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What’s with power-broking politicians and Chinese food in Kingston?

Kingston's Chinese restaurants continue to strengthen their reputation as venues for chopstick diplomacy thanks to yet another intimate meeting between Clive Palmer and senior cabinet members.

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Mr Palmer, without jacket or tie, was joined by Education Minister Christopher Pyne and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann at the China Plate restaurant on Wednesday night, a venue known to locals for its Yum Cha offerings.

The dinner is another sign a one kilometre stretch of Kingston remains the home of after-hours lobbying, negotiation and last-minute number counting on the eve of political coups.  

Clive Palmer meets Christopher Pyne and Mathias Cormann for dinner in Canberra
Clive Palmer meets Christopher Pyne and Mathias Cormann for dinner in Canberra Photo: Melissa Adams

China Plate manager Lin Pun said Mr Palmer wasn't the only public figure with penchant for her food with Governor-General Peter Cosgrove and Lady Cosgrove often seen at her tables.

Ms Pun said the Governor-General was a fan of her signature spicy eggplant dish and usually ordered the same items on each visit.


"They travel a lot but they usually come in about once a month. They are the best customers – very nice customers – very polite and gentle," she said.

Mr Palmer is of course no stranger to Kingston's restaurants after being spotted with Malcolm Turnbull and former Treasury boss Martin Ferguson at the Wild Duck restaurant on the Kingston foreshore last year.

Clive Palmer arrived at Parliament House on Thursday in a Tesla electric car.
Clive Palmer arrived at Parliament House on Thursday in a Tesla electric car. Photo: Andrew Meares

Many Canberrans have reported difficulty in securing a booking at Wild Duck restaurant since Palmer recommended the banana split with coconut ice-cream, with business increasing since his visit.

Wild Duck manager Shan Gao said Mr Palmer's dinner dates were good for business and he had noticed an increasing amount of publicity.

"The business has been very steady even before Mr Palmer came in last year (…) but we did get nation-wide coverage as a result which was great for us," he said.

Mr Shan said those looking to secure a table at the restaurant on the weekends now needed to book two or three days in advance.

Earlier this week, the Hoang Hau Vietnamese restaurant - just around the corner from China Plate - was documented in Hansard by Palmer's former dinner date, Mr Turnbull.  

The restaurant shot to fame in June 2010 when Bill Shorten was filmed alongside former frontbencher Kate Ellis and SA senator Don Farrell working two phones and a call sheet as the coup against Kevin Rudd unfolded.

"This is the hero of the Hoang Hau lazy Susan," Turnbull said in a rhetorical flourish while referring to Mr Shorten.

 "There he was turning the table on his leader. He's not only deposed one leader, he's deposed two. He had second thoughts, he couldn't even stick.

"First course was [Kevin] Rudd; second course was [Julia] Gillard. And then he went back to the first course. Well you can do that in a Vietnamese restaurant, I suppose, you can go back to the beginning of the menu."

Mr Palmer told reporters on Thursday the table of three at China Plate "had agreement over the fried rice" before Mr Pyne interrupted and said "don't encourage them".

"They're shocking: don't feed the chooks," he said, before adding that the China Plate had "the best dumplings in Canberra". 

Also nearby is Portia's Chinese restaurant; a well-known haunt for Liberal politicians where Tony Abbott reportedly dined with front benchers each Monday night.

Former Labor leaders Kevin Rudd and Kim Beasley have also been seen at its tables, along with the Treasurer Joe Hockey.

The Ottoman restaurant, a short stroll away in Barton, was said to be one of Paul Keating's favourite venues in Canberra and politicians from Graham Richardson to Eric Abetz and Simon Crean have been sighted at its tables.

The Kennedy Room towards the south-side of Kingston is also known as a popular watering hole for politicians – particularly after budget night – along with Public Bar in Manuka. 

-with Matthew Knott