There’s a surprise ingredient in the blackened char siu pork belly at Lotus Dining’s latest restaurant, Lotus Dumpling Bar Circular Quay.

“We use Vegemite in the marinade – I quite like this flavour – it goes well with our soy sauce,” group executive chef Steve Wu – whose menus often take classic dishes and push them a step further – tells Broadsheet. “The dish is special because it’s not prepared the traditional way. We double-cook the meat: first with sauce in a pot until it’s very tender, then roast it just before serving. The flavour is more concentrated.”

If you’ve been to Lotus Dumpling Bar in Summer Hill, much of the menu at Lotus Dining Group’s new spot in Quay Quarter Tower will feel familiar. But Wu says it’s been tweaked for a CBD crowd.

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“We’ve kept the signature dishes, like pork xiao long bao and XO scallops with yu char kway [chewy Chinese doughnuts] to soak up the sauce, but we’ve also added a few more chicken dishes and items to cater to any dietary requirements. If you’re vegetarian, pescatarian, you can’t have pork, you’ll always find something suitable,” he says.

Small plates make up the bulk of the menu with a few meat dishes, and there’s also noodles, such as nutty dan dan noodles with pork mince. For the new chicken dumplings, shiitake mushrooms are incorporated into the filling and the crisp parcels are deep-fried rather than steamed, then served with a green chilli vinaigrette. Chicken wings are made Sichuan-style, with dry, mouth-numbing chilli dominating the house-made sauce. There is also a rainbow-painted dumpling currently on the menu, in celebration of Vivid Sydney 2023.

Acknowledging that CBD diners are more likely to seek wines by the glass than by the bottle, all but one wine at Quay Quarter is available by the glass.

Quay Quarter is the first Lotus venue that spans two levels. With about 30 seats, including an outdoor counter, the space is still compact, but two levels meant the group could be creative with the fit-out, giving guests a different experience based on whether they’re sitting at street level or upstairs.

“You know, the most beautiful place in a restaurant is the bar, and you can see ours from the street,” says Wu. “It looks very nice when you walk by. The kitchen is on the second level, it’s open and we have a big window so as people walk around the building, they can see the kitchen pass and the chefs making dumplings.”

With seven venues across Sydney, from formal dining rooms to dumpling bars, the Lotus team is practiced at opening new spaces. But Wu says while the quality of food and service remains consistent across every venue, Lotus is not about making carbon copies.

“All the restaurants are a little bit different. We have a different strategy for each one – Galeries and Barangaroo are more formal, [where] families might go for dinner; our dumpling bars are for people to have a quick lunch and a glass of wine, but if you want to stay, you can.”

Lotus Dumpling Bar Quay Quarter

R2016/50 Bridge Street, Sydney (Enter via Young Street)

(02) 7258 6778

Mon to Sat 11.30am–9pm