By many measures, Thai eatery Chin Chin is the most successful restaurant Melbourne has ever seen. It opened in mid-2011, with queues from day one. But unlike most of its peers, that initial hype hasn’t faded. If anything, it’s intensified.

After appearing on Masterchef and a swag of international food blogs, Chin Chin has become as much a tourist destination as a local staple. Unashamed imitations have sprung up in other Australian cities; and owner Chris Lucas has leveraged its reputation to open three more restaurants in Melbourne (Baby, Kong and Hawker Hall) and a Chin Chin in Sydney.

So why is Chin Chin still such a magnet after all these years?

One: the vibe. Chin Chin was one of the first restaurants in the city to purposely cultivate a dim, lively ambience, and the upbeat playlists positively boom from the Urban Intelligence sound system.

Two: Benjamin Cooper. The Lucas Group’s executive chef knows his way around Thai cuisine as well as any Australian chef. Except maybe David Thompson, who he trained under. From pad thai to fiery papaya salad, roti to massaman curry, Chin Chin’s vivid dishes are a testament to Cooper’s ground-up approach. Each week, the kitchen staff hand-picks about 7000 bunches of coriander, Thai basil and Vietnamese mint, rather than accept the bruising, imperfect work of a machine. You can taste the difference.

Three: service is fast and efficient – for drinks especially. The Lucas Group has its own line of Asian-style beers (Shiki) and stocks plenty of others at Chin Chin (and GoGo Bar downstairs). The company’s wine consultant Philip Rich oversees a list of interesting picks from home and abroad; and the cocktails are bar-quality.

Add these three pillars together and you get pure fun. A visit to Chin Chin feels less like a meal and more like a party. And even after all these years, we’re still willing to wait for that.

Contact Details

Updated: June 3rd, 2024

We do not seek or accept payment from the cafes, restaurants, bars and shops listed in the Directory – inclusion is at our discretion. Venue profiles are written by independent freelancers paid by Broadsheet.