Melbourne Restaurant Reviews: The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar

YES, this is yet another Melbourne food blog!

Golden House

760 Toorak Rd
Hawthorn East VIC 3123
+61 3 9822 3100

Adam’s mum’s birthday. Another effing Chinese place that needed to be found, this time something different from the Cantonese and Northern Chinese sit-down restaurants that we normally frequent in the city. My workmate George told me of this all-you-can-eat hot pot restaurant in Hawthorn East where $20 per head gets you all the hot pot ingredients on offer and all the hot entrees (dumplings, spring onion pancakes etc) available – plus two free drinks which you can grab from the fridge (a variety of soft drink cans, bottled teas and soy bean drinks). Then for an extra $5 per head, they throw in Peking Duck too. This sounded pretty good to us so last night after work, we drove down to Golden House on Toorak Road.

Located halfway between Coles HQ and rows of million-dollar townhouses, this is the last one that one would find a hot pot restaurant. If it weren’t for the tacky gold-painted house-cum-restaurant flashing its neon signs at motorists and the hoards of fobs surrounding the premises, we probably would have missed it.

Walking into the restaurant, it is even more obvious that it used to be the living quarters of someone. It’s very similar to Jacques Reymond in structure in that each room was a separate dining area, the main one being right in the middle of the house which also housed the fridges and buffet station where we were to get our food. Our original plan was for Adam and I to get the $25 hot pot plus Peking duck option while Adam’s parents got the $20 no duck option seeing as they’re not big fans. We were told, however, that either everyone on the table had to get it or no one gets it. In the end, we all ended up getting it so we handed over our $100 before walking to our table.

Let me tell you now that this place is NOT gweilo-friendly. All the signs are in Chinese and all the waiters speak Chinese. I lost count of how many times I was spoken to in Mandarin before telling them that “I no speak Chinese.” You’d think that they’d immediately revert to English after they heard that, but they simply looked at me confused before frantically looking around for help. Sigh. Thank goodness for Adam’s parents’ ability to speak Mandarin though.

Our hot pot stove, divided into our choices of “normal” soup and “hot” soup.

A variety of raw meats, seafood, vegetables and tofu. Most of the offerings were frozen and similar to what any hot pot place would offer.

Pork buns (they were awful – too salty) and xiao long baos (they had no soup in them).

They had doughtsticks! (sadly, they were the most bland ones I’ve ever had the misfortune of trying)

Peking Duck. I have to admit that Golden House made an alright Peking duck for the price we paid. The best thing was that we could order as much as we want which was even better. The duck was neither dry or oily, and they were good with cutting off the yucky layer of fat underneath the skins which lots of restaurants don’t bother with. Thumbs down, though, for the way they just dolloped the sauce all over the cucumber and spring onions.

There were many things that ruined what could have been a decent night for me. Firstly, the fact that no one there spoke English was appalling. One would think that anyone working in Australia, particularly in a customer-facing role, would have SOME grasp of the English language. Secondly, the place was a mess. I lost count of how many health safety breaches were present in one night alone – sticky carpets, chairs covered in a film of chilli and grease, cooked roast ducks hanging RIGHT NEXT TO uncooked ones, plus Adam and I failed to remember if the buffet station was actually refrigerated or not which, in itself, is a bit worrying. If I wanted to kill my work’s OH&S officer, Mary-Ellen, I would definitely take her here (I don’t have a reason to kill her though… she’s lovely). Thirdly, I couldn’t help but feel disgusted when I saw fobs greedily grabbing plates of meat at the buffet station – like they thought they would run out or something – only to leave the establishment without even finishing the 10 billion plates of raw meat still on their tables which, of course, went to waste. I’m one of those people who HATE the thought of wasting food, particularly meat products, so naturally I was raging inside.

Given our experience, it’s doubtful that I’d go here again. Indeed, Golden House offers pretty much the same thing as most other hot pot places but they take it a step further by introducing the buffet format which is popular among Asians. Plus, the addition of hot entrees and cold drinks also makes this place a good-value option for dinner when you can’t be bothered cooking hot pot at home. Adam and I may have hated it, but the parentals LOVED it. In fact, Adam’s mum went so far to say that it was the best restaurant we have taken her to (?!?!) *facepalms*

And if you need more convincing as to how popular this place is, you only need to look at the many mini-buses of tourists from Mainland China that arrived at this place during the evening…

12 Comments on Golden House

  1. DivisionSix6
    November 3, 2009 at 02:59 (5 years ago)

    Worse then any Dumpling joint I’d assume (healthwise that is)?Whoa!And damn… Neil Perry Wagyu Burgers & Guy Grossi finger food for all arsehole corporate guests in the Lavazza Marquee at the Melbourne Cup today >_<

    Reply
  2. peach_water
    November 3, 2009 at 08:06 (5 years ago)

    Hahaha… Did you hear all the fobs go shi shi shi?! :P MMMM… I heard Glen Iris Buffet offers the same hot pot thing too. You pay $3 for the hot pot, and you also get the normal buffet items!

    Reply
  3. funky_ass
    November 3, 2009 at 17:12 (5 years ago)

    I LOL`ed the whole way thru reading this

    Reply
  4. gracii_d
    November 4, 2009 at 04:11 (5 years ago)

    This is hilarious Lib! Btw – I work next door to this restaurant (you may have seen the Blue Cross Nursing Home Mgt Company – big glass building right next door on the cnr of toorak and tooronga rd) and I would NEVER Eat there due to what I have seen in the carpark underneath the restaurant, which is where we all park during working hours. I actually can’t believe it’s a real RESTAURANT because of how it’s all boarded up and they are never open at lunch and in the carpark downstairs it always REEKS of rotten meat. I have once seen a dirty nappy on the carpark ground and they have 2 little kids that sleep in a little shed out the back of the restaurant – we are so tempted to call the Child Protection Services. Furthermore once when I drove into work in the morning, I saw 2 CHICKENS running around the carpark!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was good to see what the inside looks like and I totally agree that it is FOB central – they always have BUSLOADS of Fobs that come and stand in front of our building and take a gazillion photos of the place! :P ANNOYING!

    Reply
  5. SNSAZN
    November 4, 2009 at 04:40 (5 years ago)

    @DivisionSix6 - Yes! I can usually tolerate less than clean places but I couldn’t help but feel disgusted the whole time I was there…@peach_water - Yep, I can’t believe I did not mention the “shishishsihi.” It was “shi” to the max!I’ve been to Iris buffet, but only for the buffet and not for the hot pot though there seemed to be a number of patrons having the hot pot option when I was there last (about two-three years ago). Maybe next time.@funky_ass - :D@gracii_d - I LOLed at your comment. I had no idea there was an underground carpark at the restaurant (I wouldn’t know because of all the tourist buses parked awkwardly outside the restaurant, thus blocking any signs of and underground carpark). I did see a couple of kids playing with their laptops out the front of the restaurant so I assumed that they were the owners’ kids. Wouldn’t be surprised if they lived there too. As for the chickens? Oh deary me… :|

    Reply
  6. I_Luv_Cocacola
    November 7, 2009 at 19:32 (5 years ago)

    You should of gone to the place near crown casino, 20 bucks and its the same format but much cleaner and hygenic. This place sounds like the mess hall(canteen) at a pow camp in a vietnam war film.

    Reply
  7. alex field
    October 24, 2011 at 12:21 (3 years ago)

    I work in the coles building and I always thought this was a brothel!

    the bus load of guys that come don’t look they came for the food.

    Reply
    • libishski
      November 2, 2011 at 12:19 (3 years ago)

      Hahaha yes, it does look like a brothel doesn’t it?

      Reply
  8. Tom
    November 19, 2011 at 12:14 (3 years ago)

    Theres so much in this review that tells me you’re a naive, xenophobic snob who has no idea about Chinese dining.

    Reply
    • libishski
      November 20, 2011 at 18:30 (3 years ago)

      As an Indonesian-born Chinese national, I was rather amused when I read your comment. Having spent most of my life in Melbourne, a city that boasts some of the finest Cantonese restaurants I’ve been to, and being exposed to a wide range of Chinese cuisines from Uighur to Peking to Sichuan, I’d like to think that I do have SOME idea. Additionally, my family is Hokkien so I’ve been brought up eating traditional dishes in conjunction with the odd lemon chicken and sweet and sour pork dishes at suburban ‘Chinese’ restaurants (whether you can classify the latter two dishes as ‘Chinese’ is a whole new topic altogether).

      The reason why I wrote such a negative review was because my experience at this restaurant was not at all a good one. I have a fantastic meal, a good review gets written; I have a bad one, and subsequently a not so positive one gets written. Tell me, who wouldn’t be disgusted eating at a place where cooked ducks are stored RIGHT NEXT to uncooked ones, and not just hidden from view in the kitchen but in front of your eyes while you’re eating? The food was not all that great (though I did say that the Peking duck was alright), nor was the service. I, however, will admit that a lot of my older entries have a tone that’s probably a tad too bitchy, especially the ones that have been migrated from my personal blog and this is something that I need to work on. But at the end of the day, why should I have to sugar-coat a review about a negative dining experience? To avoid receiving ignorant, clueless and judgemental comments from you that are designed to make me cry in the corner? No, thanks.

      Reply
  9. Charles
    May 7, 2012 at 16:45 (2 years ago)

    Libi – awesome review you are like the truth, if truth had a human form. I live in camberwell and always drove past this joint wondering WTF was going on in this obv weird restruant (no real parking, no windows, no signs etc). I went there last sat night with couple mates to check it out … We walked in, stood there for couple minutes whilst everyone looked at us (obv Chinese dudes everywhere except for one Anglo i saw hiding in the corner) like we wernt meant to be there, no one came over to us to seat us or whatever (looked like you were meant to know what to do, which we did not) so we freaked out and left.

    Im pretty sure that this place has to be connected to the Chinese mafia or similar. Down right scary, unclean and obv not meant for anyone not Chinese in a general sense.

    That said we were still keen to work out what the fk was going on. Your awesome above review has don’t that. Thank you and keep it up.

    To the dude calling himself Tom, dont be a hater man and dont ‘pop’ into blogs or anywhere and leave silly one line comments like you have above that offer nothing but a lesson how to be rude. Libi is doing a great job, sharing her opinion and calling it how she sees it. In my opinion she is spot on and has not only taken her friend and parents to the joint, she has reviewed it including photos.

    If i took photos in this place Im pretty sure the mafia would kill me. Libi has balls.

    Libi keep doing what you do, call it how you see it and never soften your appraisals. If the place sucks then tell us.
    :)

    Reply
    • libishski
      May 10, 2012 at 22:53 (2 years ago)

      Hey Charles,

      Thank you so much for your kind words! Your experience at Golden House was amusing to read and while I doubt that the Chinese mafia is involved (would be funny if they were, though!), it is certainly not a welcoming place. After my experience and after hearing other peoples’ negative experiences, I’m still surprised to hear that the place is still standing even today. I guess we’ll see if it’s still around in a few year’s time…

      I will definitely keep the honest reviews coming!

      Cheers,

      Libby

      Reply

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