I'm a Melbourne girl, born and bred, and new resident of Geelong. Fantabulous adventures await as I explore my gorgeous new city and the stunning Surf Coast. But don’t worry—I’ll be crossing the bridge regularly to get my Melbourne fix.
Published August 23rd 2015
Delicious Chinese food in delightful surroundings
The local Chinese restaurant has been a stalwart throughout suburbia for decades. Every neighbourhood has one, generally in strip malls, squished between milk bars and fish and chip shops and chemists and greengrocers, many with the words 'Jade' or 'Dragon' or 'Lucky' in their names. They all have the same black vinyl chairs, napkins folded into impossible-to-recreate shapes, and red and gold lanterns hanging from the ceiling. There's beef and black bean, lemon chicken, spring rolls and fried rice on the menu, and you know you can depend on them for a lazy take-away meal on a Friday night, a casual Saturday dinner out with friends, or a mid-week birthday celebration. But for the times when you're looking to step it up a notch from the the local Jade Palace or Happy Dragon or Lucky Bamboo—as lovable and reliable as they are— Favourite Kitchen, on the corner of Boronia and Stud Roads in Wantirna, is just the place.
Favourite Kitchen is located within the Golden Pebble Hotel, a rather fancy, rather modern, rather swanky hotel which has been at the prominent site for around ten years. It is perhaps a rather odd choice of location for such a hotel, given it is positioned slap-bang in the midst of outer-eastern suburbia (and generally not quite the tourist hot-spot). But the hotel is seemingly managing to survive, and the building's subtleness and low-lying design make it blend in to the area quite well, without appearing too out of place. For one reason or another, the restaurant space in the ground floor of the hotel has been occupied by various tenants since the hotel opened, and appears to change ownership—and name—every couple of years. Favourite Kitchen took over the space in September 2014, and by all accounts, looks like it will be there to stay.
Favourite Kitchen is part of the Golden Pebble Hotel
The restaurant was completely renovated just prior to the reopening, with new staff, and banquet rooms added for those who would like a bit of privacy for their special occasion. The owners are experienced Melbourne restauranteurs, and there is another Favourite Kitchen restaurant in Hampton. The entrance to the restaurant is through the hotel lobby, and as your shoes click-clack over the smooth, shiny tiles, you immediately feel as though you're in for a night just that bit more special than the local Chinese place you've been going to for years. You curve around behind the hotel reception desk to the restaurant, where efficient hosts in black suits and ties whisk you to your table. Sparkling glass chandeliers, dramatic red carpeting and gold chair covers give the room a feeling of opulence, and floor-to-ceiling windows curl around the entire length of one side of the restaurant, draping the room in natural light during the day, and sending in the views of the night sky in the evenings.
The entrance to the restaurant is through the hotel lobby, and looks just a little bit swish
Baskets of prawn crackers are brought to the table once you're seated, along with menus and pots of Chinese tea if that takes your fancy. If you're in a festive mood, there are four banquets to choose from, ranging in price from $38 per person, which includes standard banquet fare (spring rolls, chicken and sweetcorn soup, lemon chicken) to the fanciest-of-fancy $88 person banquet for those celebrations that call for something extra special (Peking duck, sauteed lobster and eye fillet anyone?). The remainder of the menu is considerable, with items such as abalone and sea cucumber clay pot, king prawn omelettes and market-priced live fish, crab and lobster sitting alongside all your Chinese favourites.
A pot of Chinese tea is the ideal way to start your meal off.
After some detailed perusing of the menu, we placed our order and let our eyes roam around the room for a bit while we waited in anticipation for our food to arrive. It was rather late on a Saturday evening when we arrived, so the main dinner rush had ended, but there was still plenty happening. There was a large group of fairly excitable women around a big circular table in one corner, the guest-of-honour complete with sash and 'Bride-To-Be' tiara, the table littered with empty champagne glasses. Off to the other side of us was a fairly well-to-do couple, their basket of prawn crackers sitting untouched as their meals arrived (as hungry as we were, we thought it probably not proper dining etiquette to snaffle the basket from their table). There were a couple of small groups of three or four, most now coming to the end of their evening, napkins tossed from their laps back onto the tables as they reached for wallets and jackets in preparation for making their exit. Along the side wall was another big round table with a Chinese family chatting away in Mandarin, the young children excited to be awake at this late hour and having enormous fun with the Lazy Susan in the middle of the table (does spinning that wheel around ever get old?).
The restaurant is big enough for big family celebrations and gatherings.
Our nosing around of our fellow diners ceased abruptly when our food began to arrive. Our appetiser of steamed dim sims were more like gourmet steamed dumplings—three different varieties, perfectly sealed and folded, the outsides soft and slightly translucent, the insides stuffed full of plump prawns. Our spring rolls were tasty and delicious, the light and crispy pastry encasing strips of shredded pork and beanshoots. Given our hungered state, we demolished our appetisers in a rather alarmingly short amount of time, the quality and freshness of them both increasing our appetite even more.
Steamed Cantonese Dim Sims and Spring Rolls...mmmm.
Our main meals soon followed, and all three dishes were brought out simultaneously. Our waiter expertly served up our Singapore noodles from the platter into our individual little white bowls, with barely a stray strand of noodle escaping the bowls. Our Beef with Szechuan Style Sauce and BBQ Pork with Plum Sauce were placed in the middle of our table alongside the remaining noodles, and we dug in and filled up our bowls (with somewhat less grace than when our waiter had served our noodles to us a moment ago).
Our waiter was an expert at serving up our noodles.
The beef was deliciously spicy and oh-so-tender. Bite-sized pieces were tossed through a luscious, glassy sauce strewed with pieces of red hot chilli, and served on a bed of shredded Asian greens (significant amounts of Chinese tea was consumed at this point to extinguish some of the fire still burning on our lips). The barbecue pork was tangy, but not too sweet, and pieces of bright red capsicum and green broccoli were mixed through the sticky sauce along with the big chunks of pork. Both dishes worked perfectly with the Singapore noodles, which was full of mini prawns and slivers of barbecue pork, wasn't at all oily or greasy, and had just the right amount of spice.
Spicy beef and tangy barbecue pork - perfect with Singapore noodles.
Almost as quickly as we had inhaled our appetisers, we finished our main meals, testament to their deliciousness. The young wait staff in their fancy red and gold jackets appeared out of nowhere and swiftly cleared our empty plates and bowls, without taking a second glance at the mess that became glaringly obvious on the plate-cleared table (whilst the sheets of white paper draped over the tables take a smidge of the classiness away from the stiff white tablecloths that lay underneath, it serves its purpose when there are diners like us, who are...ahem...perhaps a little less deft with chopsticks than others). We skipped dessert, but my sweet tooth couldn't say no to the teeny-tiny homemade almond cookies that appeared on our table a short time later. There was no rush for us to leave however, and after we declined the offer of coffee or more Chinese tea, we were left to relax for a while, and bask in our post-dinner state.
The suited hosts were polite, friendly and very welcoming
The service at Favourite Kitchen was impeccable the night of our visit, with the hosts and wait staff polite, friendly and ready and willing to please. Along with the delicious food and the rather luxurious surroundings, it really made for quite a special evening. And whilst you don't have to wait for a celebration or special occasion to pay Favourite Kitchen a visit (you will be welcome any time), it certainly has all the makings for it to be the place to go in the Wantirna area if you're looking for a Chinese restaurant that just has that little bit extra. It may in fact, become your Favourite Kitchen.