16th April 2008
Diners heading along Jervois Rd for Peking Duck will now have to fly further afield,, discovers Jacqueline Smith
Auckland diners are mourning the closing of a Herne Bay restaurant renowned for serving succulent Peking duck for 25 years. Empress Garden, a family-owned Chinese restaurant, opened in the old corner store on the no-exit end of Jervois Rd in 1983. Even though it's some distance from the other renowned eateries and bars of Jervois Rd, famous and regular faces have always flocked to the restaurant and it has been voted Metro's Chinese restaurant of the year for the past two years. Food writer Connie Clarkson, who was a regular, says the closure is a loss to the community. "There's very little Asian food in the area it was a beacon in the dark." Ms Clarkson says it won the hearts of Aucklanders because the food was consistently stunning and the owners always managed to welcome everyone through their doors. "It's always been a charming spot in that area." Paul Sharp, a wine consultant who would dine at the restaurant every couple of months, says he is left wondering where he will get Peking duck from now. "One of the things I enjoyed the most about it was when they would bring the whole duck out for you to see. People who hadn't been there before would have their eyes popping out." Mr Sharp says the restaurant must have witnessed big changes on Jervois Rd.
Longtime resident Frank Randall, 88, has seen the site change from a corner store to a dairy to a fruit shop, to a leadlight window shop. "I hope it stays a restaurant. It's pretty good," he says. There's a lot of history on the little corner, he adds. Many residents from the Jervois rest home, where Mr Randall now lives, often dined at the restaurant and he says they will miss it. Now, just like the patrons, Empress Gardens' formica tables and red paper lanterns wait to hear the fate of their building. For now, there is just a square of white paper taped to the window: "It is with regret that we advise patrons that we are closing the restaurant on Sunday April 6 having been in business for 26 years. Our immediate plans are that Joseph and I will have a holiday while we explore the sale of the business of the restaurant and the premises. We have been privileged to serve you over the years and this has greatly contributed to the goodwill and reputation of the restaurant. Many of you have become close friends and we hope these friendships can be maintained. Signed . . . Cilla and Joseph Tsui."