Brisbane is in the midst of a Chinese-food resurgence. Little Valley opened in the Valley a couple of months ago; Howard Smith Wharves’ Stanley is ready to press go in early December; and King Tea switched its menu to a classy Chinese offering in June. They join enormously popular established operators such as Happy Boy and Sichuan Bang Bang.
Now comes Donna Chang. After numerous delays, Ghanem Group’s spectacular 120-seat, modern-Chinese restaurant opened on the weekend in a 1920s-era bank in the CBD.
“We’ve all grown up with [Chinese food], but there was always [potential for] more,” says Donna Chang’s general manager, Shawn Gomes. “[We] want to show our guests there is a next level. There’s not just sweetness, there’s also sour, hot, and numbing that comes with Chinese food.”
Donna Chang joins Ghanem Group’s diverse portfolio of restaurants and bars, which includes Blackbird Bar & Grill, Byblos and Lord of the Wings. The initial plan was to open Donna Chang in early June, but then came the often-complex development rules that govern heritage-listed spaces.
“The delays we faced came from maintaining the heritage aspects of the site,” Gomes says. “Every time we went to do something we [had to] make sure we were doing the right thing with the heritage council.”
The former bank features high ceilings with intricate carvings – entry to the bathrooms is through the old vault. The fit-out is light and spacious, with hanging chandeliers, plenty of pastel colours and some greenery. Upstairs are private dining rooms with their own wine cellars. Downstairs is a separate bar, also owned by the Ghanem Group, called Boom Boom Room.
The kitchen is led by group executive chef Jake Nicolson and head chef Jason Margaritis (ex-Spice Temple Melbourne). The large dinner menu is broken down into a number of sections. Starters include stir-fried egg noodles with lobster and XO sauce. Dim sum includes chicken and caviar siu mai. For something larger, you might order roasted half duck with Davidson’s plum and five spice, or whole giant grouper roasted in paperbark.
Group sommelier Penny Grant has compiled a 100-bottle wine list with plenty of riesling and light reds. There’s also a number of beers on tap and by the bottle.