According to Chinese myth, the ox is the second of all zodiac animals—valued for its honesty and humble hard work. If you're a believer, the forthcoming Year of the Metal Ox is said to be stabilising, positive, gentle, and nourishing—all feelings we're pretty happy to welcome after the turbulence of 2020.
In Feng Shui, the ox has a reputation for granting wishes. When it comes to celebrating Lunar New Year in Sydney—if your wish was a universe of delicious eats and boozy concoctions, bottomless yum-cha, mesmerising lion dances, night markets, and more—your wish has officially come true.
Behold, the very best Lunar New Year events and eats happening in Sydney in 2021.
Lunar New Year Eats
We’d be hard-pressed to find a more stylish way to celebrate the Year of the Ox than a seat at Shangri-La Hotel’s Blu Bar with a Lunar-themed cocktail or two and a view of Sydney’s iconic, glittering harbour. Enjoy festive share plates to the tune of Char Siew style pork belly with steamed buns, steamed scallop dumplings with chilli butter sauce, Sydney Rock oysters with ponzu dressing, and ginger panna cotta with lemongrass for just $85 per person and feel your fortunes growing brighter with every bite. Round up the gang and book a table here.
Hello Auntie X Tokyo Lamington Pop-Up Cart
Sydney’s favourite new-wave Vietnamese spot Hello Auntie is bringing us yet another reason to flock to their doors with three new Lunar lamington specials in collaboration with lammy legends, Tokyo Lamington.
This isn’t your average coconut-covered square—we’re talking mind-blowing fusion flavours like Hello Auntie head chef Cuong Nguyen’s totally wild "Vietnamese Curry" lamington, which is an umami flavour bomb featuring savoury sponge filled with MB2 beef red katsu curry, coated in fried shallots, and roasted coconut flakes. On the sweet front, the Tokyo crew are switching up the jam-and-cream-filled routine with a "Pandan & Coconut Lamington" (a pandan custard filling, coated in pandan white chocolate sauce and coconut flakes) and the very summery "Pineapple Tart Lamington" bursting with pineapple jam, smothered in pineapple white chocolate sauce, and covered in butter cookie crumbs. Head down to the pop-up cart in Haymarket from Friday 12 to Sunday 21 February and score a box of three lammys for $21, or try them individually for $7 each.
Dopa By Devon
Pastry legends at Haymarket’s Dopa by Devon are making the Year of the Ox that much sweeter with a limited-edition Lunar dessert. Known for their exciting, Japanese-inspired flavour combos, the team at Dopa are dropping a black sesame mochi cake with creamy salted yolk custard that’s bound to be as delectable as everything they’ve ever done. Treat yo’self from Friday 12 to Sunday 21 February at their Haymarket outpost.
Champagne Bar, Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour
Drop into Sofitel’s Champagne Bar for a sip of head mixologist Jarod Senior’s lip-smacking sour creation, in celebration of Lunar New Year 2021. The "No. 8 Sour" (inspired by the lucky connotations of the number in traditional Chinese culture) is a delectable blend of Martel VS Cognac, Campari, pomegranate liqueur, and hibiscus syrup, perfectly finished with a touch of lemon and ginger smoke. Available for a limited time until Sunday 28 February at $22 per glass, your Lunar-night drinks are sorted.
Golden Century Group’s newest venture XOPP brings us all the succulent seafood and spicy Cantonese-style eats we know and love from the OG joint, with new-generation twists on classic fare from the restaurant’s 30-year history. Settle in at their mood-lit, window-lined dining area for a special Lunar New Year menu bringing good fortune and good times for you and your whole crew.
Start the night with a Lo Hei sashimi salad tossed tableside for a symbolic dose of good luck before moving on to seafood delights the likes of braised black moss with whole dried conpoy scallop, precious abalone with sea cucumber, fish maw, and mushroom, and luxe salted egg yolk butterflied king prawns. A fully-stocked bar space and curated wine list ensure the good vibes keep flowing all night, as you toast the Year of the Ox in style. Book a table for lunch from 11.30am to 3pm or dinner from 5pm to 10.30pm.
