Mike (left) and Neville Hall at the Nanking Palace
Restaurant yesterday. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
A half century of chopsticks was celebrated in South
Dunedin last night.
Nanking Palace Restaurant owners Neville and Mike Hall marked
the 50th anniversary of the business with a dinner for family
The Nanking Cafe was one of the first Chinese restaurants in
Dunedin when it was opened by their parents, Hugh and Alice
Chin, in November 1963.
''We were a traditional Dunedin Chinese restaurant, like the
old Shanghai, or Hong Kong, or Dragon Cafe,'' Neville (49)
''It took a few years to get people used to rice and noodles.
Dad had to make all our spring rolls by hand because you
couldn't get the pastry here.
''In the early days, we used to get a lot of the less
desirable clientele. The customers were real colourful
characters; drunks falling asleep in their meals, fights
inside and outside the premises and people doing runners.''
The family business was a way of life for Neville, sister
Serena, and brothers Andrew and Mike.
''I started serving in the takeaway when I was 7 years old. I
would get a wooden box to stand on so I could see over the
counter,'' Neville recalled.
''After school and in the weekends, we would be helping in
the restaurant; buttering bread, making chips and cleaning.
In some ways, I'm surprised Mike and I ended up back here.
''Our parents' generation believed you should get an
education, go to university and get a degree and go to work
for someone else. So, we did that. But, then, we came back.''
Being the youngest sibling did not spare Mike (45) his share
''I started at the bottom doing dishes and cleaning, then
gradually worked up the ladder to cutting vegetables and
serving takeaways. This was while I was at primary school,''
''Once I was strong enough to carry 20kg bags of potatoes, I
was promoted to peeling and making chips. I'm pretty over
fish and chips, now.''
The adjacent restaurant was added to the cafe and the
business renamed the Nanking Palace Restaurant in 1983, with
the brothers taking over in 2005.
''It was my parents' baby and we had to prove ourselves to
our father and win his trust that the next generation was
ready to take over,'' Neville said.
''There are so many more restaurants and eateries now than
there were 40 years ago, but it's still a people industry.
And the favourites are still the same - sweet and sour and