With free entertainment and an expanded array of food options, it's worthwhile visiting the Sydney Festival Village in Hyde Park North, even if you're not eagerly clutching a ticket to a show.
You'll find bars, DJs playing on the back of an old Holden ute, food outlets, comfortable seating, a book exchange, and two venues - The Aurora Spiegeltent and The Famous Spiegeltent.
With a dedicated ticket outlet on site, you can decide - over drinks or a spot of dinner - to take in a show. That is, if tickets remain! Be warned, some of these artists are extremely popular and may require you to book in advance.
The main attraction in the dining arena is The Double Down Diner, a collaboration between Porteño and Gelato Messina. My go-to dish is the smoked wagyu Philly cheese steak sanger - soft and incredibly flavourosome! Now popularity has its downside - this stall was sold out by 9pm on the night I dined.
My other dining highlight was The Cheesesmith who, beyond doing triple cheese toasties (with the option to add a fourth cheese), are turning out cheese boards with accompaniments and tasting notes.
If you order a six cheese board called La Magnifique ($25) as I did, you will see that the perfectly ripe and frothy Brillat Savarin suggests an accompaniment of Champagne. Who am I to argue, especially with a Laurent Perrier Bar on-site? Using cash or card you can purchase Champagnes from across their range, starting with Laurent-Perrier Brut ($80/bottle) and heading all the way up to Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle ($300/bottle). There's also a Laurent-Perrier Brut Piccolo ($29) option if you'd like a taste of the high life without blowing the budget.
What's even better is you can take both your fancy Champagne (in a Laurent-Perrier ice-bucket if you're willing to part with a twenty buck deposit) and your cheese platter, into the show. It's practically a requirement if you're seeing Changeling, by my favourite Irish–French chanteuse Camille O’Sullivan. It will definitely help you through her seductive (and at times harrowing) reinterpretations of Nick Cave, Tom Waits and Radiohead songs.
Trust me and stay with her through all her incanations, she'll take you on one hell of a ride.
Edit 12/01 - Last night I also took in Yana Alana's show Between the Cracks. It's a provacative one-woman show with great singing that will suit fans of queer and bent cabaret. Nice to see a little political awareness creep in too, with a great song about that one little word Tony Abbott, Christopher Pyne, the Catholic Church, Scott Morrison and the father from Hey Dad! all seem unable to say...