Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lunch at Aria, Circular Quay - let's do it!

This isn’t so much a post about the food at Aria restaurant, as it is about my experience in dining there. This is because I visited Aria during the Sydney International Food Festival’s ‘Let’s do lunch’ promotion which is now finished for another year.   The restaurant is back to its usual menu, though.

So, my friend wanted to visit a 5-star establishment for our lunch (ie. somewhere we normally wouldn’t visit because of the... erm, ... prices), and we settled on Aria.  A last minute change of plan by us meant that we had to give up our original booking (made 3 weeks in advance) and rebook. Luckily, Aria were able to accommodate us at short notice (though they said we had to be out by 1.30pm for a 12pm booking).

The restaurant is divided into two dining sections – the one with the Harbour Bridge view, and the one with the Opera House view. We scored a window table with a Bridge view. I must say, for a weekday lunch, the place was packed. This may have been due to the SIFF promo being on, but I got the impression that Aria is a regular spot for business lunches (men in dark suits) as well as for ‘ladies who lunch’ (ladies in pastel suits).

I’ve found that the service in posh places like Aria can often border on the snooty, but our waitstaff were surprisingly agreeable, friendly without being too familiar. It certainly made for an enjoyable hour or so. Again, maybe it was because it was a lunch service, but it was pleasant, nonetheless. The waiter, in particular, was helpful in suggesting that we order a dessert to share because it was a reasonable size, and just right if ‘you just want something sweet to finish with’.

The Let’s Do Lunch offer consisted of a fish main, with a glass of wine (glass of 2008 Brown Brothers' Vermentino) or San Pellegrino water, and tea or coffee. All for $35. You also got bread and an amuse bouche, which is a pretty good deal all round.

Amuse bouche was soup - leek, I think.  It was very, very good.

The main dish was barramundi:

Roasted fillet of barramundi with fennel and calamari risotto
I have to say, this was sublime - the fish was perfectly cooked with a crispy skin.  The risotto was creamy, tasty and well-seasoned, with tender calamari pieces through it.  The size was right for lunch.

On our waiter’s suggestion, we decided to share a dessert from the Let’s Do Lunch dessert menu (different to the regular menu). It was split into ‘tastes’, with dishes incorporating a key ingredient, such as chocolate, mango, banana, coffee and strawberry. I chose Mango, and it came on a platter with 3 delightful mini desserts.

Mango: Cheesecake with ginger crumble, lime jelly, roasted pineapple sorbet ($20).
The lime jelly was topped with foam, and was tingly on the tongue.  The sorbet was my favourite, mainly because of the way it looked, like an egg on a nest of sand. 

Like my incredible dinner at Quay restaurant, our visit to Aria enabled us to have just a tiny taste of multi-hatted dining.  It's definitely worth a revisit, for a special occasion, when someone else is paying, or when I join a neighbourhood group of ladies who lunch (if you need a new member, ladies, please contact me).

On the way back to my day job, I walked through Angel Place, the laneway that connects Pitt Street to George Street.  There was an installation of birdcages over the lane, complete with birdsong. It was kind of surreal to look up at the empty cages swinging in the breeze, while being serenaded by chirps and tweets.  I floated back to work...

Aria is at:
1 Macquarie St
Sydney NSW 2000
Ph: 02 9252 2555
Aria on Urbanspoon


  1. There's nothing worse than an expensive restaurant with snooty service with wait staff who think they are better than you! It's good to hear Aria has a nice atmosphere... it's on my list of places to try when I visit Sydney!

  2. Great food with great view. What a life! Beautiful pictures of the birdcage.

  3. Ooh I haven't been to Aria yet but I'm dying to go especially after seeing your lovely photos! The view looks great, and the colours on that mango dessert look so refreshing.

  4. The crispy skin on the barramundi looks sensational and the sorbet too looks fab. Agree with Ellie on the birdcages. Cute pic!

  5. Ahh the worst part about having a great lunch is having to go back to work! I really liked the service when i went to Aria, everyone was really knowledgeable, but not pushy or snooty at all. It sounds like a pretty good deal too, it's a shame I don't work closer to the city, I couldn't do any of those SIFF lunches...!

  6. There's something about foam on food that makes me giggle in excitement. Few months ago I had mushroom soup with foam which was like a savory tsunami riding down your taste buds.

    I feel like that dessert's boiling down here in melbourne! LOL

  7. Ohhh that crispy skin! Worth the $35 just for that :)

    What a cool installation. I hope they were new birdcages, or at least thoroughly cleaned... noone like crusty old bird poo blowing onto their nice crisp suit ;)

  8. Hehee, the mango cheesecake does look like an egg on sand! Sounds like a delicious lunch and a particularly good deal.

  9. worth paying for the view alone! I really enjoyed the few times I was there.

  10. Hi Rilsta – yes, I was pleasantly surprised, considering we were having the ‘cheap’ option. I think you’ll like it when you visit.

    Hi Ellie – thank goodness for SIFF! It’s great for trying places that are normally out of reach.

    Hi Jacq – I think it’s better to go for lunch so you can see the view. Or dine early during daylight savings!

    Hi Trissa – the birdcages were so unusual and cute. Worth walking through the laneway just to see them.

    Hi Betty – it’s a shame you work out of the city; the SIFF lunch deals were so good. I wish I’d had more, too!

    Hi Adrian – some foams are so nothing, but a savoury tsunami? I’d love to experience that!

    Hi Conor – lol at the bird poo! I was thinking the same thing, but they did look quite clean, thankfully!

    Hi kiss my spatula – the dessert was divine. Should have gotten two (no sharing!).

    Hi Agnes – I think that $35 for the main, coffee and wine were great. $20 for the dessert was pricey but worth it.

    Hi 3 hungry tummies – hehe, I wish I could go more than once! Can’t wait for my next birthday now!

  11. I didn't realise that Aria did a special dessert menu for SIFF too! Ahh next year huh? lol Love the birdcages too, I'm a tad obsessed with the things so a whole sky of them would have felt like a hallucination in a way! :P

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  13. 困っています。December 5, 2009 at 8:27 AM


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