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FOOD & DRINK

Sydney's Best Dining Spots for Vivid Views

Visit the bars and restaurants that truly shine at this time of year.
By Concrete Playground
May 21, 2019
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Sydney's Best Dining Spots for Vivid Views

Visit the bars and restaurants that truly shine at this time of year.
By Concrete Playground
May 21, 2019
  shares

Does chasing all them pretty lights make you hungry? Thirsty? Vivid Sydney's big electric shock is just one half of a great night out — it goes best with some eats and drinks. This year, the glowing installations will span from the Royal Botanic Garden to Circular Quay, round Darling Harbour and Barangaroo and across to Luna Park, and you'll want to see them all. So, whether you want to pop a bottle under the sails of the Opera House or eat off your lap in the thick of it, here are a bunch of spots in the Vivid vicinity that let you feast with stars in your eyes.

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OPERA BAR

Der. The best place to enjoy the views of the Opera House's sails — which will this year be lit up with Australian botanic flora by Chinese-American artist Andrew Thomas Huang and LA-based animation makers BEMO — might be from the distance of the other side of the Quay. But the best Instagram frames are from a little more close up, around Opera Bar. Obviously, this is a go-to for many a Vivid reveller and will be insanely busy, but if you can nab a table, we reckon it's worth it for the views (and the oysters).

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BAR PATRON

When Bar Patron opened in the old Cafe Nice space at Circular Quay, all we could think about was how damn perfect it would be to down tacos with the Vivid lights turned on. And now you can do just that. The restaurant and late-night bar boasts beautiful views over Sydney Harbour (albeit interspersed by images of trains zooming past), and has a traditional Mexican menu. Tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas and empanadas are all on there, but they're strictly traditional in style — that means no Coon cheese, no seasoning sachets and strictly no Doritos corn chips.

Best part is, there's a three-course Vivid set menu available for the reasonable price of $35 per head, plus $10 margaritas (with free corn chips and salsa) between 4–6pm if you can get there early.

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HACIENDA

When Vivid first started, Circular Quay didn't have too many good options. But that's changed — notably with Hacienda, a millennial pink bar inside the Pullman Quay Grand. The botanical bar is situated just above CQ and affords unparalleled views of the harbour and the bridge. There aren't not too many places you can get a lounge seat and a cocktail with a view like this, so this is a great option for small groups. They take bookings during the week, but you'll have to get in quick over the weekend.

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Cole Bennetts

BARANGAROO HOUSE

For the second time, the Vivid lights will extend down to Barangaroo with installations scattered around the precinct and along Wulugul Walk. To be amongst all the action, grab a seat outdoors on one of Barangaroo House's three levels. We've broken it down for you here, but basically you'll either want to eat dinner on the terrace at Bea or head up to the rooftop at Smoke for a drink and a smoked mushroom toastie.

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Anna Kucera

SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE'S SPELLBOUND BAR

The Sydney Opera House is going all out for its annual Vivid pop-up bar, this year channelling none other than its program headliners, legendary English alt-rockers The Cure. Brought to life by the minds behind Newtown bar The Midnight Special — also responsible for last year's retro-themed Goldie's Music Hall pop-up — Spellbound will see the Concert Hall's Northern Foyer reimagined as a neon-lit post-punk den of moody decadence. Expect dark leather couches and long banquet tables decked out with glowing fruit installations, sheet music and skulls, while black felt-topped pool tables entertain late-night Vivid explorers. On the menu, you'll find bites like Sydney rock oysters, both a classic and vegetarian version of the humble croque monsieur, and beers from Sydney favourites Grifter Brewing Co and Young Henrys.

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THE GLENMORE

This 1921 pub never gets old. One of the best parts of the refurbished Glenmore has to be the rooftop terrace. The views of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House can be seen clearer from this area. The retractable roof is a great addition, along with the rustic-style wooden benches and red industrial chairs, to go with the new kitchen. Watch all the flashing lights below you while eating pub food straight off the barbecue. Again, this is a spot we'd make a case for getting in early.

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BENNELONG

What more fitting place to dine during Vivid than the Opera House? Peter Gilmore's Bennelong gets you right up close to the action with sweeping harbour views. Whether you're here for all the glitz and glamour of Bennelong's full menu (where three courses will set you back a cool $120) or for its more casual share plates menu — at the Cured & Cultured bar — you know you're getting one of Sydney's best meals here. For a truly interactive experience, grab a seat at the counter for a full view of the chefs at work, all while eating the seven-course chef's tasting menu for a reasonable $70. Afterwards, you'll be perfectly situated to make the Vivid rounds (albeit a little full).

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HENRY DEANE

Standing proud in Millers Point, the Hotel Palisade forms a unique and improbable part of Sydney's foreshore history; when it was built a century ago, it was the city's highest building. Now, having been revived with a smart new maritime design by Sibella Court, the Palisade serves up pub food that avoids the familiar schnitzels and steak sandwiches and opts instead for snacks like creamy chicken liver pate with a sweet Young Henrys cider jelly or a beef brisket sanga with a mug of salt and vinegar chips. Venture upstairs for the swanky Henry Deane rooftop bar, with some of the best views of the city all lit up.

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ALTUM RESTAURANT

Sometimes, the best views are from afar. If you want to catch all the pretty lights in one sweeping vista, few restaurants provide a better vantage point than Altum. Located across the harbour in Milsons Point, smack bang next to Luna Park, the restaurant makes use of its waterside location with its enormous bi-fold windows that overlook Sydney Harbour Bridge, Circular Quay and, of course, the Opera House.  Aptly, the restaurant serves up a lot of seafood, with a menu that focuses on local and seasonal ingredients with influence from the Mediterranean coast. Sure, it's across the way from most of the Vivid action but Altum provides one of the bests seats in the house.

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THE DECK AT LUNA PARK

With the Light Walk extending across to Luna Park, you can check out Vivid's newest precinct as well as look across to the lights across the shore from The Deck bar. It's really something. And while it's not an all-year favourite, it's a great spot from which to view the twinkling Harbour Bridge up close and see the hypnotic sails from a distance. Plus, the park is open until late every night so you can go on rides and down some fish tacos (not at the same time — please god, not at once).

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ALTITUDE RESTAURANT AT THE SHANGRI-LA HOTEL

There are two reasons to visit Altitude: 1) your friends are in town and you want to show off, and 2) Vivid. From 36 floors up in The Rocks' Shangri-La Hotel, you feel like a cloud emperor surveying your magnificent, technicolour realms below. This is Vivid taken to the literal next level.

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TAKEAWAY AT CIRCULAR QUAY

Okay, so this is always going to be a bit of a hustle — but if you're looking to do Vivid on the cheap, grab some takeaway and jostle for a seat somewhere near the harbour. You've got loads of options — Circular Quay's food court Gateway will be open until 9pm on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, which has with the likes of Brooklyn Boy Bagels, Messina, Four Frogs Creperie, Workshop Espresso and Gozleme Co. Plus, The Rocks will run a special night market on Friday and Saturday and Sunday nights throughout Vivid.

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By the Concrete Playground team.

Published on May 21, 2019 by Concrete Playground

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