We may be a little biased, but we believe Sydney's bars and restaurants are some of the best in the country, if not the world. But it's not by chance. A huge amount of hard work and expertise is behind every venue's success‚ and the amazing experiences you've had at them.
Ever been tempted to take a peek behind the curtain of your favourite venue? Save from nabbing a job there, the best way to do so is by signing up for a special experience, of which there are many on offer around the city. With the help of American Express, we've uncovered some top-notch experiences you can have in Sydney bars and restaurants — from getting your hands dirty and making your own dinner to having the entire joint to yourselves for the night.
UPDATE: OCTOBER 20, 2021 — Some experiences may currently be on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions. Check venue websites for more information.
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As one of Sydney’s most popular venues, The Grounds of Alexandria is rarely anything less than packed. Lining up, waiting for a table and jostling for a primo spot under the fairy lights has just become an accepted part of the experience. Until now, that is. The Grounds recently introduced lush private dining experiences that are perfect for celebrations.
For $79 per person, you and up to eight mates can enjoy high tea in the Glasshouse while surrounded by colourful blooms and candles. For over 90 minutes, you’ll tuck in to a selection of sweet and savoury treats, including mini crumpets, macaroons, finger sandwiches and scones with jam and cream.
Or, opt to reserve one of The Grounds’ best-kept secrets — The Lock-In — for a lavish after-dark experience. Tucked away behind The Potting Shed, The Lock-In can host up to ten guests for a private candlelit feast. For $84 per person, you’ll enjoy a banquet of dishes like lamb rump with ratatouille, burrata with pangrattato and tiger prawn, potato and avocado salad, before finishing with a dessert tasting board.
From refreshing blood orange to macadamia crunch with white chocolate and Italian nougat, Messina’s gelato is seriously good. Walk into any one of its stores and you’ll find over 40 flavours churned fresh daily, made using quality ingredients and jersey milk from a farm in country Victoria.
The good news is you can learn the tricks of the trade at one of its gelato classes, which run at Messina HQ in Rosebery. The Gelato Appreciation Class ($160 per person) is part information session, part science lesson and part degustation. The chefs will show you how they make the gelato and cakes — and share some insider tips — before you enjoy a three-course gelato feast. Oh, and before you leave, you’ll get free reign of the flavours in the shop cabinet and get a tub to take home. So, we suggest arriving hungry. If you want to take it up a notch, book in for a hands-on class ($250), where you’ll get to create and pasteurise your very own gelato or sorbet flavour.
Whisky lovers, this one’s for you. Venture to one of Sydney’s most charming bars for an evening whisky masterclass where you’ll learn from the experts and sample some delicious drops. Located in The Rocks, The Doss House offers two whisky masterclasses — both $90 per person. The first, which is held on Tuesday nights, focuses on Irish whiskey. Across 75 minutes, you’ll enjoy a flight of Irish tipples alongside complimentary snacks.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday evenings is the Around the World masterclass, hosted by whisky connoisseur Ari Abels. This in-depth class will see you taste whiskies from all around the world, naturally, including a Finlaggan cask strength from Scotland and a single malt from Tasmanian distillery Corra Linn. Cheers to that.
Image: Alana Dimou
Located beneath King Street in Sydney’s CBD is The Gidley. It’s a classic steakhouse from the team that gave us Bistecca — think hearty dishes, great liquor and an opulent dining room. For this unique experience, you’re invited to The Library, a room hidden at the back of the venue, behind a door labled ‘Private’.
There you’ll find an eight-person American oak dining table which when lifted away reveals a professional, custom-built poker table. Embark on a night in your own private poker room with you and seven of your friends. A professionally trained croupier will also be there to guide your group, too. The Gidley’s food and drink offerings will be available in The Library, so you can enjoy a juicy steak, sides (think potato gratin, waldorf salad and mac ‘n’ cheese) and cocktails while you play. Landed a good hand? Splash out on the Iranian beluga caviar, which clocks in at $290 for 30 grams. For more information and to enquire about availability, visit the website.
Image: Dominic Loneragan
Sit back and relax at an intimate chef’s table experience at Bopp & Tone, an elegant bar and eatery found in Sydney’s CBD. Hosted by Head Chef Sa Va’afusuaga, the evening includes a full degustation menu showcasing seasonal and local produce. As well as cooking in front of you, Va’afusuaga will talk through the ingredients he uses, explains what he does and will show you his secret techniques so you can try them back at home. You’ll also be able to ask him questions, so come prepared (and hungry).
The chef’s table costs $150 per person, with the option to add the bespoke drink pairing menu for $80 more. It’s on once a month and there are only six seats at each one — so you’ll need to move fast to nab your spot. Have five interested friends? Get in touch with the venue to organise a private chef’s table experience.
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Being able to pair wine with food is a skill that’ll carry you through many dinner parties across your life. And that’s exactly what you’ll begin to master at Bel & Brio’s wine masterclass. Situated in Barangaroo, the European-style food emporium — which boasts a restaurant, bar, wine cellar, cafe and marketplace — hosts wine masterclasses throughout the year.
Led by a wine expert, the one and a half hour class will see you sample drops from the Italian Piedmont region, including barbera and nebbiolo, alongside a selection of Italian cheeses. The classes are designed for between six and ten guests and cost $99 per person, making it the perfect option for an intimate birthday party or team bonding activity. The venue also hosts cocktail and whisky masterclasses.