Food & Culture

Our top picks of Vivid Sydney's new Vivid Food program

Light installations, creative ideas and live music aside – the food and drink at Vivid Sydney are finally getting their time in the limelight.

By Cordelia Williamson
'Lighting of the Sails: Life Enlivened' by John Olsen projected on the Sydney Opera House sails

John Olsen x Vivid Sydney Dinner

31 May
When the Opera House sails light up with art projections created by the late John Olsen for Vivid Sydney, Australia will celebrate the life of one of the country's most prolific artists. To honour Olsen and his impressive decades-long career, his children Tim and Louise Olsen are hosting an intimate dinner at harbourside restaurant Ploos - and you're invited to join the family to pay tribute.
Located underneath the Harbour Bridge and in direct view of the Sydney Opera House, Ploos is one of the most well-appointed restaurants to view Olsen's swan song, Life Enlivened - a compilation of his greatest works across a 60-year career, all illuminating Olsen's enduring fascination with Australian landscapes.
The special evening will see diners break bread and celebrate the artist over a multi-course Mediterranean feast with paired wines, plus a drink on arrival. Tim and Louise Olsen will host the evening and partake in a Q&A to share their father's passion for a "life well-lived", including his love of food, wine, art and Mediterranean cooking.
Tickets cost $275 per person and can be booked via the Ploos website.
Louise Olsen, Peter Conistis and Tim Olsen outside Ploos, with Sydney Opera House in the background Photo: Nicky Ryan
Not much can encourage Sydneysiders to brave dark, chilly winter evenings, but Vivid Sydney bucks the trend every year. Now in its 13th year, the festival of lights, music and ideas returns on Friday 26 May for three luminous weeks.
But dazzling light projections, thought-provoking talks and music aside, the food and beverage program is bigger than ever thanks to the launch of the festival's new pillar, Vivid Food. From sky-high rooftop parties offering million-dollar harbour views to multi-sensory dinners in ballrooms to fiery dining experiences right by the water, there are plenty of food-fuelled events that will awe and delight locals and visitors alike.
Here are our top picks of the new Vivid Food program for 2023.

Vivid Residence: Daniel Humm at Aria

6 - 17 June
World-renowned chefs are set to descend on Sydney for this year's Vivid. But perhaps one of the most exciting events in the inaugural Vivid Food program is the just-announced Vivid Residence. And it was truly worth the wait.
For two weeks, world-famous chef Daniel Humm of New York's three Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park is taking over the kitchen at Aria.
Eleven Madison Park has accolades aplenty, from retaining three stars for over a decade to high ranks on The World's 50 Best Restaurants lists - including taking home the top gong in 2017. But, perhaps most famously, the restaurant made headlines in 2021 with its transition to an entirely plant-based fine diner, with Humm leading the charge.
Humm will bring his innovative approach to fine dining and Eleven Madison Park's theatrical flair to Aria, which offers some of the best Vivid views in the city. Humm, along with the help of his and Matt Moran's team at Aria, will create a bespoke all-vegan, nine-course tasting menu that champions the best of local produce.
"We're excited to delve into New South Wales' fresh and local ingredients to bring a creative, beautiful, and delicious menu to life with Chef Matt and his team. So much of what we eat is part of our identity, and we look forward to sharing our language of food," says Humm in a statement.
Tickets for Vivid Residence cost $550 per person and $395 per person for a shorter lunch menu. Tickets go on sale via the Vivid Sydey website on Friday 28 April.

Carriageworks Night Market

16 June
Vivid's popular night market returns to Carriageworks - for one night only. This year, the market has been curated by leading Australian chef Matt Stone (Ciao, Mate! and You Beauty) and promises to celebrate sustainable food practices and the best local produce from NSW farmers, growers and producers.
There'll be more than 50 of Sydney's leading restaurants, bars, producers and artisans peddling their goods, plus live music and cooking demonstrations.
Tickets cost $15. Book via the Vivid Sydney website.

