Thursday, February 09, 2012

Goodbye Uncle Chang's

t is a sad coincidence that just as the Chinese New Year starts, Wellington has lost my favourite Chinese Restaurant: Uncle Chang's is gone.

After watching Black Swan on Tuesday night, my friends and I emerged from the cinema disturbed and/or confused about what we had just seen. (Has anyone else not been so enamoured by that film? I'm personally cheering for The King's Speech, which I found funny, moving and inspiring - that was more my kind of movie.) I do love Natalie Portman but Black Swan had not put me in a good mood or state of mind, so we decided we all needed a drink and began walking along Courtenay Place.

I noticed that the lights in Uncle Chang's were turned off. A notice in the window said that after more than a decade of service, Uncle Chang's was closing on February 6. It said they might reopen somewhere else in the future, but that by no means sounded like it was a sure thing. Sniff.

Uncle Chang's has long been my favourite place to eat before a movie or big night out. I tended to order the same thing: a huge plate of Chicken Fried Rice for $12.50.

It sounds like the restaurant's closure may have to do with the tenancy ending and being too costly (as with the old Chocolate Fish in Scorching Bay).

I often have mixed success in handling changes like this. Sometimes I just roll with the punches and deal with it and other times I feel sad and mad about it - today I'm feeling both: I'm smad. On the night when I discovered it, I was feeling disturbed and confused already because of the movie, but then this news meant I was also depressed so I should've joined the girls in having some shots but I just went with the more tame option of a glass of wine. Has anyone else lost a favourite restaurant? Is there one you still miss going to?

Become a fan of Over the Rainbow on Facebook or follow Chaz on Twitter Last updated 11:17 10/02/2011

Natasha #1 11:34 am Feb 10 2011

Stamp n' go, it used to be on Marjoriebanks. I was gutted when it closed down.

Mel #2 11:43 am Feb 10 2011

Its gone??!? I used to work down that end of town and loved the place, now I work at the other end of town and am ashamed to discover I missed finding out about this. That place was an institution... On the plus side, I cant see the Oaks Noodle House going anywhere in a hurry!

HelenHeels #3 01:32 pm Feb 10 2011

Epic. I loved it, and I was hardcore loyal. I'm still gutted about it. And I have still not got a fave brekkie / brunch place. I dont know if I'll ever replace it.

Greasy Joes in St Kilda, Melbourne. It too was awesome, and i was also loyal. It closed down after I move back to NZ (hopefully not because I stopped going there 3 times a week) but I'm still gutted it wont be there when I go back

David #4 02:06 pm Feb 10 2011

It's been much more than a decade of service, that place was a regular hangout among my circle of friends back in my varsity days. Food was cheap, plentiful and good. We even had our reunion bash there a little while ago, and nothing had changed. So long folks, hope you do reopen somewhere.

liz #5 02:11 pm Feb 10 2011

I haven't see The Black Swan but have now heard reports from a number of people that it's a bit bizarre and that some of the weird bits are more funny than frightening. I doubt if I'll bother to go. The King's Speech is wonderful. So what if the Time Lines have been shuffled around a bit - the movie is an inspiration and emminently watchable.

Karlos #6 02:43 pm Feb 10 2011

I feel your pain - my favourite Chinese takeaway place in ChCh has been condemned and is scheduled for demolition after the earthquake. I think the Asian couple who ran the place used to live above it so I hope they've found somewhere to live and open another shop!

Steve #7 02:59 pm Feb 10 2011

I'm odd because although I also judge a restaurant on price, I won't go there unless it is sufficiently expensive. Rainbow Wellington once offered an event at Floriditas, but I turned my nose up at it because the prices were too low. How could it be good at those prices? After hearing how good it was from friends I went along on another evening. Yes the prices were still low but the food was superb! so I can recommend Floriditas to you as a delicious alternative to Uncle Changs.

Shiny #8 04:00 pm Feb 10 2011

Personally, I was one of that group that loved Black Swan, but I think True Grit was a better film (dare I say even better than The King's Speech?).

