Chinese restaurants have long been a staple of the Australian dining scene, however much their repertoire of long soup and fried ice-cream might scandalise traditionalists in, say Singapore or Hong Kong. And now, with the opening of Ricky and Pinky in a mid-19th-century public house – along a street littered with eateries and boutiques, just a couple of blocks from the Melbourne Museum – we daresay the gauntlet has well and truly been thrown down.
The restaurant’s throwback moniker is an homage to the Hong Kong tattoo parlour where owner Andrew McConnell was once inked with a dragon. Its interior design is a modernist riff – Melbourne-based Sibling Architecture dispenses with expected tropes of a Chinese restaurant in favour of bright primary colours. Gold and blue pipings bend and twist to form transparent arches and room dividers (an ode, it seems, to Shanghainese art deco), while puce leather banquettes, Bentwood chairs, blackbutt tables, sea-green and dark blue carpets, and ceiling mirrors conspire to create a mood that feels more like the Jetsons’ living room than your average Chinatown pitstop.
Meanwhile, terrazzo Lazy Susans twirl with chef Anchan Chan’s exuberantly concocted dishes of mapo tofu, deep fried quail, homemade Chinese sausages and rice fried with salted egg.