It was once one of the quietest times of year, but Sydney restaurants are set to be busy as people flock to the city during the Vivid Sydney festival. The event, from May 26 to June 17, will feature 90 light installations and projections created by Australian and international artists across seven precincts. And eateries are capitalising on the opportunity to get more customers through their doors, offering everything from glowing cocktails to Vivid-inspired dishes and early bird menus.
Vivid Sydney executive producer Sandra Chipchase said the festival has created a winter boom for restaurants during what was traditionally a quiet season. “Not only is it good for sales, it great for jobs with restaurants staffing up to meet demand,” she says.
Event organisers issued more than 900 retail activation packs to help restaurants become part of the event, including posters and button-pins and encourage restaurants to offer set fine dining menus, take-away food packs and create colourful cocktails, desserts or ice-creams to celebrate the festival.
“Vivid Sydney injected over $110 million into NSW’s visitor economy with 80% of attendees making a food and beverage purchase during their visit,” Ms Chipchase said. “One café told us that they made enough money during Vivid to cover their annual staff bill. An ice-cream shop reported that they sold more ice-cream during Vivid Sydney than during the entire summer.”
InterContinental Sydney’s Supper Club will offer a signature Vivid cocktail called the Neon Highball – a colourful mix of Japanese sake, honeydew melon liqueur, salted caramel syrup and cold-press pineapple juice. Head bars manager, John Toubia, has also curated a Vivid-inspired cocktail package. The trio of mini cocktails called A Celebration of Colour will be available at the level 32 rooftop lounge overlooking the harbour between 8pm and 9.30pm every night throughout Vivid and will cost $50 per person.
Laneway dining at InterContinental Sydney during Vivid
The hotel will also have a pop-up laneway on Macquarie St for groups and events during Vivid and offering a progressive dining experience on selected evenings, which will start with a four-course meal at 117 Dining before diners head upstairs to Supper Club for a Neon Highball.
Toubia said Vivid Sydney, by design, falls at an incredibly opportunistic time in Sydney and brings much-needed early to mid-week revenue for venues which would not happen otherwise. “Culturally, it pushes businesses to get involved with creative and interactive ideas and offerings to celebrate the arts, making this festival the most celebrated arts festival amongst bars and restaurants in Sydney,” he says.
“One of the greatest things about Vivid is its ability to attract guests into new precincts within the city and surrounds as they follow the light trails and attractions. For restaurants and bars, this is a great opportunity as it exposes them to such a large audience of potential new guests. It’s important that during this time, we are all showcasing our very best talent and initiatives to ensure the Vivid customer is a returning customer. Our restaurants and bars will be extremely busy during this period, with an revenue increase of approximately 20 per cent across all food and beverage outlets.”
Toubia says the city comes alive during Vivid, with an aura of awe and excitement that comes with the festival. “We see a notable shift in the ambiance throughout Vivid as guests experience an inspired and themed Vivid menu; there’s plenty of buzz with a full restaurant and of course plenty of photos.”
Sydney’s newest dining precinct Streets of Barangaroo will take part in Vivid Sydney for the first time this year. Mediterranean restaurant BANKSII will serve cocktails with glow in the dark swizzle sticks from its Belvedere Spritz Bar. It will also offer an early bird menu for $55 from 5pm to 6.30pm throughout the festival, with house-made light-up cotton candy for dessert.
“Barangaroo is a perfect setting for the festival, and many of the light installations have been designed with the area in mind,” BANKSII co-owner Rebecca Lines says. “It made perfect sense for us to get involved, to help showcase (and light up!) Barangaroo.”
Lines says the festival highlights what people love about Sydney – architecture, design, the arts and, of course, amazing food and drink.
“It wouldn’t be right to celebrate all that Sydney has to offer without highlighting our incredible dining scene,” she says. “Getting involved in Vivid Sydney was important for us to continue our involvement with the thriving community here. Barangaroo will be an exciting new place to take in the festival and we’re looking forward to welcoming everyone down.”
Well-known chef Kylie Kwong will also host a series of special communal dinners at her restaurant Billy Kwong in Potts Point called Kylie’s Table on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights during the festival, in which she will personally welcome guests and create a bespoke menu of Billy Kwong favourites. Nearby modern Japanese restaurant Cho Cho San will offer an exclusive Vivid Sydney-inspired banquet menu for groups of ten or more during the festival, while Argentinian noshery Porteno in Surry Hills will have specials each week of the event.