The Mayflower Chinese Restaurant in Bristol is a hidden gem. It doesn’t really get the footfall other restaurants might get but oh my is it worth hunting out. Tucked in the Bear Pit ( a sunken roundabout with pedestrian subways), now to be totally honest it’s not the nicest location even in the daylight and better to hunt in packs to get there but honestly, trust me you will be pleasantly surprised. I’m really selling it if I say it doesn’t look much from the outside but once you enter you are hit with the most mouthwatering garlic and spice aroma. I’m a huge dumpling fan, I even tried to make my own Ugly Dumplings recently but they weren’t really up to scratch. So going somewhere where they are made for me is a huge plus.
My friend Kate had found out they do a dim sum on Sunday from 12-3 pm and I knew we had to try it out. I had been to The Mayflower before and to be totally honest in the early hours of the morning after drinks with work friends and ever since I’ve been dreaming of their Garlic Aubergine and Soft Shell Crab.
Welcomed by friendly staff and a big steaming pot of green tea which was refilled throughout the meal. Then we went to town on the menu, the waitress kindly suggested that we should order around 8-9 dishes for the three of us. Which actually was enough to be filled and not waste any of the morsels.
Mayflower Dim Sum
First, we ordered a dish off the main menu as we needed some greens with all the dumplings and meat. Pak Choi in Garlic Sauce, came laden with plenty of the sweet garlic nuggets and one of the least ladylike dishes to eat. I think I’m still finding garlic sauce behind my ears! Also, the garlic sauce leftover was great for dunking the prawn crackers into. (Sorry if I get any of the names wrong, I’ve tried to remember them as best as I can – let me know if they are different!)
Then the dim sum started rolling in, Cha Cheong fan, a rolled rice noodle filled with Cha Siu pork nuggets and vegetables. The noodle wrapper is super soft texture, slightly slippery but worked well with the tender pork and soy sauce.
Next up was my star savoury dish, the Cha Siu bao, steamed barbeque pork-stuffed buns. Super light pillows of steamed sweetened dough with a hidden pocket of meaty barbeque pork, just rocked my world and could have happily eaten a whole meal of these beauties. Reminded me of the Duck Bacon Buns we had at Taste of London, which we were obsessed with.
I wasn’t 100% sure on the next dish of Ngao yuk kau (meatballs). Steamed beef meatballs served with simmered tofu skin, they were good just not as nice as the other dishes we tried. Kate put it quite well that we were texturally challenged as I think the dishes were so different from what we are normally used to, although I relished in the adventure for my taste buds.
They had run out of the Haam sui gau (Deep-fried glutinous rice dumpling with pork) so went for the steamed glutinous rice dumplings with pork in a lotus leaf, which after unwrapping the tight parcel the sticky rice had a centre of pork and meaty mushrooms which were infused with the flavour of the lotus leaf.
Not going to lie, I had been out for my awesome friends birthday the night before and may have had a few dark rum and cokes so to eat dim sum when everyone else was having bacon sarnies, I think I was pushing myself a touch. I wasn’t too bad but there were the odd dumplings that challenged me a little bit. Including the Siu Mai (open-topped steamed pork and shrimp dumplings). I just think I was expecting something else so was a bit thrown by it but still had a good flavour and nice and meaty.
Another one of my favourite dishes was the Turnip Paste fried in X.O Sauce (a spicy seafood sauce), soft pillows of the grated turnip and radish with a slight heat and savoury note. Perfect hangover food and slightly addictive.
After we had worked through the savoury dim sum we fancied on the menu, we chickened out (excuse the pun!) on trying the chicken feet. I think that might just push me too far this time. We also ordered some sweet dishes to end our meal with more green tea. Red bean paste pancakes with a crisp fried outer and sweetened paste middle. This dish reminded me of a street food version I had in Thailand with condensed milk. A real treat.
And for the grand final, and for me another star dish I could happily eat all day long was the Custard Buns (Lai wong bau). The same pillow-soft dough of the Cha Siu pork buns steamed but filled with a thicken custard with a touch of coconut and almond and truly delicious. Wary at first but after the first bite, I was in love. A perfect way to end a food adventure.
The destruction of our table cloth can be seen below. I loved our Sunday Dim Sum Adventure and was a great way to spend a rainy Sunday with friends and surrounded by families and friends doing the same. Go on, give it a go.
What do you normally order when you go for dim sum?
1a, 5a Haymarket Walk, Bristol BS1 3LN
Tel: 0117 925 0555
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