The sign out the front of the Fyshwick cafe will gladden many a heart and rumble many a stomach: ‘‘The best duck pancakes in town. Come and say hello to Portia’’.
Yes, Portia is back.
But she’s just helping out, not running the business.
The legendary host Portia Yeung left her Kingston restaurant Portia’s Place – the favoured haunt of politicians of all persuasions – in June last year for a new life of voluntary and missionary work.
She has done just that, having studied theology in Britain and worked in orphanages in China and Haiti.
In the meantime, three of her chefs from Portia’s Place, including her brother-in-law Chi Ying Chan, bought the old Rolls Choice business in Wollongong Street, Fyshwick and opened Wok ’n’ Roll four weeks ago.
It still sells the usual gourmet rolls but it has added Chinese food to the menu, including favourites such as duck pancakes, King Island beef, Shanghai noodles and laksa.
Ms Yeung agreed to return to Canberra to help manage the business for her former chefs but, more importantly, to care for her sister who has been battling breast cancer.
She is happy to help out for a while but intends to head back overseas to do more work and fund more vital equipment for essentials such as clean water as soon as she can.
‘‘As soon as my sister gets better, I will be going back to do voluntary work,’’ she said.
And her presence at the Fyshwick cafe may encourage a politician or two to venture beyond the Parliamentary Triangle for a feed.
Word of her return has leaked out via Twitter, and she is not at all deterred by working at a humble Fyshwick cafe.
‘‘Some people have said, ‘Oh, have you got rocks in your head? You used to look after the prime ministers and the CEOs and now you look after the workers’.
‘‘But, you know, I’m a Queanbeyan girl and I started off my restaurant in Queanbeyan,’’ she said.
‘‘When I was in Queanbeyan or Kingston, the people I look after the best was not the minister, because everybody looked after them very well, but the people I look after the best are the workers.
‘‘I will make them so special and give them a cake or something because they don’t get to go out very much.’’
The cafe is open for breakfast and lunch but will take bookings for night-time functions.
ABC newsreader Virginia Haussegger was among the first to book a private night dinner and other journalists have also ventured from the press gallery at Parliament House to sample the cafe’s menu.
Ms Yeung got back to Canberra in March and will take each day as it comes.
‘‘I just leave it to God, wherever he wants me. I’m glad to be back. I can have a proper shower and sleep on my soft bed,’’ she said with her trademark giggle.
But her thoughts are still with the children she helps overseas.
Ms Yeung, a member of the Hughes Baptist Church, said her work in the orphanages was restorative rather than being depressing because the children were so wonderful.
‘‘All day, they just are happy. No sadness,’’ she said.
‘‘When I go overseas, people say, ‘Oh Portia you’ve done a wonderful job’.
‘‘In fact it’s mainly for myself and my wellbeing. After a while I will start whingeing but as soon as I come back from overseas, nothing is a worry.’’