Light Up Your Tastebuds: The Best Dining Experiences at Vivid 2024

Michelin-starred meals, First Nations flavours and flame-filled cooking demos are just the start of the must-taste culinary events of this year's fest.
Maxim Boon, Sarah Ward and Nishika Sharma
Published on May 30, 2024

Light Up Your Tastebuds: The Best Dining Experiences at Vivid 2024

Michelin-starred meals, First Nations flavours and flame-filled cooking demos are just the start of the must-taste culinary events of this year's fest.

Sydney's annual festival of lights isn't just a feast for the eyes. From barbecue pitmasters to Michelin-starred chefs, Vivid's mouthwatering food program brings together culinary talent from around the world, cooking up inspiring menus that push boundaries and supercharge the senses.

We've handpicked the top gastronomic experiences to tuck into during this year's fest, whether you're in search of a quick refuel while out exploring the Vivid Light Walk or you're craving a one-of-a-kind meal you'll remember for years to come. We hope you're hungry.

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    For the second year, Newtown bar The Midnight Special has conjured up a psychedelic, neon-lit pop-up drinking den in the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall’s northern foyer, inspired by Bob Dylan’s 1965 anthem ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’.

    With a cocktail menu curated by the gin masters at Archie Rose, this immersive space offers a whole new way to experience Australia’s most famous building. Entry is free and no tickets are required — simply follow the western external steps of the Opera House to enter. You’ll need to be quick if you want to drink like Dylan, however. Bar Subterranean is open for a strictly limited season, closing on Sunday, June 2.

    Image: Jordan K Munns.

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    As part of Carriageworks’ huge Vivid Food program, the highly-anticipated Warakirri dinner is returning for a 2024 run. This celebration of Indigenous Australian ingredients will kick off the food festivities on Friday, May 31, with a second dinner on Saturday, June 1.

    With chef, Ngemba Weilwan woman and the founder of Mudgee’s Indigiearth Sharon Winsor at the helm, you’ll journey through a five-course spread that blends native ingredients from Gadigal land with gorgeous First Nations storytelling. Each dish is created using a fusion of traditional and modern culinary methods, and will be accompanied by music and dance, along with personal anecdotes and storytelling from the First Nations chef herself.

    Image: Jacquie Manning.

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  • 6

    When you’re feasting your way around 2024’s Vivid Fire Kitchen, don’t forget to save room for dessert. At Messina Milk Bar, old-school dishes get the gelato masters’ creative twist, with a hearty sprinkling of nostalgia. If a warm Milo fudge sundae doesn’t take your tastebuds back to simpler times, sipping on a spider should.

    On offer from 6–11pm daily until Saturday, June 15 at The Goods Line, the first features Milo mud cake, cereal milk gelato, Milo fudge, choc-malt mousse and Italian meringue put under the torch, and costs $12. The second pairs creaming soda with vanilla gelato for $10. Also a must-try: $10 gelato choc bars in four flavours, all riffing on beloved fellow sweets as Messina adores doing. If you’re suddenly thinking “should I just have dessert for dinner?”, you already know the answer.

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  • 5

    Prepare your tongue for a baptism of fire as The Goods Line in Ultimo transforms into a pyro-powered al fresco food court. Until Saturday, June 15, hungry Sydneysiders can feast on all manner of flame-kissed dishes from around the world, produced by a scorching-hot lineup of local eateries and acclaimed chefs.

    Cultures around the globe have harnessed the power of the flame in an array of delicious ways, many of which can be found on display. From the tandoor to teppanyaki, and charcoal to hickory smoke, diners can taste their way through a diverse menu of international cuisines from the likes of Brazilian Flame, Eat Lebanese, Smoky Sue, Don’t Tell Aunty and S’Mores, to name only a handful. You can also set your curiosity alight at one of the live cooking demonstrations, where leading chefs share the tricks of their trade, revealing fascinating techniques for perfectly charred results.

    Image: Destination NSW.

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  • 4

    The Vivid Chef Series returns with a celebration of world-class cuisine unlike any other. Across a series of special dinners, a pair of chefs — one a homegrown hero, the other an international talent — join forces to curate unique menus melding their distinct yet complementary cultural and professional backgrounds.

    From Tuesday, May 28–Thursday, May 30, The Charles Brasserie and Bar Executive Chef Billy Hannigan is partnering with award-winning young chef Sally Abé, who is known for cooking that champions the UK’s best seasonal produce. Next, the robust, earthy dishes of central Europe mingles with the spice and colour of Middle Eastern fare at Aalia in Martin Place. Ivan Brehm, the head chef and owner of Michelin-starred Singaporean diner Nouri, is sharing the double-hatted kitchen of Aalia’s Paul Farag for two dinners on Tuesday, June 11–Wednesday, June 12. The last collaboration in the series pairs Ghanaian chef Selassie Atadika with Steven Hartert, the Executive Chef at Dixson and Sons, the upmarket brasserie at the Porter House Hotel, over two nights across Friday, June 14–Saturday, June 15.

    Image: Steven Woodburn.

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  • 3
    Vivid Food: Coyoacán Social Pop-Up Cantina

    For the first time, South Eveleigh’s very own Coyoacán Social is popping up for a Vivid residency inside the bustling Carriageworks precinct, slinging an array of Mexican street eats that give back to the community via donations to community kitchens.

    Coyoacán Social’s Vivid pop-up will continue to follow the ethos of Plate It Forward, its founding social enterprise, creating unity and shared dignity through the provision of top-quality meals. You can expect its flavour-packed birria tacos to make a special appearance and, with each taco purchased, diners will be helping to provide a nutritious meal to families in need. Head to Carriageworks from Friday, May 31–Saturday, June 15 to sink your teeth into the South Eveleigh joint’s famed street food.

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  • 2

    For the first time, Manoella Buffara of Brazil’s Manu Restaurant — 2022’s Best Female Chef in Latin America — is hopping into the kitchen Down Under, taking the Vivid Residence slot by teaming up with Kiln at Ace Hotel Sydney. On offer for three nights only from Tuesday, June 4–Thursday, June 6, Buffara will showcase her focus on local produce and sustainability 18 floors above Surry Hills, with Mitch Orr and the Kiln crew assisting.

    If you’ve ever had Orr’s Jatz snack and wondered what it might taste like Brazilian-style, you’ll find out; as part of Buffara’s visit, it comes with salt cod and green ants. Other bites range from sweet potato paired with mud crab salad and pasta to scallop accompanied by artichoke and wild mushroom consommé. Or, if you’d like to try coconut bacon, it’s a feature of the tucupi, coconut cake and milk flower ice cream dish.

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  • 1
    Taste, See, Connect at House Canteen

    Want to explore Vivid through a method that’s brand new and a teeny bit unconventional? Then this sharing-focused event at House Canteen is calling your name. The Vivid-exclusive pop-up is a six-night dinner and games event at House Canteen, where you’ll be able to taste a six-course sharing menu by Chef Fernando Sanchez while you see the stunning Sydney Harbour installations. The ‘connect’ part of the event’s title comes via icebreaker activities such as Jenga, conversation-starter cards and communal tablecloths to doodle away on. You may even be prompted to do a seat switcheroo during your meal.

    The aim of the game — and the entire evening — is to step outside your comfort zone by meeting new people in a similar setting and, through the activities, learn to appreciate the shared human experience. As for the bites, you’ll be met with an Asian-leaning feast, with entrees like tuna tartare, sashimi and pork belly-stuffed bao buns followed by a glazed beef short rib with rice, stir-fried greens, edamame and papaya salad to pair.

    Image: Alana Dimou.

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Top image: Jacquie Manning.

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