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Sunday 11 September 2016

An iconic Sydney eatery gets a makeover - unfortunately

For many years BBQ King was one of my "go to" restaurants in Sydney. With whole ducks and slabs of roast pork hanging in the window, it was a favourite late-night hangout for some of Sydney's top chefs. 

The thing about the BBQ King on Goulburn Street was that it was rough and ready. Sometimes you had to share a table and the service was almost non-existent with your food slammed down in front of you with a grunt. 

But the food. Boy oh boy, it was fantastic and no one cared too much about the rough-around-the-edges ambience. 

For decades, dating back to 1983 in fact, it was a trusted Sydney food icon - until it suddenly shut up shop midway through last year. 

It reopened a few months ago, a couple of blocks away in what used to be Sydney's Spanish Quarter. 

The new Liverpool Street facility is a completely different beast. Over three levels, it looks and feels like a serious restaurant - with prices to match. There is a full menu with Peking duck for two ($88) still a favourite for everyone from socialites to taxi drivers.

There are dozens of red-shirted staff rushing around, one even offered me a bowl of hot chilli and brought it with a smile. Unheard of civility. 

There are large posters of Hong Kong, and a busy, bustling feel, but somehow it just isn't the same. Too shiny, too clean, too new.

The food, however, prepared in an open kitchen, is, thank goodness, as good as it ever was. 

I ordered a crab sweet corn soup (which badly needed some pepper), a massive slab of crispy barbecued pork and some steamed rice. And, of course, a Tsingtao beer. 

I just escaped for under $50, which doesn't make BBQ King a budget option. But the pork was so delicious, who cares? 

BBQ King, 76-78 Liverpool Street, Sydney 2000. Open daily 10am-midnight. 
(02) 9267 2433. There is, of course, no website. That would be a step too far.       

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