This cozy space which seats around 20 people, which is near the Elizabeth Street intersection can easily be found. Just look for the queue of smartly dressed corporate-types flowing out onto the footpath. There always seems to be a traffic jam of human beings waiting to get into this place, so is the product worth the wait?
Two people can easily be fed cheaply, and it our case yesterday, we had a total of 23 dumplings for $19.80. The Chicken and Prawn Xiao Long Bao were good enough for the price but they were nothing to rave about. There was certainly not enough broth, which is the differentiating factor between good and great Xiao Long Bao in my humble opinion. Man Tong Kitchen at Crown provides plenty of piping hot broth in their dumplings, as does its humble sister, HuTong Dumpling Bar in Chinatown. You rarely have to queue for the latter. The pork dumplings, despite being great value for money and having a great taste, seemed a bit on the soggy side.
Make sure to come armed with a pocket full of coins as this place doesn't accept credit cards and be prepared to be gazed at awkwardly by the hungry and impatient customers in the queue whilst you stuff your face with dumplings or slurp noodles. The staff will take your order whilst you wait in the queue so once are finally seated at either a table or one of the four stools up against the window (where you have a good view of the people in the queue) the food will arrive very quickly.
With the leftover cash in our pockets, and because service at Shanghai Street Dumpling never asked if we wanted any beverages, we wandered further along Little Bourke Street and had coffee sourced from Bolivia at Patricia Coffee Brewers. The entrance to this small place is via Little William Street and is in spitting distance to the NAB Plaza where EARL Canteen, Movida Aqui and Paco's Tacos are all located. This place is barely big enough to swing a cat in and when you add the staff who frantically brew coffee behind a bar that is nearly as big as the room, it is pretty much a hive of activity with patrons propped up against the wall along the perimeter reading the newspaper and gazing out the window on the laneway as it is. This is one of the venues that the Sydney tourists would define as "typical Melbourne" as whilst the efficient staff make your coffee, you can languish in the laneway alongside rubbish bins until your cup is brought outside and your name is called. Did I mention that the coffee is good? They do have the Seven Seeds brand on offer which never disappoints however I did enjoy the Bolivian product.
The empty coffee cups ultimately ended up in the bin at The Deanery on Bligh Place after being exchanged for wine however before my dance with the demon drink started, I can say that I enjoyed my trip down Little Bourke Street and if you have the time, search these places out for a quick and cheap bite or for your hourly caffeine fix. For me Patricia Coffee Brewers could placate my coffee addiction until the day that I drop dead, but how fun would that be.
Shanghai Street Dumpling
342 Little Bourke St., Melbourne VIC 3000
no web site
My Rating: 12/20
Value For Money: 4/5
Patricia Coffee Brewers
493-495 Little Bourke St., Melbourne VIC 3000
My Rating: N/A
Value For Money: N/A
e-mail: epicureanofsouthbank (at) gmail (dot) com
At the time of this post, 90% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon like Shanghai Street Dumpling and a further 96% like Patricia Coffee Brewers.