The North Sea, one of the oldest Chinese restaurants in Townville is to close a year after reopening in its new premise near Central Station

John Millen |

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Voice 1:         The North Sea, one of the oldest Chinese restaurants in Townville is to close a year after reopening in its new premise near Central Station. The announcement has come as a shock to many customers.

Voice 2:         Twelve months ago, the restaurant moved from its original site near the Empire Theatre. The restaurant had always been famous for its unique architectural style, its celebrity endorsers, and, of course, the delicious food it served. 

Voice 1:         In a press statement last week, co-owner Alex Li said “Regretfully, the North Sea restaurant will close the week of November 11. We have been fortunate to work with our talented chefs and wonderful front-of-house staff over the seven decades we have been serving amazing Chinese food in Townville. We are holding a ‘Farewell night’ on November 15 from 8pm to celebrate our time in Townville with our customers’ support. We thank everyone who has supported the North Sea.”

Voice 2:         According to Li, the North Sea’s last lunch service is on Friday, November 15.  And now, we’ll have a look at this iconic restaurant’s history.

Voice 1:         The North Sea was opened by Alex Li’s grandparents in 1950 when they moved from Hong Kong to California. Together with his Taiwanese wife, Lai Hui-yin, Li Ching-yu founded the soup dumpling restaurant. It received rave reviews over the next couple of years, and before long, customers had to wait over an hour for a table.

Voice 2:         Despite not having any culinary training, the couple was able to adapt to the local taste while staying true to their philosophy of delivering affordable, authentic Chinese comfort food.

Voice 1:         Indeed. The restaurant’s heyday was in the nineteen-eighties and nineties. The North Sea was a prominent feature of Townville’s art and culture scene, and was the favourite hangout for generations of celebrities, artists, and musicians. One could be sure to spot a celebrity diner happily tucking into a basket of soup dumplings at any time of the day.

Voice 2:         Apart from having a cult status in the culinary world, the couple is a patron of the arts and have been supporting emerging artists. The walls of the North Sea are lined with artwork by contemporary artists, most of whom had just started out painting when Li saw the potential in their works. Today, many of them are world-renowned artists.

Voice 1:         Sadly, the restaurant lost its lease last year when the new owners who purchased the building decided to convert it into a boutique hotel. The North Sea moved to its new premises next to Cornwell University last year, and their grandchildren, Alex and Maggie Li took over the business. 

Voice 2:         Even though they retained the original restaurant’s concept, it wasn’t to be.
                     Also, the younger crowd was just not ready to dine in an establishment that was
                     half-restaurant and half-art gallery. 

Voice 2:        It’s a heavy heart that we bid farewell to the North Sea. According to Alex, he is already looking at opening a new fusion restaurant next year. We hope he’ll continue his grandparents’ legacy.