Say cheers to the Year of the Ox at Banchō, Chinatown’s only whisky and cocktail bar, with their fresh list of eight exclusive LNY-inspired cocktails. Sip your way to good fortune this Lunar New Year with a dose of "Good Juju" (Glenfiddich 12 single malt whisky, jujube red date syrup, lemon, five spice red wine float), say "Yee-Haw" to a new year (Sailor Jerry spiced rum, Amaro Montenegro, red bean paste, coconut cream, haw flake), or spice things up with the "Lantern Blazer", featuring Glenfiddich Fire & Cane single malt whisky infused with black sesame and peanut and blazed with Drambuie to finish.
Gin junkies can get their fix with the "Spring Festival" (Hendricks gin, dry sherry, osmanthus flower liqueur, rhubarb bitters), while those seeking those bright, festive vibes for 2021 (aren’t we all!) can sip summery drops like the "Lai-see Spritz" with Reyka Vodka, prosecco, strawberry candy syrup, and orange blossom water. More details are here.
Feast on good fortune and positivity at Spice Temple with a special Lunar New Year banquet that’s sure to leave you feeling good. Whether you want Wealth (pickled roma cherry tomatoes with dark soy Sichuan-style pickled cucumbers and shiitake), Fortune (pippies with pork and Shaoxing wine, said to be “the most delicious dish under heaven”), Longevity (stir-fried spanner crab with leeks and mung bean noodles) or Love (refreshing raspberry sorbet with praline), there’s something to suit every appetite (and horoscope) in 2021. At $129 per person with a welcome cocktail on arrival, it’s the most festive way to self-care we can think of! Round up your mates and make a lunch or dinner booking from Wednesday 10 to Saturday 20 February.
Check in to The Star for a hub of festive activity featuring vibrant entertainment and lavish menus to ring in the Year of the Ox right. With so many Sydneysiders unable to visit home or loved ones overseas for Lunar celebrations, The Star is making sure we usher in a very special 2021 with the help of some of Sydney’s most iconic bars and eateries, including Sokyo, Flying Fish, Black Bar and Grill, and Fat Noodle.
Foodie highlights include Chukka’s Chinese-Malay Yu Sang Salad ensuring prosperity in the new year, with a luscious, lucky combo of flavours including green lip abalone, pomelo, summer mango, green papaya and pickled ginger. And, if you’re feeling like a baller, go for Sokyo’s jaw-dropping sashimi platter starring butter-soft fresh fish, premium-grade lobster, caviar, toro, and scampi, at a modest $628. Or opt for the pork belly braised in Chinese five-spice with yuzu apple and fried ginger ($68) for a simpler fix. Check out The Star’s website for the full list of decadent special dishes and night-making Lunar banquets.
Home to some of Sydney's tastiest modern Chinese, Lotus Dining Group venues have your celebrations sorted with all the banquets, brunches, and boozy specials guaranteed to make the Year of the Ox a special one.
Gather the gang for one of two luxe Lunar New Year banquet packages at The Gardens by Lotus for the ultimate in festive feasting. Tuck into an array of classically-inspired Chinese dishes like crispy skin duck pancakes with hoisin sauce, steamed whole fish with ginger and shallots, Brooklyn Valley beef short ribs with aged black vinegar, garlic and chilli, and a Golden Ingot puff pastry for $128 per person, or go all out for $168 per person and enjoy pan-fried wagyu rib eye with crunchy brussels sprouts and a live lobster with ginger and shallot sauce. Pair all that with those gorgeous Garden of Friendship views and you’re looking at a winner. Available from Wednesday 10 to Saturday 13 February, though bookings are essential so head here to make a reservation.
Keen to keep the Lunar celebrations going? Check in to Lotus at The Galeries for never-ending rosé for 90 minutes with any reservation for only $30 per person, or sip never-ending sparkling at Lotus Double Bay along with a two-hour tasting menu for $79 per person. And for a festive twist on your weekend lunch plans, head to Madame Shanghai for a brunch feast including a selection of steamed dumplings, crispy calamari with togarashi & shaved bonito, kung pao chicken, and crispy eggplant all washed down with never-ending rosé ($89 per person), or hit up The Gardens by Lotus for bottomless yum-cha for $69 per person.