Farewell Uncle Changs. Very sad when great places like that close down. Mind you, chicken fried rice isn't a tricky dish so I'm sure you'll find another place you like. Maybe it won't be as great value as Uncle Changs always was though.

I second the Oaks recommendation for a cheap feed though!

me #9 04:05 pm Feb 10 2011

I miss Bandong on Cuba, where Hunters and Collectors is now. It was completely mad. There was a gift shop before you got into the restaurant towards the end of its life, with fake palm trees and all sorts of random junk. So bizarre. I also miss the Espressoholic of my youth (for the company and memories, not the awful coffee or dry cake) and the icecreams at the old Rialto, opposite St John's / Mac's Brewery.

@ Steve #7 - That has to be the most ridiculously pretentious thing I've ever heard, and I grew up in the KKK (Kelburn, Karori, Khandallah - the 'big 3' snobby Wellington suburbs). Silly troll is silly.

BG #10 04:58 pm Feb 10 2011

I second #3 on Epic. It was the best, even if you had to wait an hour, totally worth it!

The other cafe that I miss terribly Eva Dixons, when the Zoo one shut down I was close to tears. Then they opened a baby one on Thorndon Quay and it was average at best. Sooooooo disapointing.

Oh and the fish and chip shop that used to be across the road from Parliament. Best hand cut chips (only rivalled by Aro) and now the only Thorndon F and C shop is Starfish which is awful at best and overpriced. Lame.

lazy suzie #11 06:27 pm Feb 10 2011

Changs was my favourite haunt... many a date has seen me disgrace myself there after downing tasman bitter at home before devouring lemon chicken and getting naked. The staff there were extremely tolerant of my behaviour and the memories will stick in my mind forever. I was always seated at the same table, despite me often being in different compnay. On the big nites, I would take off my yellow Friday night shirt and spin on the lazy suzie with my mates. Business may well have taken a turn now that I am married and have kids! Oh the memories... MC

Kerflumpy #12 08:37 pm Feb 10 2011

When I used to live in Christchurch, all the pizza places I liked closed down just as I grew to depend on them. Giadelli's in the M&W Arcade (this is a while ago now - 15 years or more) and then New York Pizza on Manchester St. The latter was small and never really busy, but they had American magazines (what's that satirical one with all the cartoons? I forget) and American sports on TV, that a relative of the proprietor had taped and mailed over. Like I said, a long time ago now. But oh, the pizza was divine!

DW #13 09:55 pm Feb 10 2011

@ Steve #7 - So if somebody put a dog turd on a plate and charged you $200 for it, would you think it was the best meal you had ever been served up in your life?

CA #14 10:52 pm Feb 10 2011

That is very depressing news! I lived my whole life up until a couple of years ago in Wellington, and used to go to Uncle Chang's regularly - so delicious and so affordable!

I really miss the Treehouse Cafe in cuba mall, I spent most of my teenage years sitting up there with friends drinking coffee or banana smoothies - theirs were totally the best I've ever tasted - and playing games. They closed down so long ago, but I still think wistfully about those smoothies.

kasbar #15 03:43 am Feb 11 2011

You're making quite a few assumptions about why Uncle Chang's has closed - why get mad over something that might not even be true?

I don't really understand why the King's Speech is getting so much hype. The performances are very good, but that's nothing particularly striking about it as a film, it's quite pedestrian. Blue Valentine and Winter's Bone are far more worthy winners as far as Best Film goes. But they're just a little too indie for the Oscars!

M Hilton #16 08:38 am Feb 11 2011

Horn Kung also in Courtenay Place. First went there with my inlaws was almost a tradition to go together pre-christmas and then it too was gone so know how you feel. =(

Jess #17 08:39 am Feb 11 2011

@ Steve

What a snobby thing to say! Like #9 I grew up in Eastbourne - home of the snobs but I find that really expensive places are usually over rated and the best places are quite cheap!