Vivid Sydney Dinner

3 June
After a sold-out event last year, the Vivid Sydney Dinner is back for a second run. This time, chefs Danielle Alvarez and Ben Greeno are joining forces to deliver a "feast for the senses" that will hero local produce through a degustation dinner with paired wines. Themed around the concept of 'rewilding', the one-off dinner will again take place in the Ivy Ballroom and promises to fuse light, music, ideas and food to create a multi-sensory dining experience.
Tickets start from $209. Book via the Vivid Sydney website.

Vivid Fire Kitchen

26 May - 17 June
Barangaroo's The Cutaway will play host to the inaugural Vivid Fire Kitchen - think Dark Mofo's Winter Feast, but less sinister.
Set nearby one of Vivid's most anticipated art installations, Vivid House, the new Vivid Fire Kitchen will transform the sandstone-and-concrete void into a lively dining mecca for the entire duration of the festival.
The pop-up dining hall will centre around food cooked over coals, with legendary pitmasters set to descend on Sydney and dish up exclusive dishes alongside local Sydney talent. There'll be street food vendors, cooking demonstrations, live entertainment and more.
You can catch demonstrations from the likes of Sydney's own Lennox Hastie (Firedoor, Gildas); chef-owner of Singapore's Michelin-starred Burnt Ends, Dave Pynt; and Pip Sumbak who'll combine local produce with raw fire cooking. Or, watch pitmasters Sterling Smith, Daniel Lee and Jess Pryles take to the coals as you work up an appetite.
For more information, visit the Vivid Sydney website.*

Nourishing Health

10 June
Australian icon Maggie Beer is taking to the stage for Vivid Ideas to uncover the positive physical and mental influences a good meal in good company can have.
The celebrated chef, author, restaurateur and philanthropist set up The Maggie Beer Foundation, which aims to improve the quality of life of older people through food. She'll be joined by researchers and advocates from SPHERE (Sydney Partnership for Health, Education, Research and Enterprise) to discuss topics that range from what makes a good meal to how food in aged care facilities is failing our elderly communities.
Tickets cost $30, with all proceeds going to The Maggie Beer Foundation. Book via the Vivid Sydney website.

Here Now Festival

11 June
The Mary's boys are jumping on board the Vivid Food bandwagon with the inaugural Here Now Festival - a jam-packed event of food, wine and good times on Saturday 11 June.
The one-day extravaganza is taking over Macquarie Place Park on Bridget Street - think NYC-style block party, but right by all the Vivid action. Mary's is taking care of the entertainment line-up, including music from Danté Knows and Gordon Koang, and DJ sets by Eloise & Reenie.
Meanwhile, the food and booze program will be curated by P&V Wine's Mike Bennie and Chat Thai's Palisa Anderson, so expect a smashing collective of NSW's top food and drink vendors on the day.
The event will run from 3pm-9pm, with an after party happening just around the corner at Mary's Underground.
Tickets to Here Now start at $51 and can be bought via the Vivid Sydney website.

Vivid Rooftop Experience

27 May - 17 June
Party 32 floors above the city at Aster Bar atop the five-star InterContinental Sydney hotel, where you can take advantage of sweeping harbour views. Running for almost the entire duration of Vivid, the experience includes a three-course dinner with matched cocktails - and, of course, one of the best vantage points to take in all the luminous Vivid action.
Tickets start from $199. Book via the InterContinental Sydney website. For more details, visit the Vivid Sydney website.

Play With Your Dinner

4, 7 and 11 June
With a slogan like 'where everything is edible, and anything is art', Chin Chin's Vivid experience certainly titillates. The neon-lit pan-Asian restaurant in Surry Hills is joining forces with painting studio Cork & Chroma for a four-session, three-day art experience.
Each session will see you create a masterpiece but, instead of paint, you'll be colouring the canvas with ingredients such as fiery-red chilli oil, crimson beetroot sauce, orange paprika salt and other edible hues.
The playful art class comes paired with a four-course meal created by executive chef Matt MacLeod that is designed to work as well on the plate as they do on the palette.
Tickets cost $165. Book via the Chin Chin website. For more information, visit the Vivid Sydney website.