Light and bright with a great deal of character, Jade Temple is a substantial move away from Eleven Bridge for Neil Perry. The famous chef’s short-lived “fine-casual” restaurant, which replaced Rockpool last year, was all dark and moody compared to this majestic makeover helped by two beautiful cast iron Chinese guardian lions which stand guard while the rest of the interior is beautified with traditional Chinese artwork, custom-made bamboo chandeliers and wooden shutters.
Duck drying cabinets and live seafood tanks should hammer home the message that this is the more casual, younger sister to Australia’s beloved Spice Temple brand, a conscious move back to Cantonese style dining as opposed to the profiles of Sichuan, Yunnan, and Hunan which define Jade’s older sibling. This means that Neil has a platform to convincingly start a yum cha scene going on, rivaling nearby Mr Wong for the higher-end of tea and dim sum driven social sessions.
Jade Temple started doing yum cha just a few months ago and has since been pushing lazy weekend bookings as one of the best ways to experience the still-fresh restaurant, a wise move given Sydney’s tried and tested love of the Cantonese tradition. The quiet and intimate layout of the space, which has tables neatly spread out within those heritage walls negates the need for the more quiet and lively atmosphere often attributed to the more casual yum cha booking. You won’t get any staff rolling stacks of dim sum to your table; rather it’s all nice and easy here, with an a la carte menu, cocktail menu, plus a special tea menu neatly laid out on the table for you to pick and choose from.
The tea menu is fantastic, featuring blends from around the world with each listing accompanied by a glass case in which the tea is displayed. The friendly staff are more than capable to suggesting perfectly paired blends for whatever food you happen to order, offering a full tray of beautiful traditional tea cups, of varying sizes and shapes, for guests to choose from. Small details like this make up for the quieter yum cha experience.
For cocktail lovers, there’s a nice list of signatures served in eye-catching ornamental statues with a straw sticking out of them, just to reiterate to move towards a fun and casual atmosphere, which seems to be the general direction for the majority of Rockpool Dining Group’s recent ventures.
If you’re heading for lunch with a group of friends you’ll get access to the full a la carte yum cha menu with the essential ordering at the very top of the list: the signature Jade Dragon Dumpling ($12 each) with a beautiful and generous mix of scallop and king prawn. The use of sustainable and flavour-rich Australian seafood is a big benefit here, although the dumplings could be larger given the cost. Similar things can be said about the more meat-focused options like the biscuit-like BBQ Pork Puff ($15) and bug-shaped Wagyu Puff ($15), both extraordinary while they last, filled with soft, tender and steaming meat revealed through a thick layer of crumb.
Just as impressive is the egg-shaped BBQ Duck Dumpling ($15) but to avoid a stacked bill it’s not the end of the world if you skip over this one. Instead, save room for a few of the Water Chestnut, Bok Choy and Black Fungus Dumpling ($12 each) or the Phoenix Dumpling with Steamed Blue Eye ($12), both moreish with thin, silky skin.
The Steamed BBQ Pork Bun ($12), a favourite for yum cha lovers, is neither as rich or as generous as other yum cha favourites; disappointing but more than made up for with plenty of superior options on the menu. For dessert, there’s the Molten Duck Egg Custard Bao ($12) which is well worth the time for those who like their desserts with multiple flavours coming into one. For those who just want something sweet to finish on, there’s the Egg Tart ($12).
For the larger groups it’s worth looking beyond dumplings to the other parts of the Cantonese menu to fill the table with more substantial dishes. There’s some great looking options here, and if Perry has proved anything it’s that he is one of the country’s most reliable when it comes to making Cantonese dining accessible for Australians who may not necessarily want to go through plates upon plates of delicious and cheap chicken feet.
Only time will tell if Jade Temple’s yum cha ends up even close to the level of nearby Mr Wong, but this is a nice start for Spice Temple’s little sister; no doubt helped by the beautifully designed golden glow of the dining room which is a far cry away from what Sydney locals are used to from the iconic Bridge Street address. Adding a few more options and establishing some more unique dumplings could help a great deal, especially since there’s a premium price tag involved.
Address: 11 Bridge St, Sydney NSW 2000
Contact: (02) 9252 1888
Hours: Mon-Thurs 12pm-3pm + 6pm-11pm; Fri 12pm-3pm + 5:30pm-11pm; Sat 11:30am-3pm + 5:30pm-11pm; Sun 11:30am – 3pm + 5:30pm-10pm
Feature image credit: Tom Ferguson