As you wander down Flinders Lane, just before the heritage-listed Higson House, you will come across a line of people snaking out of a large navy door onto the pavement.
It’s a common ritual for many, patiently lining up for a culinary experience that epitomises Melbourne’s food scene. They’re waiting for Chin Chin.
This buzzing restaurant and bar single-handedly revolutionised the industry in Melbourne and beyond since opening in 2011. Chin Chin can best be described by three ‘p’s: pan-Asian, pleasure and patience. The first covers the type of food on offer, the second describes the response when eating said dishes and the third is the attitude required when wanting to go – after all, on a busy night, the wait could be a couple of hours.
However, this popularity is indicative of the reputation that Chris Lucas has established and maintained over the past five years. The namesake of the Lucas Group is responsible for creating restaurants that Melburnians didn’t know they wanted but definitely needed, with a list that includes not only Chin Chin and its basement mistress GoGo Bar, but Baby Pizzeria, Kong BBQ and Hawker Hall.
At the CBD restaurant, Lucas introduced the idea of hawker-style dining to the masses, and instated Executive Chef Benjamin Cooper to execute his vision. In fusing the flavours of South East Asia with Australian ingredients, Cooper and his kitchen team work with a bevy of high quality local suppliers, including Greenvale Farm and Sher Wagyu beef. The result is moreish dishes enjoyed in a buzzing setting.
The 2016 renovations saw Chin Chin take on a new look, expanding the kitchen to include a coal-red grill and installing a striking centrepiece in the form of a mirrored back-bar that references an antique Chinese bookcase. Most excitingly, GoGo Bar reincarnated itself, gifted with plush velvet booths, brass finishes, smoked mirrors and leather stools to create a glowing bar where a cocktail or wine from the brand-new drinks list can be enjoyed.
The menu also received a facelift , with a third of the dishes refreshed. Crowd favourites such as the Crying Tiger and DIY spring rolls stayed put, but now sit alongside the likes of a green curry of chicken thigh and duck liver, and a stir fry of bug tail and chopped prawn with egg noodle and Hell fire chilli oil. To the delight of indecisive eaters everywhere, there are now two Feed Me menus – one regular, and another that focuses on specialty duck and crab dishes.
You can order both Feed Me menus downstairs in GoGo Bar, where groups of 8-10 can book into one of the six booths. Head mixologists, Joe Williams and Kristian Leombruni, crafted a cocktail menu driven by the theme of fruit, herbs, spice and all things nice. Southeast Asian ingredients appear across the board and the menu turns the common cocktail on its head. A unique wine list highlighting young Australian wine makers has been curated by wine a cionado Philip Rich, and has also been matched to a snack menu made especially for GoGo.
In a city as food-dense as Melbourne, maintaining such high levels of popularity for over five years is no easy feat. With Chin Chin and GoGo, Lucas, Cooper and their team have done it with ease, offering a dining experience that continues to impress and delight the 1.3 million and counting diners walking through the door.