New Mayflower – Review (London Shaftsbury Avenue)

 New Mayflower Shaftsbury Avenue

How does one introduce a Cantonese restaurant that has been here longer than anyone cares? No need, whether you’re sober or simply carrying booze pickled innards at 2.30am in the morning (4am closing time) and hungry just check it out. Be warned, during peak hours there will be queues. One thing you will notice is that how full it is with Chinese people – and you know the rule of thumb, if a Chinese restaurant is full of Chinese clientele, it’s bound to be good. (In my experience). And do yourself a favour don’t order that ubiquitous sweet and sour crispy aromatic, gloopy stuff that you always get in your local take away, try some of the dishes below, you’ll thank me for it.

We started with a big pile of sweet, sweet clams in black bean sauce. These tasty mollusks were so fresh, a serious appetite whetter!

This is how it all begins – creamy nutty egg fried rice to soak up all the sauces!

This was a really tasty fried chicken dish, liberally laced with fermented red bean curd sauce, which has a strong savoury punch. (also some on the side for dipping), served on a bed of wood ear fungus and soured lily flowers. This gave the chicken a really nice earthy, floral dimension. Thinking about it, it was quite a complex dish, the chicken must have been twice cooked to give it that smokey aromatic 5 spice flavour. Needless to say we all went back for more!

So let me tell you about this squid dish, because I think it needs a proper mention. Pardon my Cantonese but if you’re going to order it, it goes like ‘Ging-dow-sheun-yung-je-ma-bow-choy-tung!’ Bit of a mouthful (no pun intended) but it is simply awesome. It comes in a crispy sesame/garlic batter with a sweet sticky sauce. Every mouthful is greeted with a crunch and a hot-sweet-sour-kick, followed by the tender baby squid flesh – YUM!

If you like Russian roulette then go for the blackbean chilli’s stuffed with prawns. Not all of them are hot though, an unlucky diner will pick the volcanic one and will be instantly stuffing their faces with rice to soak up the punishment! Having said the dish is excellent, smokey chilli flavours with a salty savoury black-bean kick to the tongue. Delicious.

One of the things The New Mayflower is really good at are hotpots, I mean what’s there not to like about these? Lot’s of delicious ingredients thrown together to stew in all their lovely juices, bubbling away in glorious heat, you know it’s coming as you can hear the waiter approaching with all the steam from the hot pot rattling the lid it comes with. And what a dish this is, custardy, creamy sweet Japanese tofu, with enoki mushrooms, and that umami oyster flavour soaked into them from the… you guessed it, the oysters! This one isn’t on the menu as I concocted it during one drunken evening, but it’s faultless, show the waiter the picture and he will bring it!

If you like clean tasting, fragrant dishes then try out the cuttlefish with Chinese vegetables. They are little herby torpedo’s of cuttlefish cooked with whole garlic, garlic shoots, lotus roots and fresh lily flower bulbs. In my humble opinion is amazing, also consider with it with their impeccable XO sauce if you want that smokey chilli kick.

If there ever was one of those dishes that was supposed to be eaten, downed with extremely ice cold beer then here it is.. Juicy soft shelled crab, deep fried with garlic flakes and chilli to perfection. It’s made for icy Tsing Tao! The perfect marriage as they say.

Now this dish is really tasty, it looks exactly like what it is, juicy king prawns deep fried in their shells to the point where even their jackets become a tasty crispy accompaniment. Both prawn and shell can be eaten in perfect synergy. It doesn’t end there though as they are coated with the yolk of a preserved salted egg and spring onions. It gives it a creamy nutty texture, needless to say it was very good.

Another thing, let’s just say it would be rude not to try one of their sizzling dishes, the popping and hissing just adds to the drama of an otherwise already good dish. (You can see the steam coming off!)  Beef fillet laced with fresh ginger, garlic, black-beans and pickled Chinese mustard greens. The sweet-sour greens are just addictive!

There’s nothing wrong with your ubiquitous Pak-Choi or Kai Lan, but if you fancy trying something different then you can’t go far wrong with pea shoots in oyster sauce. They we’re lovely and tender, mouthfuls of sweet concentrated sweet pea flavour.

What can I say about this one then? All I know is that it was a noble animal, pure unadulterated piggy, the belly to be exact, slowed cooked in wine and spices to melting tenderness. Every mouthful was so satisfying, melt in your mouth porky deliciousness with a hint of star anise in that thick reduction. This dish is a real star, cooked in a clay hot pot and comes bubbling to your table – guys talk is cheap!

The waiters were nice enough to treat us to free desert, of course the western fruit fritters were available but we don’t roll like this. It differs night by night between a sweet red bean desert (made out of azuki beans) with lotus seeds and a tapioca, yam coconut concoction which you can see below. It kinda looks like frogs spawn, giving a nice buttery, coconut flavour, it’s a riot of contrasting textures with little cubes of yam thrown in – a nice way to end the meal!

The verdict;
The damage: Expect to pay 25-40 Pounds per head with a couple of beers on average but dependant on how much and what you order.
The good: Everything, I would suggest going in a group of 4-5 so you can order a few dishes and really appreciate an array of what’s on offer. The waiters are great too, a really nice friendly bunch. Bang for your buck and to experience some really authentic Cantonese cuisine, you really can’t go wrong. Killer question “would I go again?’ A resounding YES!
The bad: Get beyond the drab interior and you’re laughing!
Rating: 4/5
68-70 Shaftesbury Avenue  London W1D 6LY
020 7734 9207

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