Restaurant News

Goodbye Golden Century?

After 32 years, the long-running restaurant in Sydney’s Chinatown has gone into administration. But this might not mean the end.

By Yvonne C Lam
A staff member cleans the entrance to Sydney's Golden Century. Photo: Getty
Iconic Sydney seafood restaurant Golden Century has gone into administration, but this doesn't necessarily spell the demise of the long-running Chinatown restaurant.
Restaurant manager Billy Wong, son of founders Linda and Eric Wong, says the restaurant was having trouble securing a lease agreement with its landlord.
"The 20-year lease at Sussex Street is coming to an end, and we haven't been able to agree on a lease renewal with the landlord," he says.
"Without a lease renewal, we will have to move out of the premises."
Tributes to the restaurant have flowed on social media, with chefs and diners bidding farewell to the celebrated late-night eatery.
"A restaurant that inspired me to want to learn and cook Cantonese cuisine. A restaurant that was a treat after a hard week at work or when I would return home from overseas. A restaurant where I met so many amazing people and have so many early memories of my early career," posted Stanley executive chef Louis Tikaram. "Goodbye Golden Century, You will be missed."
But insolvency lawyer Thomas Russell of Piper Alderman says this doesn't necessarily spell the end for Golden Century. The administration process could be a manoeuvure to provide some "breathing space" for the restaurant's owners.
Golden Century founders Linda and Eric Wong, with their son Billy, in 2019. Photo: Steven Woodburn
"Ordinarily if a restaurant has made a definite plan to close, they will appoint a liquidator rather than an administrator. A liquidation process is designed from the start to result in the shutting down of a business. In contrast, the administration process is designed to save the business and see it emerge through the other end in a sustainable way.
"With an administration process, you also have a period of four to six weeks where creditors are forbidden from enforcing their claims, and landlords are forbidden from kicking you out.
"There's absolutely no doubt if they're trying to get out [of their current situation], then this is an acceptable and orthodox way to do it."
Since opening in 1989, Golden Century has built a reputation as a meeting spot for politicians and business people; its 4am closing time meant chefs would flock there for post-service suppers and its signature XO pipis.
In Golden Century's 32-year history Lady Gaga, Rihanna and visiting dignitaries have passed through its doors; Chinese President Xi Jinping famously requested Golden Century catering to his Sydney hotel during a 2014 visit.
Like many businesses in Sydney's Chinatown, the restaurant has been affected by declining trade in the historic precinct.
Golden Century has been closed since June when the Greater Sydney lockdown came into effect.
The Golden Century Group portfolio includes The Century at The Star casino complex, and XOPP in the Darling Square precinct.