Your ultimate food and drink guide to Vivid Sydney 2019

One look at the Sydney Opera House and the surrounding Circular Quay during Vivid Sydney is all it needs to fall in love with the festival all over again. Despite the train delays and constant crowds, something about this buzzing and energetic festival of lights, music and ideas captures the imaginations of both visitors and locals each winter.

And if you want to see it all, you’re really going to need to play it smart. Refuelling is the way to go as you hop from precinct to precinct, checking out a concert here, taking a snap of an immersive light installation there, and trying to fit a feast in between.

You’ll need to know the foodie hot spots for that, so we’ve pulled together a list of where you need to eat and drink while the festival runs from 24th May to 15th June with a focus on Vivid-only specials that’ll disappear once the festival’s lights are out.

Vivid specials at Q Dining.

Q Dining (Circular Quay)

The elegant dining destination within Pullman Quay Grand Sydney Harbour (and sister venue to Hacienda) has crafted a special three-course set menu to run during Vivid. Expect an entrée of Scallops served with Carrot & Ginger Puree, Baby Rainbow Carrot and Heirloom Cucumber Gel, which paves the way for a main of Crispy Skin Tooth Fish accompanied by Blackberry & Plum Puree, Roasted Romanesco and Bisque. The real showstopper however is dessert, a silky-smooth Mixed Season Berry Pannacotta with Pistachio Sponge Cake, Native Plum & Passionfruit Gel.

Mode Kitchen & Bar (CBD)

Immerse yourself into a world of gastronomy with a first-of-its-kind in Australia, 4D sensory dining experience by Mode Kitchen & Bar. This 360 degree interactive dining experience will take guests on a culinary journey, with each dish and cocktail matched to a light show inspired by the same colour.
Guests senses of taste, sight, sound and smell will be awakened whilst enjoying a four-course meal, matched with cocktails, inspired by the lights of Vivid Sydney.

Endorsed by Australian Good Food Guide, the Chroma dinner is a unique culinary experience inspired by the RGB (Red, Green & Blue) colours native to any imagery creation. More than just a dinner, guests will be invited on a sensory journey where each dish is inspired by one colour, scent, sound and light. (Barangaroo)

Share three Vivid Sydney inspired Chandon cocktails including golden wattle, a refreshing Chandon blanc de blanc, marionette apricot brandy, and castanga bianco, a cucumber and cardamom mix.

Untied (Barangaroo)

Taking inspiration from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Untied serves up vibrant galaxy marshmallow ‘smore’. Wash it down with a ‘will I dream?’ charcoal coloured cocktail with stunning edible flowers.

12-Micro (Barangaroo)

At 12-Micron, art, food and champagne lovers unite. Globally renowned French Champagne house Perrier-Jouët collaborates with one of Barangaroo’s top restaurants to deliver an immersive and multi-sensory culinary experience throughout Vivid. 12-Micron’s private dining room and bar is transformed from 24 May – 15 June into a light exhibition where a ‘dining in the dark’ series artfully combines gastronomy, music, art and light.

Butchers Block (Barangaroo)

Butchers Block serve a set menu for Vivid Sydney that is sure to delight both your eyes and your palate. If brightly coloured dishes are your choice, head here for dishes such as beetroot cured trout and crumbed mozzarella as well as calamari and crispy kale with black garlic aioli and zesty lime.

Phomo (Barangaroo)

Phomo illuminates the waterfront with bright palm trees and a Vivid Sydney inspired coconut mojito lit up from the glass. Rainbow fried rice is served every night to soak up the cocktails and celebrate the festival.

Banksii (Barangaroo)

Banksii return with an illuminated fairy floss and spritz cart. This year there will be three new cocktails to try including a Riserva Sangria, an aromatic Martini and the Banksii Blue.

The Rabbit Hole (Barangaroo)

The Rabbit Hole serve a Vivid Sydney butterfly pea flower tea. With just a squeeze of lemon, this tea will surprise and delight, changing colour from blue to purple to pink.

