It’s billed as the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant, and it has just opened in Melbourne to scenes reminiscent of the Grand Final parade. Tim Ho Wan, the international franchise that grew out of a tiny hole-in-the-wall Hong Kong dumpling house, has now grown to more than 20 outlets across Asia and Australia. Consider it the mouse that roared.
It’s easy enough to find on Bourke Street: just look for the lines snaking around the block. Yep, the bad news is, this place doesn’t take bookings, so unless you’re eating at decidedly off-peak hours, expect lengthy queues.
And now for the big question: is it worth it? In a word, yes. The signature sugar-dusted barbecue pork buns are a revelation. No great shakes in the looks department – they’re baked rather than steamed so they disconcertingly resemble dinner rolls – they do a brilliant sweet/savoury tango in the mouth.
Also worth hitting: the translucent spinach and prawn dumplings (almost too pretty to eat), fried wonton skins filled with prawn and finished with a tingly squiggle of wasabi and salty fish roe, and the light and airy steamed egg cake, a dessert that actually does justice to its predecessors.
The space itself is a cafeteria for the modern age, with mossy greens and Scandi blonde wood. With lightning-fast service, no booze list and fairly deafening noise levels it’s not a place to linger, but with dumplings like these it’s a place to long for.
Location: 206 Bourke Street, Melbourne
Atmosphere: A fancy modern cafeteria filled with Instagrammers
Open: Seven days for lunch and dinner (from 10am-10pm)
Big tick: Staff keep their cool – and their smiles – despite the siege-like state
Must try: Pork buns