Vivid Sydney commands more than a 5-minute walk to see the lights.
A whole evening, at least, needs to be dedicated to its brilliant displays and interactive exhibitions. So we wouldn't expect you to tackle it without some good grub in your belly. Lucky for you, neither do these guys.
They're the restaurants, cafes and food trucks paving the Vivid pathway and keeping you well sated so you can enjoy the colour and lights in all their glory. Some even offer special Vivid menus and deals to make your journey through the lights that much brighter.
The hotspots outside of Sydney Harbour that were perfect for hangry Vivid attendees:
Vivid Food Trucks @ Overseas Passenger Terminal and Circular Quay
Wherever a festival is, food trucks will follow - and Vivid is no exception to the rule. For the festival, the best variety of food trucks tend to hang around the Overseas Passenger Terminal and Circular Quay.
Those seeking a heartier fare can visit Q Dining inside the Pullman Quay Grand Sydney Harbour hotel. It has a colourful 3-course showstopper that boasts scallops with baby rainbow carrot and heirloom cucumber gel, crispy skin tooth fish with by blackberry and plum puree and a mixed season berry pannacotta with pistachio sponge cake, plum and passionfruit gel.
Restaurants at Barangaroo
Barangaroo takes Vivid by storm in the culinary department with its waterfront restaurants taking on the Vivid challenge. That is, to curate a glowing menu to excite and delight.
Leading the charge for this year's menu is 12-Micron. It's teamed up with French champagne house Perrier-Jouet in an 6-course dinner-in-the-dark extravaganza. This to heighten your senses including taste and smell (the dishes), sound (live music) and sight (via the lights of Vivid which you can see from your table overlooking the harbour).
Banksii is also reprising its glow-in-the-dark fairy floss alongside a Vivid-esque spritz cocktail.
Planar's Vivid cocktail: SPACELand Sphere
For those checking out the lights at Darling Harbour, the wharf, Harbourside and the area around the ICC are rife with restaurants serving their own slide of Vivid fare. One of the new names spinning out neon-coloured cocktails is Planar, which has come up with SPACELand Sphere. It's a heady mix of vodka, rum, gin and a sphere of ice which houses ingredients that are blended in as it melts.
Darling Square is one of Sydney's newest food precincts and, Steam Mill Lane is on the Vivid map as the place to be for food and drinks in the area. Its hosting a multi-sensory illuminated pop up called Darling Square's Backlight Dessert Lab which will feature bubble tea with glow-in-the-dark pearls by Bubble Nini as well as a three-layer dulce de luche gelato cake with a layer of neon strawberry. Yum!
Food stalls at the Royal Botanic Gardens
Before you tuck into the light show at the Royal Botanic Gardens, tuck into its smorgesboard of food options.
This year's offering takes on a sea-faring theme with a bar serving up drinks like the H.M.A.S Royal Archie which is a blue delight of Archie Rose Signature Dry Gin, pineapple and macadamia and the Harbour Rose, which features Archie Rose' Original Vodka, watermelon, citrus and pink lustre. Following on with this watery theme are fish and chips, fish chowders and lobster mac n cheese.
Food stalls at the Concourse
All manner of food stalls pave the way from Chatswood Station to the concourse throughout the festival. In previous years it's taken on an Asian hawker flair and this year we're expecting much of the same.
To keep the masses entertained, Westfield Chatswood typically features family-friendly entertainment as well.
Vivid restaurants and bars
You gotta love a restaurant that plays nice with events. These guys are jumping on the Vivid bandwagon once again by offering spesh meals and extended hours to amp up your Vivid experience. The best bit? Heaps of these places don't take reservations which means you can pop in and out whenever you like.
Giant rainbow dumpling at Din Tai Fung Image: Supplied
Din Tai Fung
Unless you've been living under a rock lately, you should be more than familiar with Din Tai Fung's giant rainbow dumplings. They're the size of a steamer, are tinged in the full spectrum of the rainbow and are filled with pork and prawns. Grab some mates, grab a straw and sip that beautiful juice out before devouring the lot. That is, after you've taken all your mandatory happy snaps.
The Hilton Sydney
The Hilton is synonymous for delivering colourful cocktail concoctions in its Marble Bar whenever Vivid comes around, and this past event it also offered a pre-show 2-course meal in the Glass Brasserie. This year's offerings are yet to be announced Stay tuned, though.
Cocktails at Meat Wine and Co. Image: Supplied
Meat Wine and Co.
Perfectly positioned in Barangaroo overlooking the waterfront Meat Wine and Co. has the chops to set your Vivid night on fire. Whether you were after a late lunch before the sun sets or a two or three course dinner as the lights dance around you this restaurant has you covered during Vivid. And because the meals here are all about the cocktail, Meat Wine and Co. serves up brilliantly bright Vivid-inspired cocktails on the night. Because that's just the way they roll. You can book your spot through Red Balloon.