I miss Il Casino.

Emm #18 09:08 am Feb 11 2011

Uncle Changs was one of the only places in Wgtn that tolerated so much drunken hooliganism. You just had to pay for any wine glasses that got broken. The food wasn't half bad either!

Leon #19 09:21 am Feb 11 2011

I miss "Mel's Diner" in Beramphore! They used to do a steak that I reckon you'd need a pack of wolves to get through, and they gave you so many roast spuds with it that you had to be careful not to completely fill up on the potatoes alone.

They also did some mean breakfasts. I remember they did epic pancakes that could keep you going the entire day.

Dangit, now I'm hungry!

The food stalls in the old Victoria Markets were pretty cool too ... I wonder if they all still exist in some form?

Gravey #20 09:56 am Feb 11 2011

Never really got into UC. We were always a regular at Shanghai, but now we only seem to go to Grand Century. Best damned yum cha ... well ... anywhere.

Ivor #21 10:07 am Feb 11 2011

Natasha #1

Stamp and Go's closure was one of Wellington's darkest moments. I used to love that place. Lest we forget.

Kate #22 10:13 am Feb 11 2011

@ Jess I grew up in Eastbourne too!! Completely agree that some of the best places are cheaper. Now in chch i like La Porchetta, which for its price is good but im sure there are better places. We go there because its cheap and close. The Bicycle thief is amazing, more expensive but so worth it in this case.

Cafe Chick #23 10:47 am Feb 11 2011

Although I haven't been to Uncle Chang's in years, there's a nostalgic part of me that is sad it's gone. It was one of the few affordable student-friendly haunts on Courtenay Place during the 90s, even if the food was at times questionable. Thanks for the memories, Uncle Chang's!

Evolution IX #24 11:09 am Feb 11 2011

The family who own Uncle Chang's also own the Lychee Cafe. Its on the corner of Cuba St and the motorway bypass.

I admit its a bit out of the way, but go there for a meal and you wont be disappointed. Chaz - you might even find your chicken fried rice there?

Steve #7 would you please pull your head out of your a** mate? That is the stupidest comments I've heard in a long time. The more expensive a meal, the better it is? Hardly!

There are many restaurants in Wellington that dont cost a fortune but serve excellent food. Oh and Floriditas is average at best.

Steve #25 01:23 pm Feb 11 2011

I think it's a matter of film taste Chaz. The subject matter of the King's speech didn't really inspire me after getting out of the cinema. However Black Swan had me awake most of the night, on edge and thinking about my own demons - I loved the experience. I was also a big fan of Aronofsky, and love Requiem for Dream, so I'm guessing it does just come down to your taste in film.

CaptPicard #26 01:46 pm Feb 11 2011

Black Swan is Fight Club for chicks!

Chaz Harris #27 03:35 pm Feb 11 2011

@Steve #25 - totally, it's just completely not my kind of film. I like a good thriller or horror, but I just didn't want to even be thinking about it. It was successful in provoking a reaction, but King's Speech filled me with joy and inspiration.

The true test is if I would watch a film again if it came on TV, I would buy King's Speech on DVD, I would change the channel and avoid Black Swan. All about personal taste.

Alex #28 01:28 pm Feb 15 2011

Chicken Fried Rice!? Be more adventurous

Emma #29 11:02 pm Feb 15 2011

I had a similar feeling when Meow took their chicken sandwich off the menu. That was a dark, dark day in my life. :(

J Cox #30 12:30 pm Feb 17 2011

I remember my days there in which I use to order the sizzling ginger beef. It was this combined with potent ranfurley which I drank in large consumers before driving my Holden down the wrong side of Ironside Road and heading into Changs. This receipe lead to disaster and often found me stumbling around Courtney Place with my jersey inside out and the tag at the front. It also led to me trying to pick fights with Mongrel Mob member few the Cue Room window. How I miss these days at Changs and it is with sad loss I say goodbye. PS I now drive on the right side of the road. J C

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