393-399 Sussex Street Haymarket, NSW 2000
|Opening hours||Daily noon-4am|
|Features||Family friendly, Groups, Late night, Licensed, Long lunch, Pre-post-theatre, Accepts bookings, BYO, Private dining, Events|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||Diner's Club, eftpos, AMEX, Cash, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||02 9212 3901|
It's hard to think of a restaurant that's captivated so many generations of Cantonese-loving night owls quite the way Golden Century has.
When it comes to late-night haunts that attract big names, there have been, and are, some crackers. But none that deliver such a heady good time, every time, the way Golden Century has been doing since 1989.
It's here you'll see a crazy mix-up of royalty, politicians, celebrities, hospitality workers and beautiful strangers in various states of disarray, all gathered around linen-draped tables for a succulent Chinese meal, democracy manifest.
Rihanna and Lady Gaga have both been known to enjoy post-gig pipis in XO sauce (you'll see Beyonce and Jay Z at Mr Wong, though). And post-9/11, George Bush snr was seen here surrounded by bodyguards eating Peking duck.
But what makes it a magnet for the Queen of Morocco, Rod Stewart, David Chang and Tetsuya Wakuda? Is it those pipis, sauteed in house-made XO sauce, stickily coating a bed of noodles?
Could it be the green beans sauteed with pork mince and black olive? Maybe it's the fresh live prawns lightly cooked by lamplight at the table in shao hsing wine, the meat so sweet and tender you'd just about eat them raw.
Or that off-menu number of Chinese doughnut sticks stuffed with prawn mince, then deep-fried and finished with chilli flakes. It's a situation where nobody loses – not prawn, not doughnut and certainly not you.
Related side note: If you're here for the evening's last hoorah, those doughnuts also do a very good job of being broken up and mixed through pork and preserved egg congee at 2am.
The real ace in the hole, though, depending on who you talk to, is whole crab – ordering one late at night is basically an edible letter of intent when it comes to getting great service. Now, the mud crab is my favourite crustacean for the sweet meat in those giant angry claws.
But this visit I'm talked into a snow crab, two ways – half doused in drawn butter (think James Bond circa Goldfinger – just make it a stone crab, add thick toast and a few litres of pink champagne), the other salt-and-pepper style. The meat is a little softer than a mud crab's, and the flavour a little more delicate. I'd call it a thinking person's crab.
The room, for the GC uninitiated, doesn't leave much to the imagination. It's pretty much designed to be spill-proof. Again, that's part of its charm. Because the thing you may not know is that Golden Century boasts a really extensive wine list, to the point that you could spend a day in the archives and not even touch the sides.
I'm yet to meet anyone who's done The Turn – leaving after supper at 4am close, then returned mid-morning for yum cha. But if this is you, reader, drop me a line. I'd like to shake your hand.
Est. May 1989
Famous diners: Rod Stewart and Rachel Hunter, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Neil Perry, George Bush snr, Tetsuya Wakuda, David Chang.
Signature dish: Pipis in XO sauce (market price).