No.1 Bent Street
Last year No.1 Bent Street created three take-out boxes you could pre-order and pick-up at the restaurant so you can chow down on while getting your light thang on. All you needed to do was make your order by 4pm and it was available for pick up from 5-9pm that evening. This year, they're back. Boxes were $19 each and typically include one meat, one fish and one vege option. Who says you can't have healthy options at a festival, right?
Colour-coded cocktails at Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour Image: Supplied
Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour
Snag a peek at the exclusive Club Millesime inside the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour this Vivid. For the first time, this VIP-only space on the 35th floor and all its sweeping harbour views will be open to the public. Open Thursday-Saturday night from 8pm on its menu are eight highball cocktails as well as a handful of other top drinks. Looking for something for Vivid-esque? Hit the Champagne Bar an order the yellow-flamed Phoenix which literally goes up in flames before your eyes. Fancy, right?
For something more opulent, there's Sake. You may have to start early to get through its stunning Vivid menu - which in the past has featured hiramasa kingfish, shumai dumplings, grilled shiokoji chicken and sesame ice cream. At $49 per person, it's was bargain but once we'd recommend you start early with to you don't run too deep into your Vivid time.
Cocktails at O Bar and Dining Image: Supplied
O Bar and Dining
Located on Level 47 Australia Square, O Bar and Dining offers epic views of the city from above. To add to the mood, its added a special Scarlet Glohansson glowing cocktail to its menu. It's a gin-based stunner infused with lemon peel and flavoured with raspberry syrup. What's even sweet is that if you order two ($21 each) you'll nab a free share plate.
Located on the footsteps of the Opera House, you'd be a fool to miss stopping by Opera Bar - especially with its array of luminous cocktails and nibbles on show. This year's offerings include colour-coded electric blue (Bombay dry, martini bianco, blue soda), green light (42 below vodka, midori, aloe, citrus, tonic) and fantastic (bacardi carta Blanca, cointreau, fanta, citrus). The beer garden as Opera Bar will also be lit up to run with the theme.
Endeavour Tap Rooms
For that indulgent and Instagrammable dessert, the place to be is Endeavour Tap Rooms in The Rocks. Called the Unicone this delicious morsel has a raspberry ice cream base and is dressed with home-made mini meringues, chantilly cream, Hundreds & Thousands and fairy floss.
On the other side of the bridge near Luna Park is ALTUM. It's a hidden secret in the Vivid food game, though now that Luna Park has joined as one of the festival's precincts it's bound to become ever more popular. On the menu is a choice between a 2- or 3-course a la carte dinner for $60/$75 per person. Diners also got free parking as an added incentive.
With pristine views of the Sydney Opera House sails, Cruise Bar never disappoints. In honor of Vivid, the bar is pairing up with Cointreau to create bright and fruity cocktails. Think Cointreau Margarita and Cointreau Cosmopolitan as well as hot Cointreau Mulled Wine because it is winter afterall.
The whole of The Shangri-la lights up from the inside out during Vivid with Altitude restaurant commanding the show off the 36th floor of the hotel. Five-course tasting menus awaited eager stomachs every night of Vivid. The stunner set diners back $185 per person, or $260 with matching wines. For something a little more budget-friendly, get thee to Blu Bar on 36 for Vivid-esque cocktails with a view.
Each and every year without fail The Argyle puts on a Vivid spectacular of light, music and performance. Entry is free, the espresso martinis are not, but they're worth every dollar. Speaking of dollars, $1 dumplings are being served every Tuesday. Oh, yes!
Combining the theatrics of teppanyaki with that of Vivid, Kobe Jones has festival nights sorted. The Rocks Teppanyaki and Wharf Teppanyaki were all hosting mouthwatering hunger busters to fuel you for a long night.
Celebrating the winter months Cargo Bar has transformed its space into a wintry wonderland with pop-up igloos and warm cocktails. Then, let's not forget the Vivid lights from its positioning on King Street Wharf. Dishes include maple fried chicken bites and loaded vegan tacos and drinks include a ginger gin tea and hot buttered rum. Yum!
On the outside, the MCA plays host to one of the popular Vivid displays on the circuit. Inside, the MCA cafe tends to stay abuzz with lights spectacular. In the past it has featured a glow bar with Vivid-inspired cocktails and a grazing menu that hits the spot. Usually open til late throughout Vivid.
For the first time in Vivid history The Glemore has teamed up with UTS student to display original animations onto its rooftop sail. There's nothing Vivid-esque about its food but with views of the Harbour Bridge and now a light display above you, we think it deserves to be on this list.
Rydges World Square
World Square may not officially be on the Vivid Light Walk but it's tops for a quieter experience. The Rydges is hosting an Under The Sea projection and balloon wall to gush over. It also has a Vivid-inspired cocktail.
Stephanie Yip is the travel editor at Finder and has been writing about travel and lifestyle for over a decade. She has written for Travel Weekly, Escape, Thomas Cook Magazine, Showpo, The Nibbler and Hostelworld. She was also the editor of kids magazine DMAG. Stephanie has a Bachelor of Communications from the University of Technology Sydney and has visited over 50 countries (and counting). She has a passion for sharing her experiences and knowledge of travel and helping readers stretch their dollars while on holiday.
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