In Short: Marigold Yum Cha has been a long time institution on the Sydney Yum Cha scene. It was one of the places where Sydney folk would flock to on the weekend and be guaranteed that they walk away with a good feed at reasonable prices. We visited one last time before the doors closed permanently. It was nostalgic, and stayed true to being delicious and opulent!
When it was announced in November 2021 that the famous Marigold Yum Cha in Sydney’s Chinatown was closing its doors after being in business for 39 years, you could hear and read of the collective shock and horror (myself included!) across traditional media and social media. This is a restaurant where if we had a yum cha craving, we would wake up early and brave the queues. Once we got assigned a table, we would get a feeling of euphoria and pride as we walked in with the cheongsam suited hostess, who would then attempt to help us settle in by asking us the Chinese tea of our choice. We then peered, craned, and wished the carts to head our way to then quiz the aunty as to what delights she had in her trolley.
This kind of yum cha experience is fast becoming a thing of the past as people become more accustomed to ordering food from a laminated menu. It was also hard for most of the food industry to survive the many months of Covid lockdown, as these restaurants thrived on the business generated by customers dining in, especially in central Sydney. You could still get some business from take out, but with the reduced number of allowed diners, coupled with the loss of overseas customers and big event banquet bookings disappearing, it was going to be a long road to recovery for any big established restaurants like Marigold, if at all possible.
So it’s with a heavy heart that we embark on one last soirée to dine at Marigold Yum Cha. As good as Marigold’s Yum Cha cart menu is, for our last meal at Marigold, we instead opted to order from their à la carte menu as we were celebrating my birthday at the same time.
Luckily for us the evening menu does contain a few bamboo baskets to choose from. Of course, we could not look past Har Gow. At Marigold, the prawn dumplings are plump with a thin, translucent wrapping. Biting in reveals a sweet prawn flavour and it is steamed to perfection. We had to get two baskets so that little Sammi could have 4 of them to herself! It is the quintessential Yum Cha item and while we would miss Marigold’s take on this classic, we are grateful that we got to sample it one last time.
In the recommendations page of Marigold’s menu, there are a couple of dishes that are deemed as the specialty dish of the restaurant, and one of them is the Roast Pork Rib in Housemade Sauce (宫 廷 醬 烤骨). Delicious pork ribs are marinated in a house sauce then roasted for several hours until it’s fork tender and the fat properly rendered. The ribs are then served on a plate with the ribs swimmingly covered in the deep rich and glossy juice that it was cooked in, with a piece of coriander on top as decoration. This dish is best eaten with a bowl of hot rice to make the most of the gravy.
I love noodles. To me, the appeal of noodles lies in the fact it’s fun to eat, it soaks up all the flavours from the other ingredients that it is cooked with, and only needs a very minimal seasoning to make any noodle dish shine. One of my favourite Chinese restaurant noodle dishes is Braised E-fu Noodle with Mushroom and Greens (仙泛蓮池). E-fu noodles have a spongy and chewy texture, which allows them to soak up all the sauce they’re cooked in and in this case, it is just simply the noodles seasoned with oyster sauce and stir fried with mushrooms and slices of green onions to give it some colour and an added crunch factor.
One way to add glamour to your Chinese meal is to order a roasted Peking Duck. Here at Marigold, Peking Duck with minced duck san choi bao (北京片 皮 鴨 一隻 及 鴨蓉生菜 包) is the way to go. Firstly the roasted duck’s crispy red skin is expertly removed in thin slices and wrapped inside a pancake with sugar and sweet bean sauce. With each mouthful of the pancake you get the deep rich flavours from the duck enhanced by the sweet bean sauce. This is one dish that spells luxury.
We cannot begin to understand the factors that go into closing down a popular and iconic restaurant, but both 2020 and 2021 have been extremely challenging years. It was a certainly an experience spending a couple hours sampling Marigold one last time along with hundreds of other diners that night.
And so, it’s with a heavy, yet grateful, heart that we say “Thank You” and bid farewell to an iconic Sydney Chinese restaurant while fondly looking back at all the special memories that were created in the restaurant during its 39 years of business. We spent more than 25 of those years going to Marigold, and will definitely miss it.