Special occasions and overdue catch-ups deserve a touch of class. And you're in luck because we've rounded up 11 of Sydney's best private dining rooms.
If it seems like it's been a while since you got the gang together, you're not alone. It's time to take the plunge again and start that group chat. But if there's one thing we know about catching up with a crowd it's that your booking ducks need to be in a row.
Two-hour seating times, limits on numbers inside venues and the dreaded end-of-evening bill can all make a fun time turn feral. The solution is hiring a private space in a favourite restaurant, gathering loved ones and telling them this is how you're all rolling. Why not try one of these spots for your next gathering?
Enjoy a Mediterranean feast at Vini Divini. Photo: Supplied
This city wine bar has one of the most extensive European lists in Sydney, with more than a thousand bottles selected by sommelier Raphael Mulligan. When you book the Otto Mezzo room, with its wall-length print from the classic 1963 film 8½, you'll enjoy a Mediterranean feast, with dishes like Mandolé Orchard almonds, baba ganoush, beef carpaccio and slow-cooked lamb shoulder with fregola. Order drinks as you go, and be sure to make the most of the excellent by-the-glass selection.
How many? Up to 14 people
How much? $75 a head
Minimum spend? No
60 Carrington Street, Sydney, vinidivini.com.au
Head upstairs at the Robin Hood Hotel in Waverley. Photo: Supplied
The old girl has had a bit of a facelift and the upper level at the Robin Hood Hotel has now become this stylish venue. Chef Clement Marchais makes the most of a custom-built charcoal grill to give the simple-but-delicious treatment to steak, chicken and veg. In the PDR, it's all about sharing, so you might end up with heirloom tomato salad with labneh, cured ocean trout with fennel and slow-cooked lamb rump with puy lentils on the table.
How many? Between 15 and 25 of your nearest and dearest.
How much? For eight or more, there's a $60 a head set menu; there's also a three-course $75 shared menu, available for more than 10 guests.
Minimum spend? From $800 to $1500
203 Bronte Road, Waverley, lorraines.com.au
Choose from three private dining rooms at a'Mare. Photo: Supplied
It only opened in January, but already chef Alessandro Pavoni's swank venue has won a raft of admirers. It's opulent, it's old school and it'll make you want to break out your best outfit before you visit. The three private dining rooms are upstairs and fittingly, since a'Mare means "at sea", overlook the harbour. The kitchen turns out classic regional Italian fare with a focus on seafood. Groups shouldn't go past the a'Mare Experience, with dishes including burrata caprese, wagyu carpaccio and cotoletto orecchia di elefante (a one-kilogram "elephant ear" veal cutlet alla Milanese) being served to share.
How many? Up to 10 in the Wine Room or 12 in the Library.
How much? $135 a person for the a'Mare Experience, although there's the absolute blow-out Ultimate Experience menu for $260 a head.
Minimum spend? $1500 in the Wine Room; $1800 in the Library
Crown Sydney, Level 1, 1 Barangaroo Avenue, Barangaroo, crownsydney.com.au
The views are hard to beat at Quay (when cruise ships aren't in town). Photo: Nikki To
No doubt you've seen chef Peter Gilmore torturing home cooks on MasterChef and have possibly had the pleasure of spending time with his exquisitely presented food. Let's face it, if you're getting the group together for a private do at Quay, it's an occasion. The PDR menus – either six or eight courses – are the same as in the main dining room. You have the option, however, of adding a wine tasting, whisky and cheese bar or even a Q&A with Gilmore himself. Why now? There are no huge cruise ships spoiling the superlative view.
How many? Up to 10 guests, although there are larger rooms, too.
How much? $240 for six courses; $290 for eight
Minimum spend? $2500
Upper level, Overseas Passenger Terminal, The Rocks, quay.com.au
Appreciate Kengo Kuma's architecture at XOPP. Photo: Supplied
If David Chang said your dish was the best in the world, why wouldn't you celebrate that with your next restaurant? That's the story behind XOPP, Eric and Linda Wong's venture named after now-retired chef Leung Yung's famous steamed pipis with house-made XO sauce. The windows of its private dining room reveal glimpses of the Kengo Kuma architecture of its Exchange building home, although you'll probably be too busy arguing over who gets the last of those famous pipis – the dish is on all three banquet menu options – to notice.
