Monday, 2 May 2011

Happy Gathering, Cardiff Chinese Restaurant Review

Happy Gathering is somewhat of a Cardiff institution. It seems to be a frequent favourite amongst some of my friends for Valentine’s Day, New Years Eve and other special occasions. It’s also received a fair amount of national press coverage in The Independent and The Times who both regard it as Cardiff’s finest Chinese restaurant. As a result of all the hype I’ve been gagging to visit ever since moving to Cardiff nearly two years ago. 

Fortunately for me one of my friends decided that she’d hold a dim sum banquet there for her birthday party on Sunday lunch. We rocked up at about 1pm to be met by a crowd of about 30 people milling around outside on the street and the same number waiting in the bar area. Thankfully, our reservation meant we were immediately shown to our table in the buzzing upstairs dining room; families and friends thronged the room all enjoying bamboo steamers full of dim sum. My anticipation levels were by now sky high; it must be popular for a reason right? 

The dim sum ordering experience was pretty fun; we were equipped with pens and little tick sheets to fill in. As everyone was starving (I’d missed breakfast to make room for the epic meal ahead) we all got a little tick happy and ended up ordering far too much. This was kindly pointed out by the manager before it was too late and he reduced our order accordingly.  

Service was initially pretty slow; it took a good while for drinks orders and the food order to be taken but must admit I wasn’t keeping track of the time due to my excitement levels and the hubbub of conversation. However, once the food order had been taken it wasn’t long before the dishes were brought out and they kept on coming and coming……

A lot of Dim Sum

Ribs in Chilli and Black beans (left) - I far prefer roast spare ribs to these steamed siblings, Sui Mai - Steamed pork and prawn dumplings (right)
Char sui pork buns - one of my faves
Deep fried squid - light and crisp = tasty
BBQ Pork Puff - Really good, light puff pastry filled with loads of pork
Crispy honey glazed king prawns form main menu (half eaten) -WOW
Singapore noodles - lightly curried vermicelli with prawns, chicken, egg etc - a very good example
House special rice - steamed rice with a menagerie of roasted meats, seafood and veg - one of the more average dishes
Prawn crackers, Roast spare ribs in barbeque sauce
Tripe - I couldn't stomach it myself but other people said it was delicious yet chewy (note it was one of the only dishes which wasn't finished)
Har Gau - stemed prawn dumplings or something similar (I am guessing)
Pan fried pork and leek buns (Sunday only) - V.good but a little on the greasy side
Prawn spring rolls - Packed full of prawns and greasefree - immense
Baked pork buns - the softest bread bun filled with char sui pork - Excellent
The necessary curry sauce (foreground), Roast pork cheung fun - rice noodle rolls filled with pork (background) - I love these but some people found them a little cloying
The aftermath

By the time we’d managed to work our way through our mountain of food (amazingly there were only a few pieces of tripe, intestine and cheong fun left), I was stuffed to bursting. I’ve eaten Dim Sum a couple of times in London and at Ba Orient in Cardiff Bay but can’t profess to being an expert on the ideal dumpling. I really enjoyed the food at Happy Gathering and I’ll really look forward to going back to eat dim sum and to dine from the main menu but I wouldn’t rate the quality as significantly better than any of my other previous experiences. However it’s the atmosphere at Happy Gathering that really sets it apart.

The Details
Food, drinks and tip came to £19 a head.
Dim Sum served daily until 6pm but certain specials are available only on a Sunday
Happy Gathering Chinese Restaurant 233, Cowbridge Rd East, Cardiff, CF11 9AL
Telephone: 029 2039 7531


  1. Great review! Can't believe you ordered ALL that food! Just how many of you were sharing it?

    Just to add that the great food is served all week round but on a Sunday afternoon there is an extra special Dim-Sum menu for which a large proportion of the Chinese population of Cardiff attend this restaurant!

    Cant wait to go back!

  2. Yeah I'm amazed we managed to eat it all but to be fair some of my friends are just as greedy as I am.

    Absolutely loved the Dim Sum, especially some of the Sunday specials. Looking forward to eating from the regular menu next time.

  3. Nice pictures, it's the best Dim Sum I've had in Cardiff. Although there isn't much other choice sadly...

  4. Lovely photos and am jealous of the meal, though being two and a half years old, it might be a bit stale and manky by now!

    Just a quick heads up though, and sorry to be that guy, but it's "siu mai" and "Char siu" rather than sui! Pronounced like "shoe" but tastes nicer than a shoe :D

    1. Ha ha! Thanks for the heads up on my dodgy spelling :-)

  5. is dim sum only until 6pm then> ? That's a shame

    1. I'm not sure, sorry! They might have changed their serving times since I visited.