87 Bourke Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 9972 3699
As a Chinese lass, I normally frown upon the stuff that a lot of suburban Chinese restaurants pass off as ‘Chinese’ – you know what I’m talking about: lemon chicken, special fried rice and Mongolian beef.
That being said, I’m also a sucker for restaurants and bars that try to be different and that’s what Jerome Borazio (he of 1000£ Bend and Workers Club) did when he took the old and very dated Happy Palace Chinese restaurant on the corner of Bourke and Exhibition and turned it to a hipster haven brimming with Chinese kitsch (we’re talking beckoning cats, chandeliers and crass dragon paintings here), cheap drinks and more irony than Alanis could poke ten thousand spoons at.
My work crew and I have been to Happy Palace on several occasions – once for trivia night and the other times just for Friday night drinks. If you’re a bona fide hipster, it’s actually not a bad place to linger for an hour or two – they’ve got cheap $2 pots and $2 plates of dumplings on Friday nights; they even have bicycle seats for you to sit on!
That said, I wouldn’t say the food is fantastic. It’s good if you just want something to nibble on with your beer. But if you want a proper meal, you’re better off walking half a block to Chinatown.
The dumplings were kind of bland but when you’re paying $2 for a plate of those, you can’t complain. I definitely wouldn’t pay the normal price of $5 though (why, when you can get 12 pieces of GOOD ones for a few dollars more across the road).
The boys loved the chicken ribs, which were accompanied with a sweet and tangy soy-based sauce. While I thought they were just okay, one of the boys (probably Sean) loved them so much that he even went so far to eat the bones.
They’re just fries – what do you want me to say about them?!
Ah, sometimes you can’t beat fried spring rolls. Always a crowd-pleaser.
Okay, I must confess that I’m guilty of liking the odd Aussie-Chinese dish such as the prawn toast. These ones were actually alright, despite the fact that it was more bread than prawn.
To conclude, if you’re looking for a decent feed, you won’t be satisfied at Happy Palace. As for trivia, I wouldn’t say we’d be in a hurry to go back again. There was something about the way-too-geeky-and-hipster crowd that didn’t appeal to us – this was despite the fact that we actually did have a token hipster in our group. But if you are just after drinks and nibbles in a fun environment before heading off to somewhere better, then Happy Palace will give you many happy, er, pre-endings.