A Taste of History: China Sea Restaurant and the Infamous Arrest That Became a Meme

China Sea Restaurant is more than just an eatery; it’s a piece of living history. For decades, this establishment has been serving up delectable Chinese cuisine to the residents and visitors of Brisbane, and even building a legacy that intertwines with one of Australia’s most infamous public arrests.

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The restaurant originally stood in China Town in Fortitude Valley, and was the site of a dramatic moment on 11 October 1991. On that day, the quiet ambiance of the China Sea Restaurant was shattered by the arrest of Jack Karlson. 

This event would later become the centrepiece of a viral meme, thanks to Karlson’s eccentric outbursts during his arrest. Phrases like “This is democracy manifest!” and “What is the charge? Eating a meal? A succulent Chinese meal?” have since become part of Australian pop culture. 

Karlson, a known serial prison escapee, was apprehended by the Queensland Police Service at the time for suspected credit card fraud. However, he continues to assert his innocence to this day and stated that it was a case of mistaken identity.

Today, China Sea Restaurant, relocated in Milton, continues to serve as a haven for lovers of Chinese cuisine. The restaurant has maintained its commitment to quality, offering a menu that features classic dishes prepared with the freshest ingredients. 

The establishment has also embraced its quirky place in history. Diners often reminisce about the famous incident, and the restaurant’s atmosphere is steeped in the lore of that day. Google reviews frequently mention the iconic event, with one patron humorously noting, “In this beautiful democratic nation of ours, my mates and I enjoyed a delicious and succulent Chinese meal with no problems from the authorities.”

Photo credit: Bill Pippin/Google Maps 

In an exciting development, Jack Karlson himself will return to the China Sea Milton to commemorate the announcement of a new documentary about his life. Titled The Man Who Ate Succulent Chinese Meal, the film is set to explore the intriguing story of Karlson, from his troubled childhood and dramatic escapes from prison to his unexpected rise to meme stardom.

Director Heath Davis and producer Tim Randall, both captivated by the original news segment, are behind this production. What started as a fascination with a bizarre arrest video has evolved into a deeper exploration of Karlson’s tumultuous life. 

The documentary, produced by Kicking Television Productions, promises to be a gripping narrative. The Man Who Ate Succulent Chinese Meal will be released in 2025, shedding light on Karlson’s life before and after his arrest. The production has even seen Karlson sharing a meal with one of his arresting officers, Stoll Watt, highlighting the unexpected twists that life can take.

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Karlson battles health issues in recent years, including prostate cancer and spinal problems. His niece Kim Edwards even set up a GoFundMe campaign to help with the expenses.

Jack Karlson and his niece Kim (Photo credit: Kim Edwards/GoFundMe)

“He has never had much money but has always been generous to family and friends. He lives week to week in regional QLD with the help of a voluntary carer,” Edwards wrote.

“Hoping people can dig deep – I think he’s worth at least a beer, maybe even a 6-pack.”

His return to China Sea Milton not only celebrates the film’s announcement but also honours a location that has been a silent witness to a moment of Australian cultural history.

For those looking to indulge in a “succulent Chinese meal,” China Sea Milton remains the go-to destination, blending a rich culinary tradition with a unique historical significance.

Published 24-June-2024