Dine at Dumpling Hours on Auckland’s Wellesley Street and you’ll be surrounded by pastels, with pale blue walls, glowing pink neon signs and three-dimensional flower motifs sprawled across one side of the room.
It’s a bright and cheery place to have a meal, and when Broadsheet visits at lunchtime on a dreary winter Tuesday, it’s doing a roaring trade, with the light pink and white chairs filling with students and city workers on their lunch breaks.
They’re ordering steaming dumplings, chilli oil-drenched wontons, bowls of braised beef noodle soup, and crispy popcorn chicken – all of which have one thing in common: the price. Every dish at Dumpling Hours is $12, no matter what it is.
“[With the] living cost increases right now, we were noticing that some of the students or people who work nearby, they are looking for something that’s at a reasonable price so they can have more options,” says restaurant manager Jane Yu.
Having opened in May, Dumpling Hours’ menu includes a lot of Shanghai- and Jiangsu-style dim sum, along with stir-fried dishes and more. The idea is that they’re quick and easy to enjoy during a lunch hour or for a casual dinner.
There are several varieties of handmade xiaolongbao (Chinese soup dumplings), which is one of the chef’s specialties. Another chef, originally from the Jiangsu province, knows his way around great buns and noodles.
Order cucumber salad and bang bang chilli chicken with peanuts, several varieties of steamed buns or sauteed vegetables. $12 will get you 10 pork and cabbage dumplings, a big bowl of pork wonton soup or dan dan noodles, egg fried rice or mapo tofu. For a quenching and refreshing finisher, try the chilled mango sago pudding – almost like a tropical smoothie in a bowl.
Owner Johnson Feng also has The Taste of China nearby on Lorne Street, which Yu says caters to slightly more formal occasions, while Dumpling Hours is more laid-back. “You feel relaxed here.”
Dumpling Hours is open seven days a week and the plan is for the offering to remain for at least the next eight months to a year. Yu says the team is currently scouting locations for another store, with more to offer on the horizon.
18 Wellesley Street East, Auckland CBD
Mon to Sun 11am–9.30pm