Tea-smoked duck with mandarin pancakes; delicate noodles made sticky with fine smoky bacon and chilli – this is next-level yum cha, but chef Neil Perry doesn’t do things by halves. It’s table service only down in Spice Temple’s inky den, and a little more expensive, but his ginger-flecked prawn dumplings are the most delicate iteration of things in rice skins you’ll find and the wine list is everything you expect of the Rockpool empire. Try the housemade ginger soda if you’re abstaining, and don’t miss the little Guangxi pork buns – two bites of porky deliciousness.
Where: Crown Casino
You might not expect to find great dumplings on upper Rathdowne Street, but you will. Come early to this elegant den if you want one of the downstairs tables and the trolley experience. They do a great version of the Peking duck, replete with glassy shards of crisp skin, and stout little prawn-stuffed eggplant rolls in blackbean sauce. You’re looking at a relaxed, refined experience where the waiters wear suits, so maybe save this one for when you know you’re not going to pour your chrysanthemum tea and chilli all over the linen tables, okay?
Where: 323 Rathdowne St, Carlton
Sessions: Mon-Sat 11.30am-3pm; Sun 11am-1pm & 1-3pm
Hauling a whole contingent of pals to Box Hill can defeat the purpose of an easy Saturday session. Do like Monkey Magic and journey but slightly into the west (the Docklands) for this huge, glittering palace of chandeliers, murals and fish tanks, where the trolleys pass at a cracking pace dispensing a big range of everything you want – including some angry attitude from the long-suffering guy stuck pushing the dessert trolley. The pork buns are fluffy, the chilli sauce is forthcoming and they couldn’t give a damn if you spill stuff or order a Coke. It’s our pick for fast furious hung cha.
Where: L 1/10-11 Star Circus, Docklands
We’d go anywhere for a good mango pancake. Even Templestowe. Carved dragons, a piano and man sized urns surround pristine linen covered tables, and the 100-odd dishes on the carts all have a little somethin’ somethin’ extra. Siu mai dumplings come with a spicy XO sauce, sweet suckling pig is all crisp skin and melting meat, while little mushrooms stuffed with scallop meat provide dumpling reprieve.
Where: 363 Manningham Rd, Lower Templestowe
Sessions: Daily 11.30am-3pm
They give good yum cha at this little Malvern joint. It’s the little things: plush seats, attentive tea-filling and dumplings caught in perfectly translucent skins that hold and yield at the exact moments they should. Chef Jason Au has beaten the Flower Drum so his chilli chicken wontons are mouth-numbing mouthfuls of clean shirt ruination and flat rice noodles, usually a flabby snooze, come wrapped around a juicy pack of prawns and bok choy. They’re also slinging flaky pastry custard tarts fresh from the oven. It’s a small joint, and the selection is limited but that equals high turnover and attention to detail. Book ahead.
Where: 815 Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn
Sessions: Sat-Sun 11am-3pm