How many? Up to 40 people
How much? Banquet menus start at $88 a head
Minimum spend? It's $120 a person (or at least $1200 if you have fewer than 10 guests)
The Darling Exchange, Mezzanine Level, 31/1 Little Pier Street, Haymarket, xopp.com.au
Nola's private dining room is a breath of fresh air. Photo: Supplied
NOLA Smokehouse & Bar
Often private dining rooms can seem either stark or starched, which is why this fuchsia dream with its plantation shutters is such a breath of fresh air. The food at this Barangaroo hot spot focuses on Cajun and Creole flavours and smoky barbecue. All groups make the most of the shared set menus. The Pitmaster features oysters with hot sauce vinaigrette, slow-cook brisket, pulled pork, blackened chicken, sides and much more. It's southern food with a Sydney outlook.
How many? 10 to 15 guests
How much? The Pitmaster is $85 a person; there are $105 and $125 versions as well.
Minimum spend? No, unless you want a booking of longer than 2.5 hours.
Level 1, One International Towers Sydney, 100 Barangaroo Avenue, Barangaroo, nolasydney.com
Nour's light-filled private dining room overlooks a courtyard. Photo: Supplied
Remember hitting the Turkish joints on Cleveland Street for a big Saturday night back in the day? This is the far more adult version you want to experience with grown-up friends, especially if you've snaffled the private room with its blondwood features, sculptural lighting and arched windows overlooking the green courtyard. Nour's executive chef Roy Ner brings innovative flair to familiar Lebanese flavours. The banquet menu, with dishes such as carob-glazed lamb shoulder and octopus with chopped muhammara, fried potato and whipped roe, is the generous offering for groups.
How many? Up to 16 people
How much? $89 a person; basic two-hour drinks package from $59
Minimum spend? From $1500 to $3500 depending on the day
3/490 Crown Street, Surry Hills, noursydney.com
Meat-eaters, vegetarians and vegans are catered for at Bloodwood. Photo: Supplied
You're always guaranteed good food and fine times at Bloodwood – the team there has been dishing out both for more than a decade. Chef-owner Claire Van Vuuren focuses on small, local producers to create dishes packed with flavour. Groups over eight share the banquet menu – at the moment it has polenta chips with gorgonzola sauce, yellowfin tuna with pickled ginger, fried chicken with harissa ketchup and six other dishes – but ask when you book and you can have the vegetarian or vegan version.
How many? Between eight and 14 guests
How much? $65 a person for the eight-course banquet menu
Minimum spend? Not at all
416 King Street, Newtown, bloodwoodnewtown.com
Enjoy full-length windows at Nobu. Photo: Supplied
This is the third Australian outing for Nobu and probably the most spectacular, with the room's soaring spaces, full-length windows and that harbour view. Head chef Harold Hurtada has helmed Nobu restaurants before – in Cape Town and Dubai – and brings all the classics, as well as a few of his own twists. Groups can go à la carte here – handy if you have fussy eaters in your midst – but the omakase menu offers the best way to taste the best of Nobu. There's tuna tataki salad, a chef's selection of sushi and, of course, the miso black cod for which the restaurant is justifiably famous. Important birthday? Big announcement? These private rooms – there's a choice of three – are the place to do it.
How many? There are three private rooms, seating between eight and 18.
How much? There are two seven-course omakase menus at $175 and $225 a head.
Minimum spend? Anywhere between $1500 to $3500
Crown Sydney, Level 2, 1 Barangaroo Avenue, Barangaroo, crownsydney.com.au
Saké Manly has four six-person private rooms. Photo: Supplied
Saké Manly Wharf
If your gang's is on the small side, this waterside option has a spot for you. Four six-person private rooms, with a stunning overhead floral sculpture and cantilevered table, are the centrepiece of the room. The screens separating them slide up if you are, in fact, quite popular and want to join two or more spaces. At Saké you have a choice of two menus, each featuring its fun izakaya-style dishes, including hiramasa kingfish, shumai and popcorn shrimp.
How many? Anywhere from six to 24; another private room seats 18 guests
How much? $85 a head for the five-course omakase; $99 for the set "new classics" menu
Minimum spend? It's flexible, so ask when you book
Level 1, Manly Wharf, Manly, sakerestaurant.com.au
Otto's private dining room is in an old wool lift. Photo: Nikki To
Known for its sparkling views and shiny clientele, this wharfside Italian eatery has a secret. Its private room is housed in an old lift that once transported wool, and its aged timber walls give it a sense of the city's colonial history. There are a number of set menus for groups, but you can't go past the Amici a Tavola sharing menu, where three courses of Italian classics, from prosciutto and melon to zucchini flowers filled with ricotta and pecorino, are whisked to the table.
How many? 14 people
How much? From $110 for the Amica a Tavola menu
Minimum spend? From $1500
6 Cowper Wharf Road, Woolloomooloo, ottoristorante.com.au