It is officially the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year! On Friday the 16th 2018, it will be the first day of the Year of the Dog, which means an abundance of traditions will be celebrated in Chinese families worldwide. Being a Chinese in London, I have always been intimidated by the large range of restaurants you can find in Chinatown. That and I worried that the restaurants recommendations from my friends in the UK would basically not measure up to anything back home in Hong Kong (hehe guilty of being a food snob), as such – I have never bothered to try any places in Chinatown and as such have missed out on Chinese food in London for up to five years! However, this year I have quite a treat for you (and myself!) , The teams from Visit London and the London Chinatown Chinese Association have given me an eye opening tour of some pretty amazing places that I would happily revisit again and again. So here is my little lip-smacking list of the top restaurants to grab a warm bite to eat in Chinatown!
The inconspicuous entrance is tucked away on Lisle street so you feel like you’re let in on a little foodie secret when you discover this traditional Chinese restaurant. With its private room upstairs, this restaurant is known to be popular with Chinese government officials when they visit London. Which is a great testament to the high quality of food served at Imperial China! As it was lunch time (and we only really have dim sum during the day) the restaurant served us a gorgeous range of bouncy, freshly steamed dim sum that went beautifully with our pot of Chrysanthemum tea. With Chinese New Year coming, they had a special menu where each of the dishes were specially altered to fit into the New Year theme. Aka we had pink coloured Cheung Fun (rice rolls with deep fried batter inside), which were hands down the cutest thing I have ever seen, not to mention that the cuteness did not diminish the taste at all. We also got to try the Peking duck pancakes (which you normally have at dinner time), this dish is very popular and is made in many restaurants, however they do it extremely well here. The restaurant also makes their own spicy garlic sauce as a side to their dumplings and it wins my seal of approval of the best chili sauce I have had in London. Not a small feat as I am a chili loving beast haha! All in all, am very satisfied with my new favourite dim sum place to visit in Chinatown.
Don’t miss out on ordering: Shredded Chicken Red Rice Cheung Fun £4.80, Prawn Ravioli in Hot & Sour Sauce £4.10, Crispy Aromatic Duck with Pancakes (sered with spring onion & cucumber) Whole £36.50, Half £18.50
Imperial China, White Bear Yard, 25A Lisle St, London WC2H 7BA
Open: 12pm – 12am, 020 7734 3388
Next up is the bustling Golden Dragon, busy with locals and Londoners alike the restaurant was teaming with activity when we popped in for a bite at around 3pm on a Tuesday afternoon. The tablecloths are millennial pink and the food they serve is 100% authentic and has no frills attached. As such, we were able to order delicious local fare such as my personal favourite duck tongue (which I used to munch on whilst watching TV growing up), dumplings with faht see (black root like vegetables that resemble dark black hair), gooey pig trotters, a beyond delicious roast duck and last but not least a huge steamed crab plate with all claws, pincers and legs in tact. For CNY, the restaurant also serves the traditional Nian Gao (year cake), which is fried gooey sugar cane goodness. Be sure to order this if you visit during the festivities as they do it fantastically at the Golden Dragon. This restaurant served us food that were authentic Chinese delicacies that otherwise might not be found in more ‘western’ influenced Chinese restaurants. This place is actually my favourite of all the restaurants I have been to in Chinatown so far. Not to mention the pretty pink table cloths and bright lighting make gramming extremely easy!
Don’t miss out on ordering: Spicy Duck Tongue £7.50, Roasted Duck Whole £25.80 Half £14.80, Steamed Crab £19.80.
Golden Dragon, 28-29 Gerrard Street Chinatown London W1D 6JW
Open: 12pm – 11:30pm, 020 7734 1073
The Four Season’s restaurant is a household name in London, here the chefs use a secret sauce recipe that give its roast duck a reputation to be the best roast duck in the world. Now as this is what the Four Seasons are known for, we went a bit rogue and tried another of their mouth watering dishes instead – the delicious hot pot at their Hot Pot specialist shop on 11 Gerard Street. Hot pot is personally one of my favourite meals to have on a cold winters day as it is warming, communal and most important of all, delicious. The concept is simple, you have place a boiling pot of flavored broth on a heated stove in the center of your table and you order extra food to be dipped into the broth (kind of like a fondue!). We ordered the delicious Spicy Chicken Ma Lah (Which means numbing spice) Hot Pot and it was so flavorful that everything we dipped in was tasted heavenly, our only thought was that it wasn’t quite spicy enough for us! So if you’re into the Mah Lah spice, definitely make sure they know and give you a proper dosage of heat. We also ordered the Stewed Beef Brisket and it was the dreamiest dish ever, super soft and chewy tender beef that absolutely melts in your mouth accompanied with a gorgeous sticky sauce. I am going back 100% for this Beef Brisket and having it all to myself.
Don’t miss out on ordering: Spicy Chicken Ma Lah Hot Pot half £18.50 whole £30.50, Stewed Beef Brisket in Hot Pot £11.20
Four Seasons, 11 Gerrard Street Chinatown London W1D 5PP
Open: 12pm – 11:30pm, 020 7287 0900
Now for those with a sweet tooth, this is the section you’ve been waiting for. Bake麵包屋is a well known little bakery smack in the middle of Chinatown that serves authentic Chinese baked goods and pastries. Hello to flaky creamy egg tarts that remind me of home, to uber crispy toasted pineapple buns and soft fluffy Hokkaido milk breads. They are well known amongst the Chinese community for birthday cakes as they are able to pipe out Chinese characters for your cakes. This bakery’s signature dessert is the lucky fish shaped pancakes (Taiyaki) that they fill with soft serve swirls of vanilla and matcha ice cream. Another delicacy is of the same sort with the soft serve ice cream but wrapped with a bubble waffle (which are called Gai Dan Zai and really popular on the streets of Hong Kong!). You will definitely see Instagram peppered with images of these super cute delectable delights! So worth a visit and the best place to continue your eve and satisfy your sweet tooth after a meal out in Chinatown.
Don’t miss out on ordering: Mini Taiyaki with Custard 4 pieces £2.50, Vanilla and Green Tea Bubble Waffle £4.50
Bake麵包屋, 9 Wardour St, Chinatown London W1D 5PP
Open: 10am – 9:30pm, 020 7734 3888