Lotus Dining (Barangaroo)

Lotus serve up a Vivid Sydney inspired menu with vegetarian goddess and seafood rainbow dumplings and ‘Bright Surprise’ for dessert made from a cherry mousse and chocolate sponge.

Dulce-de-lighted by Gelato Messina at the Blacklight Dessert Lab, Darling Square

Blacklight Dessert Lab (Darling Square)

Throughout Vivid’s entire run, Darling Square will be home to an illuminated pop-up headlined by Gelato Messina, dubbed “Blacklight”. The ultraviolet dessert bar, located in a black cube, features collaborations with some of Sydney’s food and beverage heavyweights opening soon at Darling Square. Messina, DOPA, Edition Coffee Roasters and Bubble Nini will create a rotating menu of delectable glow-in-the-dark desserts – with four available each night during Vivid Sydney.

The gelato giant is pulling out all the stops – their ‘Dr Evil’s Magic Mushroom cake’ has had a luminescent makeover and will be served in a single serve for the duration of the event. They’ll also be dishing up a three-layer dulce de leche gelato cake ‘Dulce-de-lighted’ with milk sponge and cream topped with glow-in-the-dark warm strawberry and roasted cinnamon anglaise.

Week 1 | 24 May – 2 June
Gelato Messina and Bubble Nini

Week 2 | 3-9 June
Gelato Messina and Edition Coffee Roasters

Week 3 | 10-15 June:
Gelato Messina and DOPA

Planar (Darling Harbour)

Planar’s talented mixologist team have crafted an extra special, game-changing cocktail in celebration of Vivid – aptly named SPACELand Sphere (Vodka, Rum, Gin, Peach Liquor, Blue Curaçao, Grenadine & Lemon Juice, $25). The interstellar cocktail appears from a combination of fire and ice – ignited by high proof rum in the bottom of the glass, ingredients are served in a hollow sphere of ice which slowly melt into the glass when heated.

Hacienda (Circular Quay)

Hacienda’s mixology maestros have created three limited-edition ‘Tropical Glow’ cocktails for you to enjoy over Vivid, each one a tropical, bright adaptation in celebration of Sydney’s annual festival of lights, music and ideas. Choose from Rojo Glow (Stolichnaya Vanilla, Pama Liqueur, Chambord, Pineapple Juice, Lemon Juice, Berry Puree, Agave, $22), Verde Glow (Bulleit Bourbon, Appleton Estate Rum, Midori, Apple Juice, Lime Juice, Falernum, $22) and Amarillo Glow (Ketel One Vodka, Joseph Catron Mango Liqueur, Joseph Catron Crème De Cacao White, Mango Nectar, Mango Puree, Orange Juice, $22).

Tayim (The Rocks)

Bar Manager, Xander and his skilled team of mixologists have created a limited edition cocktail – Yehi ‘Or (Vodka, Blue Pea Powder, Vanilla, Prosecco, $15) – which means ‘let there be light’ in Hebrew. This visionary colour changing cocktail transforms from a blue to pink hue with the addition of citrus (or mixology magic as we like to call it). Tayim will also be offering 2-4-1 on all its cocktails during Vivid (24 May – 15 June), available daily from 5-7pm at the bar.

The Unicone at Endeavour Tap Rooms in The Rocks.

Endeavour Tap Rooms (The Rocks)

Celebrate Vivid at Endeavour Tap Rooms. The brew and smokehouse in the heart of The Rocks will be serving up a limited edition ‘grammable gelato treat from 24 May – 15 June. The Unicone ($12) includes Raspberry Ice Cream topped with home-made mini Meringues, Chantilly Cream, Hundreds & Thousands and Fairy Floss.

Milk N Sugar Festival

Milk N Sugar brings together Sydney’s finest dessert enthusiasts to offer revelers a colourful array of diverse, distinctive and delicious flavours. Better yet, every dessert lights up. On offer is Sydney’s world-award winning gelato from Cow & the Moon, decadent macaron sliders from Arelio Sweetbox, light-up doughnut ice-cream cones from Hungary Bites, golden crispy waffles on a stick from WaffleLand and monster-sized cookie sandwiches from The Hungry Brown Cow. Revellers will be also be able to indulge in Fluffy Crunch’s Flurrito, featuring scoops of ice-cream topped with Froot Loops and rainbow dust that is rolled up in fairy floss.

