Melbourne’s restaurant scene moves quickly. That’s why time and time again we see the city’s savviest operators reinventing their venues to keep up. Yesterday it was Andrew McConnell turning The Builders Arms Hotel into a Chinese restaurant.
Next week it’s Chin Chin’s turn.
“We never want to take anything for granted,” says Chris Lucas, director of the Lucas Group, which owns Chin Chin, Baby, Hawker Hall, Kong and Go Go Bar (beneath Chin Chin). “We’re constantly looking to make Chin Chin the best restaurant it can be.”
For now, that means the famously small kitchen (relative to how much the restaurant turns out) will be enlarged, and a coal-fired grill and a new back bar will be installed. The dining room will get a tweak courtesy of the Lucas Group’s usual designers, Bergman & Co together with Samantha Eades, including a blue paint job and new tables and floors. Crucially, the restaurant won’t lose a single one of its 110 seats in the process – welcome news if you’ve ever battled the two-hour wait time.
Executive chef Benjamin Cooper is using the break to refresh the menu. About a third of it will be replaced.
Incoming curries include a green with chicken meat and livers, and a southern-Thai-style goat. There will also be a new $88 “feed me” menu built around duck and crab dishes.
Exciting as all this is, it’s superficial compared to what’s happening downstairs at Go Go Bar, Chin Chin’s de facto waiting room. It will be gutted completely for a refreshed concept. Groups of eight to 10 will be able to book one of its plush booths and order dinner from upstairs.
“The bar scene has really moved on quite substantially since we opened,” Lucas says.
Recently appointed sommelier Philip Rich plans to source just a few cases of wine at a time from some of Australia’s smallest wineries to create an “almost daily wine list”. It will explore less-common varieties such as cabernet franc (a black-grape varietal) and gewürztraminer (an aromatic white-wine grape).
Chin Chin and Go Go will also have new cocktail menus that’ll feature whisky, gin and rum paired with botanicals such as preserved ginger, cassia, jackfruit, Thai basil, pandan and salted watermelon.
Meanwhile, Lucas is still working on a second Chin Chin in Sydney, a two-storey Japanese restaurant on Flinders Lane and a mysterious project on Smith Street. Like we said, Melbourne’s best operators never stand still for long.
Chin Chin and Go Go Bar will complete their final services on Sunday September 4 (Father’s Day) and re-open on Wednesday September 21.