As I walked into the outdoor dining area at The Gardens by Lotus restaurant in Darling Harbour, I immediately forgot that I was in the middle of Sydney. Where mere moments earlier I had been surrounded by hordes of people enjoying a sunny Saturday by the harbour, I now found myself in easily one of the most tranquil green spaces in the city.
The Gardens by Lotus is the newest venue from Michael Jiang’s Lotus Dining Group. Each of the venues offers a unique experience centred around Chinese cuisine, from Dumpling Bar in Walsh Bay to the street food slash cocktail bar, Madame Shanghai, in Darlinghurst. What The Gardens brings to the portfolio is tradition and heritage, albeit with a modern spin.
The restaurant is located within the iconic Chinese Garden of Friendship in Darling Harbour, in the heritage-listed Chinese teahouse. Jiang and his team wanted to create a menu and experience that reflected the restaurant’s location. As such, The Gardens offers a traditional high tea-style lunch menu, and by night, a localised Sichuan menu.
Lunch at The Gardens by Lotus
Lunch at The Gardens was a pleasurable experience from the moment I sat down. The lush gardens and sun-drenched pond were the perfect backdrop for the meal, while a peaceful waterfall and smooth background jazz provided the soundtrack for the day. As I perused the menu, the first thing that struck me was how concise it is. My usual experience at Chinese restaurants involves endlessly flipping through the pages and being faced with choice paralysis. But at The Gardens, this was definitely not the case.
The menu still features the classics you’d be used to seeing at your favourite Chinese restaurant – duck pancakes, salt and pepper tofu, crispy skin chicken and dumplings, of course – but each dish is crafted and presented through a modern lens. The salt and pepper tofu is seasoned with dukkah, while the crispy pork belly is crumbed in an almost ‘popcorn’-style. Dumplings are the star of the show and live up to the impressive reputation Lotus has built as being dumpling experts over the last seven years.
The Gardens by Lotus’ beverage menu eclipses the food options in length. The wine list, courtesy of Penfolds, is extensive, while the tea choices – all ethically sourced – are also incredibly varied.
Again, the dessert menu is refined, but you’ll want to leave some space for it. I opted for the beautifully presented mango pudding, a nostalgic choice that was reminiscent of the mango pancakes I’d always end a Yum Cha experience with.
An experience at The Gardens by Lotus goes beyond the tantalising menu. It offers a chance to escape the city without even leaving the CBD. Families with young kids in tow will especially enjoy the spaciousness and lush gardens.
Find out more: lotusdining.com.au
The Gardens by Lotus
Chinese Garden of Friendship
Pier Street, Darling Harbour, 2000