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Located on the second floor of the Hotel Royal in an older part of Macau far away from the glitz and glamour of the casinos, Catalpa Garden’s warm lighting and widely spaced tables with high-quality table clothes and bright yellow napkins allow for the slightly claustrophobic lack of windows to be forgotten. The buzz of busy service and chatter from large tables invite you to relax in an authentic if somewhat dated ambience.
Catalpa Garden brings authentic Shanghainese cuisine with little surprises and all the classics are served. A signature dish of beche de mer, otherwise known as sea cucumber, is braised and served with shrimp roe. It could be more elegantly plated and is heavy on the palate. Another seafood dish of fried prawns with spicy sauce uses high quality succulent prawns but the slightly too sweet sauce lacks the invigorating spice element. A Chinese honey ham dish uses excellent quality ham which comes with aromatic honey and deep fried tofu skin, adding a superior texture to this beloved Shanghainese snack. Seasonal ingredients are incorporated into traditional dishes, for example xiao long bao dumplings with hairy crab roe. Sadly, these lacked the explosion of flavour with too little soup and a skin just a few millimetres too thick. High quality teas complete a good but not entirely memorable meal.
A narrow selection available by the glass with some decent vintages available from the hotel; however a wide range of high quality teas perfectly complement the cuisine.
An unattended concierge is always a worrying sign, however after a brief wait, our reservation was recognised and good if somewhat absent service followed. Numerous reminders to refill tea and remove dirty plates become tiresome but when done is conducted in an apologetic manner. Overall, service borders on perfunctory. The job is done but with little finesse.
A meal for two without wine will cost around MOP900, with wine about MOP1,400. Considering the generally lower cost of dining out in Macau, this is not an inexpensive option.