How about this as a backdrop for drinking tea and eating dumplings: Chinese tile-roof structures styled like ancient pagodas, bamboo forests sprayed like giant fans, and a pond dotted with lilies and the occasional carp.

This is the scene at Gardens by Lotus, a Lotus Dining restaurant and bar in the tea house in Darling Harbour’s Chinese Garden of Friendship.

It’s modelled on the group’s main line of restaurants (Walsh Bay, CBD and Barangaroo) – a template that delivers dumplings and modern Chinese food in a modern-Australian restaurant setting.

The Gardens is in a heritage-listed tea house set in a 30-year-old semi-wild Chinese garden designed by architects and gardeners in Guangzhou, the capital of the province of Guangdong in southern China. Cheung Shui Yip, an acclaimed Singaporean-Chinese chef, was brought in to consult on the menu. There’s a Southeast Asian and dim sum touch to the restaurant’s succinct and mostly affordable menu. And a spicy influence from Sichuan.

The lunch menu is particularly brief: just dumplings and four mains, including Hainanese chicken and a cold noodle salad. Dinner brings the big hitter, Yip’s signature Singaporean chilli crab.

Chinese tea – most of it traditional and ethically sourced – is as much a focus as the edible side of the menu. TWG, a tea cafe chain in Singapore, inspired the offering. There is high-end premium tea, but also tea in the medium range.

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Updated: February 11th, 2020

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