BS8 Direct reviews Water Sky Chinese Restaurant, also mentioning the Eastgate Oriental City complex and Wai Yee Hong Oriental Supermarket.
WATER SKY by Bill Butt
In my younger days living and working in Soho as a film-maker, we would often be working well into the small hours. In those days, most of London used to shut down at 11pm, so when we needed to eat late we would make for Chinatown. Even then, there were several restaurants that would be open 24 hours. One of our favourites was the Wang Kee, famed for it’s incredibly rude waiters. All westerners would be herded onto one table, even though the rest of the room was entirely empty. Yet this didn’t matter as the food was fantastic. In the daytime we could enjoy a huge bowl of pork, duck and rice in Lee Ho Fook’s for £2.50. In any new town I will always make for the Chinese quarter. I particularly enjoy Liverpool’s Chinatown for the combination of excellent food and value for money with the added pleasure of the Scouse/Chinese accent.
Unfortunately, Bristol doesn’t have a Chinatown as such, but there are some great Chinese restaurants. One of my favourites is the Dynasty in Redcliffe; Sunday lunch there is very reminiscent of a full-on Hong Kong eaterie, with trolleys-full of Dim Sum and many Chinese families enjoying a weekly get-together. Another recommendation is the Mayflower which is next to the Marlborough St bus station, especially if you are lucky enough to go with a Chinese speaker as you can then access the Chinese menu which is far more exciting than the standard English one. As with Indian food, most of us tend to stick with our safe options, and although some of the more exotic choices can be quite challenging others can be delightful revelations, such as slow-cooked hotpots with Chinese mushrooms.
Now Bristol has a sort of Chinese quarter, thanks to the £8 million Eastgate Oriental City complex behind the site of the old Eastville Stadium. The building is like something out of the Jetsons, making a very welcome change to the tin-sheds and huge warehouses that surround it, and the crowning glory is the 400-seat Water Sky restaurant. The interior is wonderfully grand and there is a covered roof terrace for the balmier months. The head chef has worked in Shanghai, Australia and and London’s Chinatown and, judging from the menu, he has picked up a few good tips on his travels.
We arrived for lunch in the spirit of a bustling Chinese restaurant with a party of eighteen for a surprise birthday celebration. There were more of us than had booked, but the staff were extremely helpful rearranging seats and manoeuvring tables so that we were all seated within minutes. We ordered mainly from the Dim Sum menu: little dishes priced around £2.50. Of course we had to try the hardcore stuff: Rainbow Chicken Feet, Baby Octopus Japanese Style and Duck Tongue With Chilli and Sesame Oil. Although very interesting, most of the above remained on the plates. However, Minced Pork Dumplings Mixed With Crab, “Harkau King Prawn Dumplings”, Taro Croquette (a sort of sweet pork stew wrapped in crispy yam), Paper-Wrapped Prawns, Vietnamese Crispy Spring Rolls and Crispy ‘Char Siu’ Pork Puff Pastry were all absolutely delicious, as were the various styles of Cheung Fun (the silky rice pancakes with prawns and pork). By now we were filling up nicely but there was room for two different dishes of baked crab, some wonderful roasted partridge quarters and a bowl of spicy noodles. Lunch was lubricated with several bottles of Sancerre, Chablis and Pouilly Fume. When we go back with a smaller party we will definitely try some of the set menus or meals from the a la carte menu. If you do visit Water Sky, don’t forget to pop downstairs to the amazing supermarket. It is as much fun as a day in Hong Kong, and far fewer airmiles
Water Sky Bristol
Eastgate Oriental City, Eastgate Rd, Eastville, Bristol
Telephone: 0117 9512888