Barangaroo House.

  • Lotus Group's Barangaroo restaurant takes full advantage of its waterfront location, and is a perfect spot for oysters, dumplings and cocktails during Vivid.

  • Belles Hot Chicken is your go-to for Nashville-style spicy chicken, craft beers and natural wines on Wulugul Walk. There’s also a [Belles in Circular Quay]((https://www.broadsheet.com.au/sydney/food-and-drink/article/belles-hot-chicken-serving-fiery-nashville-fried-chicken-first-restaurant-style-venue) if you’re chasing a southern-fried feed in that direction.

CBD

  • Take full advantage of happy hour at this New York-inspired brasserie during Vivid. It’s doing $10 Negronis and Aperol spritzes; and house drinks for $7. Plus, complimentary snacks including cheeseburger sliders and sausage rolls. From 4pm–6pm daily.

  • Tokyo, Hong Kong, Brooklyn. Merivale’s fun basement diner takes cues from all three cities. As for the menu, it’s a no-rules affair by Totti’s executive chef Mike Eggert, powered by woks and woodfire.

  • When you get off the train at Wynyard you'll be moments away from this handsome CBD diner. The $8 happy hour drinks (bottled beer, tap wine and prosecco) are a great way to make a running start to the evening. Monday to Friday from 4pm–6pm.

  • This top cocktail bar has great drinks, but consider having dinner here, too. Service is fast, and the Frenchie menu is served until late. This one’s near the Botanic Gardens, which is packed with installations.

  • Descend to Swillhouse Group’s late-night hotspot for banging pina coladas and the smoked cheeseburger of our dreams. Plus, a live music program and DJs selecting from one of the world’s largest private vinyl collections.

  • Five types of Margarita, two popcorn machines and 100 hand-selected tequilas – the team behind acclaimed Sydney bar Cantina OK has done it again with this psychedelic, underground temple to agave spirits.

  • The overhaul of this once notorious late-night dive was a long time coming. And the chic public bar, elegant European bistro and sunny rooftop were all worth the wait. The best part? You’ll actually want to be there during daylight hours, too.

  • Get a group together and head over to Merivale's Cantonese comfort-food king. Barbequed duck and dim sum are the perfect protein and carb fuel for heading out to battle the Vivid crowds.

Haymarket and Ultimo

  • A trailblazer in Sydney’s Thai restaurant scene. When the late, great Amy Chanta opened it in Darlinghurst in 1989, it brought Bankgok flavours that were then-unknown to Sydney diners. The Thai street food here is fine-dining quality, served at very reasonable price points. Today, it’s a super-popular chain with stores all over Sydney.

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  • As well as featuring at Vivid Fire Kitchen, Ho Jiak is doing all-you-can-eat suppers starting at $38, available Monday to Saturday. This one’s perfectly placed right near Central Station.

  • If you're checking out the installations around the Goods Line near the University of Technology, you’d do well to grab a cocktail at one of the city’s best gin bars while you’re in the area. Sip on a prestige TV-inspired cocktail or G&T from the extensive menu of booze.

  • Unless you live around Ultimo, the Wolseley might not be an obvious choice for a schooner. But if you’re en route to Darling Harbour from Central, make a pitstop at one of Sydney’s best pubs along the way.

  • The second location for the Marrickville favourite.

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  • For fans of the legendary, now-closed Golden Century restaurant, this Cantonese barbeque joint is a sight for sore eyes. But the sequel is not like the original – get some of its most famous dishes in a fast-casual format.