Haidilao hotpot opens at Darling Square offering free manicures, plushie dates and robot waiters

Hotpot monolith Haidilao has expanded to Haymarket.
Hotpot monolith Haidilao has expanded to Haymarket. Photo: Kimberley Low

If quirky service is high on your restaurant priority checklist, mark Haidilao down for a visit. The restaurant, which recently opened above XOPP in the Kengo Kuma-designed Exchange building at Darling Square, offers a complimentary mid-week manicure if you are waiting for a table.

If you have long hair, staff at the hotpot eatery pounce with hair ties. There are plastic bags so mobile phones don't get splashed. A giant-sized stuffed toy is available if you want extra company or your Tinder date didn't show. A robot delivers meals and asks customers politely to budge if they are in the way. Staff theatrically stretch "dancing noodles" before dropping them in hotpots.

If it all sounds a bit gimmicky, it hasn't stopped Haidilao growing into a hotpot monolith in China, and as far away as London and New York. Last month its founder stepped down as chief executive and the organisation announced last year it would close multiple stores. It hasn't stopped expansion in Australia, with the Darling Square opening following its modest first toe in the local market, in Chatswood.

Tinder date ghosted you? Slot in a plushie instead.
Tinder date ghosted you? Slot in a plushie instead. Photo: Kimberley Low

We'll leave it to the reviewers to judge if the hotpot matches the service, but the Insta crowd is sure to lap up its accoutrements.

Open daily noon-8.30pm (last orders).

Top floor, The Exchange, Darling Square, 1 Little Pier Street, Haymarket