Gung Gung's popped up out of nowhere on Instagram in mid-August.
With its muted red and black imagery and sultry captions, people started to talk. Who or what was this mysterious Gung Gung, and why was he watching us? A week later, some of our questions had been answered.
Gung Gung's is a Chinese restaurant owned and operated by Jacques Deloraine and Remy Tattersall. Theirs are the friendly faces at Equium Social in Mayfield, which they opened four years ago.
Gung Gung's has opened for takeaway only and is operating out of Equium Social, which has closed for renovations during lockdown.
Tattersall's mother, Karen Chong, has worked her magic on the menu, delving deep into old family recipes to find dishes that fit nicely with Equium's fresh, clean and modern take on food.
And as for Gung Gung, it means paternal grandfather in Cantonese. Tattersall's own Gung Gung is on the restaurant's logo.
Deloraine can't believe the response to the Gung Gung's takeaway offering.
"It's been nuts. Absolutely nuts. Everyone's hours have gone up and we've had to hire an additional three people," he told Food & Wine.
"We were going to move forward with Gung Gung's next year but decided to bring it forward to keep the whole team working. We're still looking for an appropriate home for Gung Gung's."
Chong and her home-cooked Chinese meals were the inspiration for the couple's new culinary direction.
"Remy's family cook like this most of the time, especially the fish. The steamed ling is just like dinners that we've had at her house," he said.
"It's beautiful to see how food is passed down through the family. Remy has been teaching staff how to roll the dumplings and do the wontons.
"The traditional recipes are given a modern feel. At Equium we love to use a lot of pickles and ferments, so we've incorporated that into the menu at Gung Gung's.
It turns every customer, every person with a smartphone, into one of our waiters, and it's a weird thing to try and manage.Jacques Deloraine
"Sometimes Chinese food can be quite full-on, so we've pared it back a little. We wanted it to be a really fresh takeaway option that you could easily have once a week as a family."
The menu contains everything from Vegan KFC to Cabbage Rolls, San Choy Bow and Chinese Braised Beef.
The Crispy Fried Chicken tossed in fermented chilli bean sauce and with pickled radish is the best-selling dish, followed by the Fried Eggplant with sweet soy chilli bean sauce, fresh rice rolls, herbs and peanuts.
"The chicken sells out every night. We can't keep up with it," Deloraine said.
"Everything has happened so quickly and here we are, running a Chinese takeaway operation out of a tiny kitchen - it really is quite laughable at times.
"Weirdly enough we have all these people doing pre-orders for, like, three or four days' time. Last week Friday night was sold out by 2pm on the Friday. It was bizarre.
"I remember on opening night, at 12 or 1 o'clock in the morning, all these orders started coming in and I was like 'What the hell is going on here?'
"None of us restaurant types are all over the digital element just yet. It turns every customer, every person with a smartphone, into one of our waiters, and it's a weird thing to try and manage.
"It's starting to work out really well though because we can start treating the orders like we did the bookings back in the day. You know exactly what's going to be happening.
"It's a big four nights but it's a fun four nights."
Changing to a takeaway model requires fresh perspective. A new way of looking at the product and how a restaurant can transform a dish into an at-home dinner.
Not all dishes transports well, no matter the quality. Deloraine agreed.
"We had to get rid of a bunch of dishes on the takeaway menu because you'd get it out of the container 10 or 15 minutes after it was made and it was a totally different dish. Everything's gone soggy.
"There are so many more things to consider for takeaway, things that you don't give any thought to at all when you're doing dine-in. It's strange to have the order roll full but the restaurant empty."
Gung Gung's will close for two weeks or so later this month so that the kitchen at Equium Social can be renovated. It will give Deloraine and Tattersall some breathing space to work on the packaging and branding for Gung Gung's, and to think about making some minor changes to the takeaway menu.
"It's been a lot of fun working on the Gung Gung persona we've built - it's got quite a following - and we want that vibe to come through on the packaging as well," he said.
"With the food offering we feel we are getting very close to achieving a solid base from which to start doing weekly specials and introduce some quirky stuff.
"And I have to say, we've got such a loyal following at Equium. The Mayfield community is just incredible."
Gung Gung's is open for takeaway Wednesday to Sunday, 5pm to 9pm. Order online at gung-gungs.square.site.
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