Eric and Linda Wong set the standard for hospitality in Sydney with their legendary late-night institution, Cantonese seafood restaurant Golden Century.

On Monday the husband-and-wife team were awarded The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2023 Vittoria Coffee Legend Award for providing generations of chefs, families, politicians and celebrities with pristine seafood and democratic, late-night dining.

Golden Century's signature pipis and XO sauce.
Golden Century’s signature pipis and XO sauce. Photo: Christopher Pearce

“It was the most iconic restaurant in Sydney,” says Dan Hong, executive chef at Mr. Wong in the CBD. “It’s still my inspiration for Mr. Wong and it will always be my favourite restaurant like, ever.”

For more than three decades, the Chinatown landmark on Sussex Street attracted diners from all walks of life, from pop star Rihanna to acclaimed chef Tetsuya Wakuda, with its comforting bowls of pork and preserved egg congee and fresh seafood, weighed at the table.

“We were one of the first restaurants to use scales at the table so people could see exactly how much live seafood they were buying,” says Linda. “Being honest with our customers has always been important.”

Linda and Eric Wong (right) outside Golden Century in 1989 with Siuwah Wong, one of the orignial co-owners of the restaurant.
Linda and Eric Wong (right) outside Golden Century in 1989 with Siuwah Wong, one of the orignial co-owners of the restaurant. Photo: Supplied

The restaurant’s signature dish, however, was unequivocally the pipis in XO sauce, which garnered international attention when New York-based Momofuku chef David Chang declared it to be “genuinely … the best dish in the world”.

Their success was hard-won. Eric and Linda departed Hong Kong for Sydney in 1989, with “very poor English” and two young children in tow.

“From the beginning, it was very hard,” says Linda, explaining how the family gave themselves just two weeks to find a home, enrol children Alex and Billy in school, and open their first, small supper inn in Haymarket.

Eric says their “baby-faces” and desire to “do things differently” did not inspire confidence among the kitchen staff, many of whom quit within weeks of opening.

“Luckily, because we had experience in Hong Kong for 10 years, we [knew] that if you work hard, everything should be solved,” he says.

The restaurant became a popular late-night haunt for politicians and chefs, drawn in by the midnight deliveries of live prawns, lobsters and squid.

The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2023.
The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2023. Photo: Supplied

Chef Neil Perry, who often frequented Golden Century with his staff after service at Rockpool, says Linda and Eric Wong showed Sydney what hospitality really meant.

“Hospitality is about the kitchen table, about giving and receiving, and you know, feeling comfortable in somebody’s dining room,” Perry says.

“And you really felt like you were in Linda and Eric’s dining room, and you really got a sense of that family and hospitality. That’s what has been so important about it.”

Son Billy Wong says his parents cherished the ties they formed with their community over three decades of service.

“They’re very passionate about what they do,” he says. “They love being on the floor, they love being in the kitchen, [and] they love working with people and meeting their customers who, many of them, have become best friends.”

Good Food Guide 2023 editor Callan Boys says Eric and Linda represent the very best of Sydney restaurateurs.

“Looking after their guests has always been the No.1 priority. It didn’t matter whether you were an apprentice chef after a quick post-service hot pot, or former Chinese president Hu Jintao who once ordered Golden Century to be delivered to Canberra. Eric and Linda drove the food down the Hume Highway themselves to make sure it arrived in top condition!

“Legends in every sense of the word, who couldn’t me more deserving of this award.”

Golden Century entered voluntary administration in August of 2021, however Billy now helps to lead the family’s XOPP restaurant at Darling Square and The Century at Star.

The Good Food Guide 2023 is now on sale in newsagents, supermarkets and at