Robin Yu’s first experience of Kingsfood Sunnybank was, like thousands upon thousands of other Brisbane locals, as a paying customer. The iconic Taiwanese restaurant was just seven years old at the time.

“I came to Australia in 1997 to study my MBA at Griffith University,” the Beijing-born Yu says. “It was the very first restaurant I ate at. I wanted to have an authentic Chinese meal. Someone took me there; I had the beef noodle soup and I remember being so impressed.”

Yu would eventually settle in Brisbane in 2001 to start a realty business, and his first office was in the same Market Square shopping complex as Kingsfood. Each day he would find himself there for lunch. When Kingsfood’s original owners, the Gu family, wanted to sell the restaurant in 2009, Yu had precisely zero experience in hospitality. But he loved the food and he loved the fact that it was a family restaurant with no airs or graces. So he bought the place.

Kingsfood’s popularity has since exploded, powered along by Sunnybank’s foreign student population and the rise of social media. Punters are drawn by the restaurant’s enormous servings and a menu that now offers 150 dishes inspired by both Taiwan and mainland China.

So the most important question for Yu perhaps isn’t why he opened a new Kingsfood restaurant in Brisbane Square in the heart of the CBD last month, but why it took him so long.

“It took us one year to find the right space,” he says. “We looked at other areas, including Toowong and the surrounding areas, but where we’ve ended up is a brilliant location. It’s central to the CBD and the council buildings. You have tourists, students and office workers – it’s ideal for a medium-sized restaurant like us.”

It took Yu another seven months to finalise the lease on the premises (formerly Taste of Brazil) but the result is a 100-seat al fresco take on the original Sunnybank Kingsfood, with a 30-meal lunch menu transitioning into 160 dishes for dinner.

Sunnybank sous chef JD Huang has moved up the highway to lead the new kitchen. He’s cooking all of the Kingsfood classics – including brisket hotpot, fragrant green beans with pork mince, and crispy shredded beef with sweet-chilli sauce – along with new dishes such as a seafood laksa and a fried dumpling dish.

It’s on the drinks menu where you’ll notice big changes – Kingsfood Brisbane is supplementing its much-loved Taiwanese bubble-tea menu with imported and local beers, wine, sake and shochu (pending liquor-licence approval).

As for the fit-out, it takes the bones of Taste of Brazil and applies a simple formula of wood-veneer tables, handsome crimson-coloured chairs, and a liberal dose of red paint. Much of the seating is outside looking over the square, which buzzes during lunchtime and on Friday and Saturday nights.

“We knew the city postcode was the second most popular in terms of people searching for Kingsfood,” Yu says. “About 40 per cent of those coming into the new restaurant have had a dining experience with us in Sunnybank.”

Yu is concerned about the developing coronavirus outbreak, but says the restaurant has been trading relatively strongly since opening and he’s confident for its longterm future.

Update: This story was originally published on March 16 2020. Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Kingsfood Brisbane City is currently open for takeaway and delivery only. See its website below for more details.

Kingsfood Brisbane City
Shop 2 / 266 George Street, Brisbane
(07) 3108 4451

Mon to Sat 11am–9pm