Restaurant News

Vivid Sydney 2018: the bars and restaurants with the best views

From bars on Circular Quay serving LED-lit cocktails to restaurants where you can settle in for seven courses of fine food and spectacular views, these are the places to see the lights of Vivid Sydney in style.

By Shalini Sen
Goldie's Music Hall, a pop-up bar at the Sydney Opera House to coincide with Vivid Sydney 2018
Artists' impression of the Virtual Vibration at Musuem of Contemporary Art by Spinifex Group, Jonny Niesche and Mark Pritchard.

It's that time of the year when Sydneysiders brave the dip in temperatures to take in the spectacle that is Vivid Sydney. Now in its tenth year, the festival of lights, music and ever-more ambitious projections turns on the power on 25 May, transforming the city into a living artwork for three weeks.

But a night of art-spotting in the crisp night air could send you hunting for the nearest bar. To help you plot your route around the city, we've rounded up the spots where you can take in views of the Vivid lights while you also enjoy your favourite tipple. Win-win.

Opera Bar

The neon light displays on the sails of the Sydney Opera House this year will be reflected in Opera Bar's neon-inspired menu. While the Electric Blue blends rum with lime, pineapple and blue curacao, our eyes are on the Red Night which marries gin with pink grapefruit, lemon and ginger beer. And the bar's illuminated beer garden is the perfect spot to take in the sweeping views of the sparkling waterfront.

Sydney Opera House, Lower Concourse Level, Sydney, (02) 9247 1666, sydneyoperahouse.com. Open Mon-Thu 10:30am-midnight, Fri 10:30am-1am, Sat 9am-1am, Sun 9am-midnight.

Goldie's Music Hall

In the Opera House proper, the Concert Hall's Northern Foyer gets a '60s-inspired makeover during Vivid, with a pop-up bar in gleaming black and gold. Relive (or get a taste of) the hedonism of the decade amongst beaded lampshades and peacock chairs the backdrop to a night of cocktails such as Golden Years, a potent combination of cognac, rye whiskey, amaretto, bitters and orange zest. It's excess at its best.

Sydney Opera House, Concert Hall, Bar Level, Northern Foyers, Sydney, (02) 9250 7111, sydneyoperahouse.com. Open daily, 6pm-late, 25 May-4 June.

Goldie's Music Hall, Sydney Opera House
Goldie's Music Hall, Sydney Opera House

Sails on Lavender Bay

With the Vivid lights travelling across the water to Luna Park for the first time this year, Sails on Lavender Bay has some of the best seats on the harbour to catch the display. Take your pick from their award-winning wine list, or really settle in for the evening with a seven-course degustation menu.

2 Henry Lawson Ave, McMahons Point, (02) 9955 5998, sailslavenderbay.com. Open Tue-Sun noon-3pm, Mon-Sat 6pm-late.

Bar Patrón by Rockpool

Need to fuel up before an evening of walking? Bar Patrón is opening the doors earlier than usual during Vivid and offering a special four-course menu to boot, packed with favourites such as fried fish tacos and flan napolitano. Those keen for stronger waters before they brave the cold will be glad to hear about a new cocktail, the G&T&T: a tequila-based concoction that's lifted by grapefruit and fresh lime.

2 Phillip St, Sydney, (02) 9259 5624, barpatron.com.au. Open Sun-Thu 5:30pm-midnight, Fri-Sat 5:30pm-late. Special Vivid dining menu available 5pm-6pm every day.

Bombay Sapphire x MCA Pop-Up Bar

On nine select evenings during Vivid, you can sip cocktails out of LED-lit glasses on the rooftop terrace at Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) and take advantage of some of the best views of the Opera House and its 3D light sculpture by artist Jonathan Zawada. Beat the chill with a hot gin cocktail – presented in a tea cup, no less – that blends ginger, chocolate butter and red vermouth or opt for a Barbershop Negroni or G&T scented with lemon myrtle and thyme.

Level 4, MCA Café, 140 George St, The Rocks, (02) 9250 8443, mca.com.au. Open Wed, Fri and Sat, 5pm-9pm, 25 May-16 June. Closed Fri 1 June and Wed 6 June.

Bulletin Place

While it may not offer views of the action, Bulletin Place is conveniently located close to many Vivid sites, making it an ideal mid-evening pit-stop. The bar's ¬¬cocktail maestros are throwing themselves into this year's festival with drink specials, extended opening hours and a menu of snacks that includes Délice de Bourgogne triple cream, creamed cashew dip and cured meats from European and Australian producers. New cocktails will be offered daily alongside the usual Bulletin menu of classics with a twist, or you can sip on natural wines from Australia and Europe plus local beers and spirits. Did we mention they're opening the doors on Sundays throughout the festival too?

Level 1, 10-14 Bulletin Pl, Sydney, (02) 8006 8833, bulletinplace.com. Open Mon-Thurs 4pm-midnight, Fri-Sat 4pm-2am, Sun 4pm-10pm.

Whisky Sour at Bulletin Place
Whisky Sour at Bulletin Place

The Theatre Bar at the End of the Wharf

As The Wharf (home to Sydney Theatre Company) gets ready to close down for renovations at the end of June, take in the spectacular views of Circular Quay and Luna Park one last time from the warm wooden surrounds of The Theatre Bar at the End of the Wharf. While you're there, order a cocktail jug – Pimms or a Dark and Stormy, perhaps – and some small plates as you settle in for the night.

Pier 4, Hickson Rd, Walsh Bay, (02) 9250 1777, ttbateotw.com.au. Open Mon-Fri 9am-late, Sat 12pm-late.

Grain Bar

Drawing inspiration from Vivid, Grain Bar at the Four Seasons Hotel has teamed up with Belvedere Vodka for an innovative experience they're calling Light the Night. The bar will glow blue during the festival and offer special cocktails, the most fascinating of which is The Ghost of Mary. Imagine a classic Bloody Mary, but completely transparent. We're intrigued.

199 George St, Sydney, (02) 9250 3118, grainbar.com.au. Open daily, 2pm-late.

Hacienda

Situated right on Circular Quay, Hacienda offers some of the best views of Vivid. And if the light displays aren't enough for you, try their festival-inspired cocktail, Light'er Up, a blend of vodka, lavender syrup, raspberry syrup and lemon juice that's lit on fire just before serving. OTT? Maybe, but isn't that what Vivid is all about?

Level 3, 61 Macquarie St, Sydney, (02) 9256 4083, haciendasydney.com.au. Open daily, 12pm-late.

Vivid Sydney, 25 May - 16 June 2018, vividsydney.com