Golden Memories of the Golden Wheel

Growing up in Eastwood, and as a kid at Eastwood Public School, our family of 10 went to the Golden Wheel for dinner. As teenagers we would go there as a group, with lots of good memories.

Knowing it was soon to be closing down, some of us went there other night for dinner. Going inside and passing under the large golden wagon wheel suspended from the ceiling was like walking back in time – the decor, the staff, all exactly the same as our fond and fading memories.

The menu too, reminiscent of the times when Chinese was an exotic and daring dining choice for Australians the only one in Eastwood being the Golden Wheel.  As always, it’s Australian Chinese with all the signature dishes that are still served at bowling clubs around the country – Mongolian lamb, honey kind prawns, lemon chicken sweet and sour pork.

We order some of the them. The table has the classic “lazy susan” spinner in the middle, and even though we were the only table there to be served, the chef still rang a little bell when the meals were ready to be served.

The plates were not just put on the table, but food served to us from them with the one-handed spoon and fork technique that is not often seen these days. We spoke with Janie and her sister Susie who has been waitress there for 40 years plus her husband Alan Yu came out from the kitchen.

A quirky pair, Janie is very “second-generation Aussie” in her language and

mannerisms, and her husband retains Chinese mannerism like smiling and stooping and speaking in patchy English.

Five of us local girls, now living in various parts of Sydney used the experience to laugh together over old stories, and finishing off with classic fried icecream, we felt happy nostalgia and bid a fond farewell to a remnant of our childhood.

For others who grew up with the Golden Wheel, recommend passing by before October to give it a final spin.

Eastwood has certainly changed in the past few decades since I lived there.

The Western shops and restaurants shifted over time to suit the changing local demographic – goodbye to McDonalds, Red Rooster and so on, and hello to modern strongly lit Asian restaurants serving food you’d get overseas to Asian customers lined onto the streets, with their fast bowl of noodles or rice.

An understandable shift, indeed, as this is food and lifestyle similar to what they are accustomed to, it’s just a different lifestyle to dinning in a restaurant with a slow meal over a nice bottle of wine which is the market that the Golden Wheel caters for.

Meanwhile, Aussie families themselves have developed their taste buds for Asian food beyond the Australianified versions from the 1970s to 1990s, and happily eat at all sorts of Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Korean restaurants.

Only older Australians stick with the “Australian Chinese” dishes and as there are less of them around, it’s hard to avoid coming to the end of an era for the Golden Wheel.

It will be remembered fondly though, by many.

Michelle Sanson

Letter to The Weekly Times – Australia

4 September 2019

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