Could the Revival of ‘Dinner and Show’ in Sydney Jumpstart Its Nightlife?

Dinner and show Sydney The Emerald Room

Venues with a ‘dinner and show’ are sweeping through Sydney and could play a major role in the city’s nightlife revival. Cardea in Barangaroo launched in 2023, while The Emerald Room, housed in an old auto body shop in Darlinghurst, opened in March this year.

“We built The Emerald Room to celebrate the nostalgia of the 1950s and ‘60s Sydney,” says Brandon Martignago, co-director of Harbour City Hospitality. “Back then, ‘going out’ was an experience and people made a night out of places like the Tivoli and The Trocadero where they mixed food, drink, live acts and music together.”

Martignago’s co-director Joshua Pullen says he loves the romanticism of old-fashioned nightclubs with live music and the performers weaving around tables as guests eat and drink. He calls it a fully immersive hospitality experience.

Dinner and show Sydney The Emerald Room
Image: The Emerald Room

“Of course, we’ve updated that experience,” Pullen says. “Brendan [de la Hay], our creative director, has made the shows lavish yet attuned to audiences today.”

Garry Simonian, founder of Cardea, says he thinks Sydneysiders are craving more value and excitement in their nights out, especially given the soaring cost of living in the city. Offering both dinner and show goes that extra mile, giving you more bang for your buck, he says.

“It’s the perfect middle ground for those seeking a more vibrant experience than the local pub scene, yet not as intense as a nightclub atmosphere,” Simonian says. “Nowadays, simply being a run-of-the-mill bar doesn’t quite cut it – investing heavily in entertainment sets us apart and draws patrons in.”

Martignagno agrees that major drawcards to the ‘dinner and show’ experience are value, with our money not stretching as far for us anymore, and the chance to do something different.

Dinner and show Cardea
Image: Cardea

“Since Sydney lockout laws and COVID, the way the city has looked at where they spend their time and money has changed,” he says. “People have grown up and trends have changed. Venues have become more conceptual and boutique, and guests have a myriad of choices of venues that each offer something different.”

Because of this, Martignagno says we’re seeing more Sydney venues focusing on experiences. ‘Dinner and show’ offerings allow guests a one-stop-shop, where they can get it all in one place.

“If you’re just wanting to eat and drink, people are realising it’s easier and cheaper to stay at home,” he says. “Whereas if they want to go out, they’ll go to places that turn the night into an event.”

Martignagno also credits the rise in the ‘dinner and show’ trend to the NSW government encouraging more interaction between venues and live entertainment with grants and support programs.

Both venues, as well as The Bamboozle Room in Potts Point, which has been operating since 2016, have show-only tickets and options to order dinner a la carte or via a set menu. General admission for Cardea’s show is around $33 and with a two-course dinner included, it’s around $128. At The Emerald, it’s around $69 for general admission and $90 to add on a three-course meal.

Witches in Britches dinner and show
Image: Witches in Britches

In Melbourne, ‘dinner and show’ has long been popular, with Bar Pigalle in Richmond, opened in 2021, Impossible Occurrences in the CBD, launched in 2015, and Witches in Britches in West Melbourne, operating since 1990.

“I think it’s the all-in-one convenience that these venues offer,” says Joel Norman-Hade, the MC at Witches in Britches. “There’s no need to venue hop to enjoy a night out and the value is fantastic.

“Normally, if you were to hit up three venues for dinner, a show and dancing, you’d spend more than $190 per person before you purchase any drinks. Our prices start at $90 per person so the value and convenience speaks for itself.”

Related: Behold, North Sydney’s New Dining Scene, With More Than Just Cafés and Takeaway Shops

Related: Matt Moran on the Sydney Restaurant Everyone Should Visit at Least Once

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