First class fare: how Luke Mangan is elevating Sydney Airport’s dining

With a focus on good food, great wine and fabulous cocktails, this T3 eatery is an ideal start or end to your journey.

By Staff Writers, May 7 2024
First class fare: how Luke Mangan is elevating Sydney Airport’s dining

It’s early evening and you’ve found a seat at the bar of a new Sydney restaurant. Beats are filling the room as a waiter ferries oysters to a couple laughing in a booth nearby. A bottle of champagne arrives moments later, followed by a duo of sashimi tacos.

From outside looking in, it’s just another Friday night. That is, until a boarding call for QF546 to Brisbane flashes on the board, reminding you that you’re not in some fashionable Surry Hills diner but Sydney Airport. That’s by design.

‘A restaurant in an airport, not an airport restaurant’ is what chef and restaurateur Luke Mangan envisaged for this, his new eatery at Sydney Airport’s Terminal 3 – Luke’s Bistro & Bar.

In doing so, he’s also just raised the bar of airport dining, with the venue drawing rave reviews since its December debut. Plus, it’s quite literally a taste of things to come with a broader culinary upgrade primed to sweep through the terminal.

Positioned across from Gates 2 and 3 at T3 – the one exclusively used by Qantas and QantasLink – Luke’s Bistro & Bar now occupies the space previously home to the long-running Bar Roma, though you likely wouldn’t recognise it.

The menu too is distinct from what you’d typically find in an airport, balancing quick bites for those keeping an eye on the departures board with relaxed, multi-course affairs when you have time to spare or are in the mood for celebration.

“I think I just saw the potential,” explains Mangan, adding that instead of opting into the ‘grab and go box’ typically seen in airports, he and his team approached this venue and its menu like any other of his restaurants.

That said, where Mangan favourites like Glass Brasserie at Hilton Sydney and Luc-San at Hotel Indigo Potts Point sit at the fine dining end of the spectrum, Luke’s Bistro & Bar is a decidedly more casual affair.

Think succulent lobster rolls, sashimi tacos, and a multi-tiered platter of New York-style salmon bagels, leading to more substantial fare like juicy burgers or steak and chips.

“It gave us the opportunity to create something different, something unexpected. We wanted to create a restaurant that happened to be in an airport, not an airport restaurant – from the design to the music to the lighting and seating plans, every bit is how I envisaged it.”

The 200-seater space is split into zones to suit diverse travel moods. Among them, a coffee bar for those quick-stepping to the gate, booths for colleagues or friends catching up over drinks, and a kitchen counter ideal for solo diners.

Rather than just catering to general travellers, or those seeking a quality meal while waiting for traffic to peter out before heading home, the restaurant is also an enticing alternative to the Qantas Club and Qantas business class lounges.

During peak times when those lounges are typically at capacity, though just as often when not, you’ll regularly spy more than a few Qantas Q Bag Tags attached to the carry-on of fellow diners.

Priority Pass members are also welcomed, with cardholders entitled to $36 dining credit at Luke’s Bistro & Bar – one of just two T3 restaurants providing this member-only perk, the other being Wok on Air.

On top of guiding the menu, Mangan’s ‘restaurant first’ mindset delivered a signature talking point of the bistro experience: the open kitchen, which is a staple in every one of the chef’s venues, though not so common in airports.

“Open kitchens are really important for me, because it creates more than just a meal – you can sit up at the counter, single diners can interact with the chef or the barman. I love that.”

Alongside barista coffee for that essential jolt of caffeination on the go, diners can also order a mix of classic cocktails and drinks, all delivered with a Luke Mangan twist.

The bar's stocked with an array of premium beers, spirits and wine.
The bar's stocked with an array of premium beers, spirits and wine.

“It’s really food from every genre – that is, small, quick bites, or if you’ve got a long stay you can sit and have a three-course meal over a bottle of wine. Plus we’ve got the seafood bar, where you can come in for oysters and a glass of champagne.”

As mentioned, Luke’s Bistro & Bar is just an appetiser for what’s to come at Sydney Airport, and if the changes are even half as good as this, travellers are in for a fine time indeed.

This article was produced in collaboration with Sydney Airport.