Time it right and a night at The House can be extra special.
As our tour group of 20 stands on the steps of the Sydney Opera House, there is a buzz in the air. There always is at this hallowed place where the Gadigal people would come for ritual celebration and, 50 years ago, Danish architect Jorn Utzon's sail-boat design became an international icon, virtually overnight.
On this late afternoon, the ferries are zipping in and out of Circular Quay, the gleaming cityscape rising just behind it. There's a cruise ship across the way at the Overseas Passenger Terminal, and the Harbour Bridge is resplendent as always. And our group is about to have the inner workings of the Opera House revealed to us on a one-hour tour, before dinner in what must be one of the most secret spaces in Sydney - a long, narrow, high-tech, architect-designed room tucked into a corner of the Western Foyer. As we'll discover, it has a table set for 20 and three courses themed to a musical we will see afterwards in the Drama Theatre.
Although it's not just dinner. Through the meal - prepared close by in the kitchen of Midden by Mark Olive restaurant - digital projections appear on the walls, again to theme: at one point, rivulets of digital blood trickle down them. We are here, after all, to see Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, one of the goriest shows around. Thus our entree of liver parfait with raspberry jelly is named "Sweeney Todd Serial Killer" and our main of lamb shanks with beetroot risotto "Lambs to the Slaughter". When we tuck into dessert - Mrs Lovett's spiced cherry and strawberry pie (we have watched her kneading the dough, ominously, on the digital projection) - it oozes red.
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This is such fun and cheeky, bucket-list stuff, wrapped up with a bow in a bucket-list destination. It takes "dinner and a show" to a new level. But you have to keep an eye and move fast - it is an exclusive experience, limited to a handful of nights with just 20 spots a throw. The latest production to include a decadent pre-show dinner in the secret dining room is Gatsby at the Green Light, an immersive cabaret playing in the Opera House Studio - transformed into the "hottest club in town" for the show's run until March 24. This time around, on the set menu over eight nights are three courses (paired with wines) curated by chef Mark Olive that feature Indigenous ingredients - think dishes such as bush tomato gazpacho, smoked blue gum barramundi and strawberry gum panna cotta.
If not dinner and a show, consider at the very least a tour: they are a fascinating insight into this World Heritage-listed (not to mention beloved) landmark: how it works, what its design and architecture looks like up close, and its many remarkable stories - among my favourites: the Le Corbusier tapestry hanging in the Western Foyer was commissioned for the Opera House by Jorn Utzon (who famously left the project in a storm of controversy) but did not come into the House's possession until 2015, when it bought it at auction for more than $500,000. Said our tour guide Stephen: "We're just not quite sure if we already owned it."
Gatsby - The Dining Experience is available over eight nights in February, $305 a head including a ticket to Gatsby at the Green Light.
One-hour tours of the Opera House take place several times daily, $43 an adult, $23 a child.
The writer was a guest of Cultural Attractions of Australia.