As Melbourne emerged from its final lockdown last spring, a different kind of revival was happening at an unassuming restaurant in Aberfeldie, a small suburb within a suburb in the city’s northwest. Eight months after the Cantonese institution of St Kilda Lau’s Family Kitchen closed, chef Yip Wu and three members of his kitchen team – Tang Au-Yueng, Xing You He and Qiang Wu – have opened Benyue Kitchen, a family restaurant from southern China. .
“If you’re going to work for someone else, you have to cook what others expect of you,” says Shuna Wu, Yip’s sister, who works at the Buckley Street restaurant. “They basically wanted to keep doing what they knew best – that’s why they decided to look for a place to open on their own.”
Behind the brown-brick facade — with its ’80s suburban vibe and Spanish mission-style archways — was local Chinese restaurant Imperial Garden, which had been around for years before the new owner-operators moved in. “They came and saw the area – there aren’t many Asian or Chinese restaurants around – and they fell in love with the place, especially because it has parking, which is great for our customers,” says Shuna.
As a local of Aberfeldie, I have seen the sleepy suburban restaurant turn into a destination restaurant. The Quiet Pocket – once overshadowed by Puckle Street in Moonee Ponds and Keilor Road in Niddrie – now has its place on Melbourne’s culinary map.
Inside, the decoration has been revived, the floors have been replaced and the walls have received a new coat of paint. “We kept some paintings here,” Shuna said. “We wanted to keep a bit of history from [Imperial Garden].” Yip’s young son’s colorful artwork also adds to the family vibe of the place.
Lau’s Family Kitchen favorites such as the lamb spring rolls, the phenomenal steamed scallop siu mai, and the chewy crab omelette are also mainstays here. In fact, Shuna says 70% of the menu chains are from Lau’s, which was started by renowned restaurateur Gilbert Lau. But the focus here is on family meals. “We’ve added more of these Cantonese-style dishes — those very popular dishes — to the menu.” You’ll find crispy-skinned Peking duck, sticky honey chicken, and textured char kway teow.
In February, the Benyue Kitchen team took to Instagram to announce new menus for vegetarians and gluten-free dinners and make a timely statement about the inevitable price increases.
“Now ‘the elephant in the room’ is the subject of pricing,” it read. “With the increase in premium fresh produce in our market today, we and many others are faced with the challenge of balancing the cost spent on produce, the price of our menus, and everything in between. of them.
“With ‘using fresh, premium produce to create the best dishes’ at the forefront of our business, we realized that we will only sacrifice quality and experience if we decide to cut costs,” continues the message. “Therefore, to be as fair and reasonable as possible in resolving the issue, we meticulously reviewed each cost price to produce each dish and individually changed each price rather than unfairly raising all items to a standard level. [percentage] price increase. We have concluded that our approach to the problem ensures that you will not pay extra for an item on our menu that has not suffered from increased supply costs. »
And they are not alone. Many Australian cafes, food suppliers and others are being forced to pass on rising costs to customers thanks to the three-year pandemic and war in Ukraine. “We were hoping that the price would come down over Christmas or New Years [but] unfortunately this did not happen. Instead of going down, it actually went up,” says Shuna. Despite this, “everyone is very understanding about it”.
365 Buckley Street, Aberfeldie
(03) 9337 1991
Mon 12pm–3pm, 5pm–10.30pm
Wednesday to Sunday from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.