Why this Cardiff restaurant is still packing in happy diners after almost 40 years - Ed Gilbert - Wales Online

2022-08-26 23:53:50 By : Ms. Sherry shen

On a Sunday lunchtime, there’s nowhere quite like the Happy Gathering Chinese restaurant in Canton

When I first moved to Cardiff almost 15 years ago, one of the first restaurants I was taken to by my wife and her friends was the Happy Gathering Chinese restaurant.

On a Sunday lunchtime, there’s nowhere quite like it, with its bustling upstairs dining room full of generations of families and friends enjoying bamboo baskets of steamed dumplings, platters of roast meats and pots of fragrant tea.

Read more: The Chinese restaurant which makes the best crispy beef in Cardiff - and it’s meat free

Devouring vast quantities of traditional Cantonese cooking at this Canton institution felt like an important introduction to the city’s restaurant scene.

Having originally opened in April 1985, I can imagine the restaurant’s red and gold interior probably looks very similar to how it did almost 40 years ago. There’s even a commemorative plaque on the staircase celebrating the restaurant’s opening by Win Griffiths, the former vice-president of the European Parliament.

On this occasion, we visited the Happy Gathering for a pre-Christmas meet-up with friends and ordered a selection from the tick box dim sum menu, which is served until 6pm every day, as well as some bigger plates from the main menu.

As per usual, we of course ordered far too much and spent a few hours trying to tackle the procession of dishes which appeared as and when they were ready.

Highlights of the dim sum included a Sunday special of baked roast pork buns (£4). The light, soft and sweet rolls were well-stuffed with sticky minced barbecue pork.

Slippery rice noodle rolls (£4.60) were stuffed with sweet prawns in super crisp deep fried tofu skin, which provided a nice contrast between softness and crunch.

Siu mai (£4) dumplings, filled with pork mince, were tasty but lacked a bit on the seasoning front. In contrast, pillowy char sui buns (£3.50) were loaded with comfortingly sweet barbecue pork.

One of the surprising stars of the show were golden turnip cake nuggets with a crispness reminiscent of a good fried potato. They didn’t taste of turnip but rather thrummed with a deeply savoury and well-spiced XO sauce.

Moving onto the main menu, we tucked away a Happy Gathering platter for four (£7.30 per head) which contained a selection of the greatest hits - tender spare ribs, plump prawn skewers in rich and nutty satay sauce, prawn and sesame toast, pork spring rolls whose filling was hotter than lava, and token greenery in the form of deep fried crispy seaweed.

Want the latest food and drink news, reviews and interviews delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for the weekly Food & Drink newsletter. It's chock full of all things foodie - and will almost certainly make you want to dine out this weekend.

Become a subscriber by entering your email, ticking the box for Food & Drink and clicking save here. You can also check out our Welsh food & drink Facebook page, Bwyta, here.

Good deep fried squid (£9.95) avoided chewiness and was seasoned with an addictively savoury and spicy combination of salt, chilli and garlic.

Crispy chilli beef (£9) was an excellent example of a classic - the fronds of deep-fried beef were impressively crisp yet still meaty and coated in a light sauce with plenty of veggies.

However, beef in satay sauce (£9) didn’t impress. Whilst the plentiful meat was tender, the sauce was a touch on the gloopy side and lacked the nutty intensity of the satay sauce on the starter platter.

A generous portion of fried duck in plum sauce (£9.95) combined crunchy skinned, tender slices of meat drizzled with a sweet and tangy plum sauce.

If we weren’t already full enough then a couple of plates of carbs tipped us over the edge. Excellent Singapore vermicelli (£8.50) was deeply spiced with the warmth of curry and packed with prawns, meat, egg and fresh vegetables.

A bowl of fluffy and savoury egg fried rice (£2.90 a head) for five people probably would have fed about ten. Impressively we managed to make a significant dent in it, unlike the table next to us who looked like they finished with the same amount as they’d started with.

We had an excellent lunch at Happy Gathering. It’s a Cardiff institution for good reason and I’m sure they’ll still be packing in generations of happy diners for at least the next 40 years.

Address - 233 Cowbridge Road East, Cardiff CF11 9AL Telephone - 029 2039 7531

For the latest food and drink news, reviews, and interviews sent directly to your inbox, sign up for our weekly Food & Drink newsletter here