Review: Water Sky

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The fluid shapes and understated nuance of this architectural gem perfectly encapsulate water and sky.

The fluid shapes and understated nuance of this architectural gem perfectly encapsulate water and sky.

Lurking in a spot of wasteland near IKEA stands Eastgate Oriental City, which despite the extravagant name is in fact nothing but a Chinese restaurant on top of a Chinese supermarket. This supermarket, enigmatically named Wai Yee Hong, is to be highly recommended, not only for its vast array of cheap oriental ingredients, but also for the comedically outlandish products: grass jelly, anyone, or would you prefer a bottle of sweat with your pig fat end?

However, on Saturday night we had come not for the inexplicable supermarket goods, but for a fine Chinese meal at the Water Sky restaurant. Crossing the threshold of this peculiar eatery is indeed like entering a foreign country; a shrine that appears to be both Hindu and Buddhist blocks one’s path, where I was once memorably met by a surly trio of waiters, carrying a pig.

The decor, moreover, is as staggeringly hideous and yet entirely endearing as only a Chinese restaurant can be. Gold-capitalled columns support a reflective ceiling, while a ruby and mustard carpet runs seamlessly to the walls adorned with crimson drapery. A gruff, stocky and utterly hostile fellow guides one to the table, where a waiter – burdened with silver bow tie and sparkly waistcoat – proceeded to demand our order before a menu had even been picked up.

When this chap had been sent off for a teapot, we managed to snatch a fleeting look at the bill of fare. At Water Sky, a strange system allows one – for a fixed price – to order as many dishes as one wants, thus allowing gluttony to be satisfied without the sense of depravity that accompanies an ‘all-u-can-eat’ buffet. I, however, maintain reservations; the dishes on offer could be considered ‘takeaway classics’, while the presumably more interesting options are hidden away in an utterly impenetrable à la carte menu. Real Chinese customers are therefore brought course after course of intriguing platters, whilst I in my European ignorance am left sucking on prawn toast. It is for this reason that I always find Chinese restaurants faintly infuriating.

Array 2

Clockwise from bottom left: roast pork and cashews, my brother’s bizarre and probably radioactive garlic chicken, splendid Singapore noodles, and sweet and sour prawns. A vegetable stir fry, not pictured, was singularly devoid of any taste whatsoever.

On this occasion we had made the fatal mistake of visiting in the evening. Lunch is the time for a Chinese feast, when one can take full advantage of dim sum, and at midday Water Sky is to be highly recommended. The traditional array of dumplings and other steamed delights is only served until four, and so I was forced to eat a sadly dumpling-less dinner.

However it would be wrong to suggest that the meal was a disappointment. In terms of ‘appurtizers’, the chili squid was particularly delightful, whilst a steaming heap of duck pancakes went down a treat. Although my brother’s choice of ‘deep fried garlic chicken’ swam in a pungent syrup, both the Singapore noodles and roast pork with cashews were rather irresistible. The tea, moreover, was superb as ever, and we got through no fewer than four pots in the course of the evening.

At last, I can dine somewhere that satisfies my pretensions of imperial grandeur.

At last, I can dine somewhere that satisfies my pretensions of imperial grandeur.

Nevertheless, I cannot deny I left feeling I had merely skimmed the surface of Chinese cuisine, subsisting on the mongrel offerings that beguile the West without tasting anything truly interesting. On one lunchtime visit, I recall being offered a platter of ducks’ tongues and a deep fried pigeon: that’s the sort of thing I want to try, something I’d never even imagined, and I wish Water Sky would put their more unusual dishes at the forefront of their service.

That said, I did turn down the menu’s ‘Steam fish maws with turnip juice’, so I can’t really complain…