Lunar New Year Events
Rhapsody of Love Film Screening
Catch a private session of Joy Hopwood’s latest feature film and the first major Asian-Australian romcom, Rhapsody of Love, at Palace Cinemas on Friday 12 February. Tuck into a delicious assortment of finger food and a preview performance of traditional Chinese opera before settling in for the story of a wedding planner (Kathy Luu) and a wedding photographer (Damien Sato) following their hearts and finding their way through life and love. Touted as a “Crazy Middle-Class Asians” romp, this hilarious, heart-warming flick is the perfect way to kick off Lunar New Year. Find out more and book your tickets here.
Chris Yee's Epic New Installation At Darling Harbour
Head to the heart of Darling Harbour for a glimpse of Sydney-based artist Chris Yee’s very special Lunar New Year installation, a contemporary take on traditional Chinese ornamentation in his signature whimsical style. Yee’s surreal menagerie of classic Chinese zodiac animals and floral motifs brings themes of family, unity, strength, and optimism to life in stunning, vivid colour. It’s bright, it’s playful, it’s eminently Instagrammable, and it’s everything we need in 2021. Available to view daily from Friday 12 February to Sunday 28 February. For now check out Yee's work on his Instagram.
The Rocks Lunar Night Markets
Take your celebrations to the streets at The Rocks’ Lunar Night Markets from Friday 12 to Sunday 21 February. Slurp your way through noodle stalls and dumpling hubs to your heart’s content and be tempted by a range of smoky, sizzling delicacies, and sweet treats. Make your way through glowing, red lantern-lined paths to stalls showcasing local art, textiles, and homewares, try your hand at free calligraphy-making and mahjong masterclasses or get your feel for your 2021 fortunes at a traditional Chinese zodiac reading in The Rocks Square. Groove to live music along with the lion dancers roaming the streets and bask in the festive vibes. More info is here.
Lunar Lane Night Market
Sydney Olympic Park comes alive at the Lunar Lane Night Market over three jam-packed nights, full of local food trucks, roving entertainment, and all the stunning red lanterns and twinkly lights to set the mood. Grab a feed from one of your favourite foodie legends including Bao Brothers, Birdman Korean Fried Chicken, Yan Asian, and Bubble Tea Truck then set up camp at Cathy Freeman Park with your crew to bask in live DJ beats. The best local watering holes will also set up shop, making sure we all stay hydrated while we’re getting festive. Head down from 4pm to 9pm, Thursday 11 to Saturday 13 February.
Where To See Traditional Lion Dances
It’s not Lunar New Year without the spectacular Lion Dance, and this year there are plenty of opportunities to witness this dazzling ritual all over Sydney. Catch the traditional Lion Dance at the Chinese Garden of Friendship on Saturday 13 February from 10am, and be immersed in a riot of colour, energy, and optimism against that stunning natural garden backdrop.
Get amongst the action with the Chinese Youth League of Australia’s Lion Dance Group at their free Lion Dance workshop on Sunday 21 February from 11am to 12pm. You’re invited to witness a dazzling lion dance in traditional and freestyle forms before learning the history and technique you need to try your hand (and feet!) at this unique art form. If you’re indulging a spot of retail therapy at Pitt Street Mall on Saturday 13 February, stick around for a lion dance performance in New Shanghai Westfield from 1.30pm to 2pm for a dose of good fortune.
Book a table at vegan dumpling mecca Bodhi Restaurant Bar for their annual traditional lion dance on Tuesday 16 February at 6pm. And while you’re getting in on all the good vibes and good fortune, why not indulge in a range of delicious specials inspired by the Year of the Ox? Find good luck in the Eight Treasures Salad Bowl (a fresh, zingy combo of shredded beetroot, enoki, spiced peanut, cucumber, radish, shredded carrot, lettuce, crispy wonton skin, and peanut and ginger sauce) and a sweet Koi dessert with coconut milk, and seal the deal with a Niú cocktail flavour bomb featuring sesame-infused vodka, rhubarb gin, apricot jam, kaffir lime, star anise, raspberry syrup, lychee, and aquafaba. Bookings are available here.
Image credit: Getty, Tokyo Lamington, Spice Temple, Sokyo, Lotus, Anna Kucera