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The Royal Palace Seafood Restaurant

  • Restaurants
  • Haymarket
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. pippies in a dark sauce
    Photograph: Alice Ellis for Time Out | Pippies in XO
  2. The dining room of The Royal Palace Seafood Restaurant
    Photograph: Supplied
  3. lobsters in a tank
    Photograph: Alice Ellis for Time Out
  4. pork mince piled on top of a lettuce cup
    Photograph: Alice Ellis for Time Out | San choy bow
  5. Diced beef and snowpeas
    Photograph: Alice Ellis for Time Out
  6. A range of different types of mushrooms stir-fried with Chinese broccoli
    Photograph: Alice Ellis for Time Out | Mushrooms
  7. Dumplings at The Royal Palace Seafood Restaurant
    Photograph: Supplied

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

A sprawling seafood palace fills the gap left by the closure of Sydney institution Golden Century

It was far from unusual to hear about restaurants shutting up shop during the lockdowns. But there was one pandemic-related closure that did send shockwaves through Sydney, and that was the loss of Sydney institution Golden Century

The word ‘institution’ is used too liberally, but Golden Century was deserving of the label. The Cantonese-style seafood restaurant, which opened in 1989, was the most famous Chinese restaurant in a city that loves its Chinese. It was a hit with all walks of all life: everyone from high rollers to Labor party pollies, uni students, late-night revellers seeking midnight bites, and even some big names from around the world (spotted: President George H.W. Bush, Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Rod Stewart). People came from all over to try their signature dish: pippies in XO Sauce. So, when Golden Century went into administration in August 2021, it was hard to imagine a Sydney without it.

For that reason, it wasn’t a big surprise when it was announced, a couple of years later, that a very similar offering would open in the space. And when it comes to filling that gap, Royal Palace Seafood Restaurant ticks the boxes.

You’ve got the same lively bustle, the bright neon lighting, white tablecloths and, of course, the fish tanks in the windows – from where waitstaff pluck your order of lobster, coral trout or parrot fish straight from the water. 

We’re seated near the tanks, and it’s actually a fairly dramatic spectacle to watch big fish flapping about in plastic bags on the floor while taking their last breaths and then – phew! – finally going silent and still. I don’t recall this shocking me quite as much in the past, but perhaps we’re less used to live seafood restaurants these days. On the upside, seeing your food go from alive to not is a good reminder of where our food comes from, and seafood actually doesn’t get any fresher than this.

We feel obliged to order the pippies in XO – even though the $133 per kilo price tag causes us to gasp, since we know a large proportion of the weight is in the shell. A fairly small portion of pippies (500 grams) came to $70. We guess it’s a steal compared to the $318 per kilo southern rock lobster. And the pippies are yum. The flavour is just as we remember it – full of umami thanks to the punchy XO sauce, which is made from mashing up dried seafood and sometimes pork, as well as garlic, shallots and chillies. The pippies themselves are impressively big and meaty – they fill out their shells, and it's a dish worth ordering.

We also pick the pork san choy bow, which is a winner. Chunky, hand-cut pork mince has been cooked down with salty sauces, aromatics and sesame seeds, then placed on a carefully trimmed, perfectly crisp iceberg lettuce leaf that’s easy to scoop up into a neat cup. It’s an elevated version of the san choy bow dishes I used to love crunching into as a kid.

We’re not brave enough to pick anything else from the fish tanks – instead, we put the reality of where our food comes from out of mind and order the diced beef, which comes in a glossy black-pepper sauce that coats the meat, whole snow peas and sliced shallots. The beef cubes pack good, peppery punch and are nicely complemented by the still-slightly-crunchy freshness of the snow peas. 

The mixed mushrooms with vegetables is a stand-out – it’s no vegie side-dish afterthought. A huge portion of three different types of mushrooms (noodle-like enoki, the slightly bigger shimeji, and some sliced shitakes for umami bang) are stewed in a light brown, chicken-stock-forward sauce with Chinese broccoli. It’s all piled high on a plate. The vegies are delicious served on steaming hot rice, the glossy sauce coating the grains, and the different textures of the mushrooms playing so well together.

At the end they bring out a mix of sesame as well as butter biscuits, plus a plate of red grapes and orange slices; so although we only ordered one entrée, two mains, a veggie dish and a couple of Tsingtao beers each, it ends up feeling like a feast. We realise the bill may seem a touch higher than expected because we ordered more than we needed. I don’t recall having the same reaction to the bill in the Golden Century days, but of course, it’s probably unfair to expect pre-Covid prices nowadays – everything (apart from Kmart homewares) is more exy.

A nice addition that Royal Palace has that GC didn’t is yum cha – and although we didn’t try it this time, we’ve heard great things. 

There’s a lot of excellent offerings in Sydney’s Chinatown, so that makes it a competitive space, but Royal Palace delivers on flavour, on nostalgia, and on the theatre of being able to choose your own fresh seafood – as long as you’re able to cope with seeing your food in its last moments.

Or, like us, you can just order the beef.

Time Out Sydney never writes starred reviews from hosted experiences – Time Out covers restaurant and bar bills for reviews so that readers can trust our critique.


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Alice Ellis
Written by
Alice Ellis


393-399 Sussex St
View Website
Opening hours:
Mon-Wed 10am-11pm; Thu 10am-3am; Fri-Sat 9.30am-3am; Sun 9.30am-11pm
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