The festival will take place at Overseas Passenger Terminal from 6pm each night between 24th and 26th May.

The Glenmore (The Rocks)

The Glenmore kicks off Vivid with the annual Winter Party, a 70s disco winter wonderland. There’s a trip to Thredbo up for grabs as well as a 4 Pines Brewery tour and for best dressed an Iconic gift voucher. Expect $10 espresso martinis on tap, glow in the dark beer jugs and DJ SA May spinning tunes from 7pm till late. Across Vivid this year, The Glenmore has collaborated with UTS for the first ever in-venue lightshow. Clips from UTS’ animation students from 2016-2018 will be projected onto the rooftop’s sails. The themes include ‘Wabi-sabi’ (traditionally known in Japan as a worldview centred on the acceptance of transience and imperfection) and ‘inside out’ inspired by artists around the world. With 180-degree views of Sydney harbour, The Glenmore is one of the best spots to avoid the crowds and watch Vivid with a drink in hand.

Vivid cocktails at Swissotel Sydney

Swissotel Sydney (CBD)

Located in the heart of the CBD is Swissotel Sydney, with rooms available from just $209 a night and breakfast for just $1, a convenient location for a Vivid Sydney short-break. Crossroads Bar at the hotel will celebrate the festival by offering a range of colourful Vivid-themed cocktails from just $20

Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour

For the first time, Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour will open its top-floor on the 35th floor to external guests, usually reserved to only Club Millesime guests, for an exclusive pop-up bar. Serving up not only the best views of the lights, a range of highball cocktails will be served, created in collaboration with Glenmorangie whisky and Belvedere vodka each Thursday to Saturday nights from 8pm, throughout Vivid Sydney. A Vivid-inspired Champagne cocktail will also be served at the hotel’s award-winning Champagne Bar, called the ‘Yellow-flamed Phoenix’, a mix of Verve Clicquot Champagne, plantation rum, rockmelon, Chartreuse, lemon bitters and Yellow Box honey for $26. Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour’s exterior façade will also be illuminated.

Sofitel Sydney Wentworth (CBD)

Having just completed a multi-million dollar refurbishment, Sofitel Sydney Wentworth is ideally located to stay warm and dine amongst all the Vivid Sydney action. For the first time, the hotel have teamed up with award-winning distillery, Archie Rose, offering Vivid Sydney guests an array of curated gin cocktails, served in Soiree Bar, combined with French Fondue and Raclette. Stay overnight in one of the newly refurbished guestrooms and take advantage of a $25 discount and $1 French breakfast served in Garden Court Restaurant

Mercure Sydney (CBD)

Mercure Sydney will light up for Vivid Sydney 2019 with changing exterior façade lights and colourful lobby lights. The hotel’s newly opened Platform 818 Restaurant & Bar will serve festival-goers a special half Tristan Bay Lobster with Mornay sauce and 125g grain-fed Rump Steak, sautéed baby vegetables, crushed pea oil, with natural jus sauce for just $49. Before heading off to explore the lights and sounds of the festival, pair dinner with a Vivid-inspired highball cocktail, which lights up in the dark, for just $17.

Novotel Sydney Central

For those planning a short-break during Vivid Sydney, Novotel Sydney Central is a convenient place to stay, located in close proximity to Vivid Sydney’s main attractions. The hotel’s Fieldhouse Restaurant & Lounge has introduced a special Tapas menu, which includes three plates of choice for $18. From 5pm daily, guests can enjoy Vivid Happy Hour, with two beverages for the price of one.

Feature image: Dulce-de-lighted by Gelato Messina at the Blacklight Dessert Lab, Darling Square

Chris Singh

Chris Singh is the Deputy-Editor-At-Large of the AU review, loves writing about travel and hospitality, and is partial to a perfectly textured octopus. You can reach him on Instagram: @chrisdsingh.