You are in site section: Online features

Chinese restaurant

Defining Moments in Australian History

WARNING: This website includes images and names of deceased people that may cause distress to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Australia’s first Chinese restaurant, 1854

Australia’s first documented Chinese restaurant opened at Bakery Hill, Ballarat on the Victorian goldfields in 1854. Owned by John Alloo (Chin Thum Lok), the restaurant didn’t actually serve Chinese-style food. Instead, it offered European fare like plum pudding and roast beef.

First Chinese restaurant
John Alloo's Chinese Restaurant, Ballarat. State Library of Victoria.

The restaurant was very popular with miners in the area and even featured in a sketch by artist ST Gill. A replica of his restaurant stands at Sovereign Hill outdoor museum in Ballarat.

Alloo, who arrived in Australia in the 1840s, became a prominent figure in the Ballarat area and was appointed as the interpreter for the first Chinese Protector, William Henry Foster.

Alloo married a Scottish woman named Margaret Peacock and moved with her to New Zealand in the 1860s, but not before his popular Chinese restaurant inspired the creation of many others and the start of an evolving Aussie tradition.

Next >
1924: First Cherry Ripe produced
Early 1900s: The Lamington created
1964: Arnott’s first produces Tim Tams
1890–91: Depression and strikes; formation of the Labor Party
1894: Legislation introducing women’s suffrage, South Australia
1949: Chifley government begins Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme