Fu Manchu @ The Kirketon
New digs for the Fu
Ever since Luke Mangan vacated his high-flying Salt restaurant several years ago, the high-profile space at The Kirketon has been mostly a site for ill-conceived and short-lived restaurants and bars. But now, we think they’ve finally found themselves a winner, and most surprisingly it’s a new incarnation of a Darlinghurst establishment – Fu Manchu.
Step inside, and the space feels like it was built just for the stylish tastes of restaurateur Annie Lee. Since leaving behind her nearby, long-time Victoria Street digs last month, she’s expanded her space from its tight 50-seater confines into an elaborate yet comfortable dining room that easily fits 120. The expansive room is warmly lit by lanterns and silk Chinese lamps; traditional, sliding wood screens; striking red columns; and walls funked up with vintage posters and motifs of Suzy Wong, that famed 1958 film and novel character – a Chinese prostitute with a heart of gold.
The Suzy Wong story starts in Malaysia and moves to China, which has opposite parallels to Fu Manchu’s food direction. Fu Manchu originally had a decidedly simple Chinese food direction, but our visit to The Kirketon showed an interesting evolution. The Chinese dishes are lighter and more elaborate – think specials like slow-cooked beef brisket with lotus root and Chinese dates – while Lee’s also been steadily adding dishes from her native Malaysia.
For such an elegant room, it’s surprisingly comfortable. Take a seat at the myriad of imported wood or marble tables – some brought over from Fu Manchu 1.0, but all collected from Lee’s furniture buying in Beijing, Hong Kong and beyond – and perch on a stool or pillow-cushioned bench. Then get ready for such pan-Asian delights as steamed pork ribs with black beans, fried spatchcock seasoned with five spice, lamb Beijing dumplings, and Malay-Indian lamb shank curry. It’s all served in lovely, small spiral bowls meant for sharing.
One of our favourite dining spots is the long bench in the back, where diners can sit facing the cooking action in the kitchen, framed behind glass. It’s still the same kitchen where Mangan wielded his magic at Glass, and the staff seem to be inspired by it – amazingly, the same number of cooks fit into the closet-sized kitchen of the former Fu. Another big boost since the move is the new wine list set up by importer Andrew Guard, featuring such quality (and good-value) drops as 2010 Christophe et Fils Chablis and Alsatian pinot blanc.
Fu Manchu, we hardly knew you. But some things never change – they still encourage their roaring takeaway business.
Where: 229 Darlinghurst Rd, Darlinghurst, NSW
Hours: 5-10.30pm | 7 days
Phone: (02) 9360 9424