Cantonese restaurant

From wedding banquets to political parties, Sydney residents share their stories about yum cha Marigold icon


Marigold, the beloved yum cha institution in Sydney’s Chinatown, is closing its kitchen for the last time today.

While many restaurants may have survived the pandemic by changing the way they operate, such as focusing on take-out and delivery services, Marigold has turned out not to be one of them.

In a statement posted on the restaurant’s website, the owners explained that COVID-19 had “changed the way we live, work and travel.”

“Unfortunately, this also affected Marigold’s business and weekday trading,” the statement said.

“With the Citymark Building being planned to expand, it’s time to say goodbye.

Alan Rao worked at Marigold as a waiter for over 10 years, but is now considering a career change. (ABC News: Dong Xing)

Alan Rao, who worked at Marigold as a waiter for over 10 years, said he was not surprised.

The lack of international students and the closure of the international border hit the hospitality industry hard during the pandemic, he said.

“I had a good and happy time at Marigold,” he said. “I will miss it.”

Various dim sum dishes on the table
Marigold’s dim sum was considered to be one of Sydney’s most authentic Cantonese cuisines. (ABC News: Dong Xing)

“Marigold is the number one place to go”

Located in the heart of Sydney’s CBD, Marigold has served the local community with Cantonese cuisine for 39 years.

The owners claim it was the city’s first Hong Kong-style Chinese restaurant.

Since announcing Marigold’s closure, Sydneysiders have flocked to the restaurant for one last taste of its famous shrimp dumplings, grilled pork buns, mango pancakes and steamed chicken feet.

Some even took photos under the restaurant’s iconic round logo and shared them on social media.

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When the ABC launched an appeal on Facebook for the memories of the people at the restaurant, the good memories and memories poured in.

“When the elevator doors opened, they thought they were in Hong Kong or Shanghai! The atmosphere was amazing, matched only by the organization of all the staff,” wrote one reader.

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“The only place my kids ate anything. And the best mango pancakes !! Loved going before a morning at the Capitol Theater. Don’t go, Marigold! We love you !!” said another comment.

The head of the Marigold group, Connie Chung, declined an interview with the ABC.

In a written response, she said the restaurant was “full of customers and everyone is busy serving them to make sure they have happy experiences.”

Haymarket Chamber of Commerce chairman Simon Chan said he took his children to restaurants when they were young.

“For many Sydney residents, they all have many memories of Marigold,” he said.

“This is why the queue is so long now, because everyone wants to leave with some last memories of Marigold before he is gone.

“Marigold is the number one yum cha place to go.”

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A remarkable place for many

Anita Setiawan told the ABC that her wedding reception at the Marigold 21 years ago was one of her fondest memories.

“We hosted 360 guests and a wedding team danced alongside our elaborate three-tier cake,” she said.

“Our menu included abalone and unlimited alcoholic drinks.

“We thank the management and staff for their wonderful and hardworking attitude to customer service during our special event.”

Photos of a married Asian couple and a wedding reception.
Anita Setiawan’s wedding reception in Marigold had abalone on the menu and unlimited drinks.(Provided)

Over the years, Marigold has often been a gathering place for Ms. Setiawan’s family and friends.

“We brought our children there and… [brought] our overseas visitors to eat yum-cha or a la carte dinners, ”she said.

Michelle Standret told ABC Marigold that she taught her son to use chopsticks when he was three, almost 10 years ago.

“We just gave him the chopsticks, and he did his best to hold them and maybe managed to put a few pieces of them in his mouth, probably mostly on the floor,” she said.

“Great fun to watch.”

A blond boy tries to use chopsticks
Michelle Standret’s son Lucas learned to eat with chopsticks in Marigold.(Provided)

Ms Standret, who lives in Lake Macquarie, said she would never miss the opportunity to eat her favorite Marigold steamed pork buns when she visits Chinatown.

It’s not just good food

Yanping Zhang, who was born in China’s Guangdong Province, said she believed Marigold was “a great place” for her children to learn about their cultural heritage because he was “very Cantonese”.

When her second son was one month old in 2015, she hosted a “full moon” celebration there.

Chinese families traditionally hold a banquet to celebrate their newborn’s first month of life, with friends and family blessing the baby with red bundles of money.

A composite photo of a Chinese baby and a dish of dim sum.
Yanping Zhang dressed his one month old son in a bib with the Chinese characters “shumai”, the name of a signature dim sum in Marigold.(Provided)

“My friends came to the party, and I got dressed [my son] in fun clothes. The characters on her stomach were “shumai,” a signature dim sum dish, ”Ms. Zhang said.

“It’s a perfect match for Marigold.”

Besides family celebrations, reunions and weddings, Marigold was also a popular place for political gatherings.

Mr. Chan said politicians would show their respect for the Chinese community by hosting events there.

The lion dance performed at a Chinese banquet
Marigold was a popular place for community and political gatherings.(Provided)

He said political heavyweights from all walks of life who attended community events he hosted in Marigold included Paul Keating, Penny Wong, Barry O’Farrell and Malcolm Turnbull.

“Marigold is a bridge for the community to engage with different people, including politicians,” he said.

A chic banquet hall full of customers.
It is not known what the spacious banquet hall at Marigold will be used for in the future.(ABC News: Dong Xing)

Chinatown must look to the future

Despite the support of the community, Marigold still couldn’t survive in Sydney’s rapidly changing food scene.

Another notable Chinatown closure this year was the chic Golden Century seafood restaurant.

Although there have been reports of a “bailout”, the future of this restaurant remains uncertain.

With the rapid turnover rate and the continued pressure of the pandemic, small restaurants are struggling with similar issues as these famous institutions.

Mr Rao said he is considering a career change once he completes his last shift at Marigold.

“I could find a job in another industry,” he said.

Sydney Chinatown Memorial Arch
Simon Chan urged the local community to work together to find a way to revive Chinatown.(ABC News: Daniel Irvine)

Mr Chan said the closure of Marigold could be a sign that Chinatown’s future is in danger and is a huge red flag for the transition.

“Once the international border opens and life returns to normal, we must bring people back. We must have something other than food,” he said.

With the city’s rich cultural heritage and unique location, Chan said larger-scale events would attract more people and revive Chinatown in the post-COVID era.

“I really believe that culture is a way forward,” he said.