Keepin’ it in the family

North East China Family

305 Flinders Lane, CBD (just near corner of Elizabeth)

I’m calling it, North East China Family (or NECF as I lovingly refer to it) is my favourite CBD dumpling restaurant. It’s not necessarily the best Chinese in the city, or even the best dumplings, but the price, atmosphere, quality and selection all combine to make this place my go to choice for little pockets of Asian dough wrapped joy when I’m in the city.

I skipped out of work at an exceptionally reasonable time on Monday night to walk down to NECF with my work wolfpack R, A and I.  At 6pm we easily got a table for 4 and would have been able to get one at any stage right through until 8pm when we left.  The place does get busy at lunch time though so if you’re going with a group it’s worth calling ahead to book.

All 4 of us have been to NECF a number of times and are seasoned dumpling eaters in general so we didn’t bother looking at the menu. The service is the key downfall of this place, sometimes being painfully slow – even without having to look at the menu at all we waited 15 minutes to order with only 2 other groups in the restaurant.

North East China Family

Between the four of us we ordered:
Fried beef and onion dumplings (15 pieces, $9.50)
Steamed pork and cabbage dumpling (15 pieces, $8.00)
Fried chicken and prawn dumping (15 pieces, $12.00)
Spring onion pancake ($6.00)
Salt spice squid ($18.00)

For a group of boys (and me) we normally go by a 1 plate of dumplings per head plus a side formula – here we went a little soft and substituted the squid for a plate of dumplings. Just the right amount of food and $12 a head? That’s what I call value.


Clockwise from top right: Steamed pork and cabbage, fried beef and onion, fried chicken and prawn)

The dumplings here have a good skin on them, not too thick, although the steamed in particular can get a little gelatinous. Any dumplings on the menu here can be pan fried for a $1 surcharge and are never too oily. Be warned though, often there are big delays when it comes to the fried. The staff are also sometimes strangely reluctant to sell them, I was once told that we couldn’t have fried because ‘the frier’ had gone home but after asking a different waitress the plates started appearing anyway.

The fried beef and onion are a classic and always good, definitely one to get fried rather than steamed though. The pork and cabbage were good as always (and are my pick of the pork varieties over the pork and celery). The highlight of tonight though were the fried chicken and prawn with a large ball of tasty, tender filling without too much juice. We didn’t have them tonight but I can also recommend the Leek, shrimp & egg dumpling even though they do have a bit of a tendency to fall apart.

I found both the spring onion pancake and the salt spice squid a little disappointing tonight. I’ve had good experiences with both in the past (mainly at lunch even though the squid is listed in the not-available-at-lunch section of the menu previously titled “dinner for only”) but tonight the spring onion pancake was a little too oily and the squid had too much pepper and wasn’t as crispy as it generally is.

Spring onion pancake   Spicy salt squid

The dateability of this place is pretty much non-existent. The cheap but clean (and oddly christmas themed) dining room doesn’t include many 2 seat tables and if you do go with 2 people you’ll often end up seated on one side of a 4 or 6-seater which can make for an awkward meal.

Overall NECF serves up consistently good dumplings at Camy’s Shanghai Dumpling prices (but with less chance of food poisoning).  So, as the slightly soy-sodden table number sign says go forth and “make pieces of happiness together curl up the earth delicacies”.

 Table number

North East China Family on Urbanspoon

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  • I

    Just a warning for young players about bookings. Often the friendly staff member on the phone will tell you that either NECF doesn’t take bookings or you won’t need one. Don’t listen to them! They do take bookings (I know, because I have made bookings before) and often you will need a booking (particularly at lunch, as Marg says).

    I also think that Marg has undersold the price of the spiced squid at $15. I think it is actually $18 (just before you run out and start blaming the carbon tax for inflation on dumpling menus). Correct me if I’m wrong Marg!

    • Marg

      You’re spot on about the price of the squid. I’ll fix it up and bow down to someone with superior dumpling skills. I don’t do that often.

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