After 34 years of plying southern Chinese vegan food, Sydney institution Bodhi is closing. The pioneering diner, loved for its plant-based yum cha, will have its last service on August 7.

Owner Heaven Leigh, whose mother Lee-Leng Whong founded Bodhi, says that while pandemic-induced lockdowns and staff shortages have influenced her decision, she wants to close while the business is still thriving and spend time with her family.

“It’s with both excitement for the future and a heavy heart that I announce that Bodhi will be closing its doors at its Cook & Phillip location,” Leigh said in a statement. “I am incredibly passionate about the plant-based space and the community we have built.”

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Whong opened the original Bodhi in Chinatown in 1988, back when Sydney had very few vegan restaurants, and the eatery soon gained a loyal following. In 1998 Whong moved Bodhi into a new space on Hay Street, where it launched yum cha – now a pillar of the restaurant’s menu. It set up under St Mary’s Cathedral in Cook & Phillip Park in 2000.

While initially most of Bodhi’s diners were people with specific dietaries – not only vegans and vegetarians, but also Taoists (Whong originally opened the diner as a Taoist restaurant) and adherents to Kosher diets – Leigh told Broadsheet in 2018 that her customers were more recently a 50-50 split between vegan and non-vegan. Celebrities including Keanu Reeves, Hugo Weaving and Toby Maguire have all dined under Bodhi’s majestic Moreton Bay figs.

The eatery has become known for its dumplings stuffed with mushrooms, bok choy, mock meat and pumpkin, as well as vegan Peking duck pancakes and sweet-and-sour “chicken”.

Though Bodhi is closing, Leigh says her mission to bring vegan food to a wide audience is ongoing. “This isn’t the end,” she says.

Bodhi will have its last service on August 7, 2022.

bodhirestaurant.com.au