With so many restaurants in London, it’s all too easy to stick with your favourite chain, favourite cuisine, or favourite area – often overwhelmed by the choice and, in turn, overlooking the more specialist/quirky/cool places right on our doorstep. Chinatown is one such example; however good our intentions, we often find ourselves battling through the crowds as we head on to Soho, making a mental note to suss out the good places and come back another time. We’ve done the hard work for you – here are 10 places to add to your Chinatown bucket list, from authentic Cantonese to the latest Instagram sensation…
What: Authentic Chinese Feasting
Why: Walking around Chinatown can definitely be daunting – the restaurants tend to all look the same after a while. Golden Dragon is a good bet for traditional Chinese fare; dim sum by day and Pekinese by night, cooked by expert Cantonese chefs. House specials include lightly fried crispy king prawns with yam and clam with XO sauce dumplings but we say go wild and fill the table for a true feast.
Where: 28-29 Gerrard Street, Chinatown, W1D 6JW
What: Date Night Dining
Why: As one of London’s most photogenic restaurants, if you haven’t been to The Palomar, chances are you will have seen photos. A Jerusalem-inspired menu means grilled, raw and cured dishes like Ras el Hanout pork belly, beef tataki and burnt courgette tzatziki. Sit at the bar for a buzzy experience, or settle in to the dining room at the back for a more leisurely dining experience.
Where: 34 Rupert Street, Soho, W1D 6DN
What: Smart Chinese Dining... and Karaoke
Why: One of Chinatown’s smarter options, Plum Valley is a great birthday option. Request a large circular table and round up your closest friends to share black cod with Champagne, and foie gras Xio Long Bao. A birthday meal here isn’t without the fun factor though – draw out your meal and stick around for karaoke later in the night.
Where: 20 Gerrard Street, Chinatown, W1D 6JQ
What: Speakeasy Cocktail and Dim Sum Bar
Why: Want to impress a date? Book a table at Opium, say your name at the turquoise door and whisk them away off the bustly streets upstairs to a world of apothecary, cocktails and dim sum. It’s dark, moody and exotic and after a cocktail or two you’ll feel a million miles away from central London. Be sure to try their signature cocktail, Opium #6; Olmeca Altos tequila, cactus, pimiento, ginger and Oolong tea and a few dim sum to pick at.
Where: 15-16 Gerrard Street, Chinatown, W1D 6JE
What: Your Go-To Dumpling Spot
Why: If you’re craving dumplings, you’ll want to head to Dumplings’ Legend – the clue’s in the name… Traditional Cantonese dumplings with a modern twist include the soup-filled Xiaolongbao and if you are a fact geek then you’ll like to know that they make 47 variations of dum sum – 8,000 by hand every day – which can be watched in their open-plan, glass-walled kitchen.
Where: 15-16 Gerrard Street, Chinatown, W1D 6JE
What: Peruvian Street Food
Why: Soho is no stranger to grab-and-go food, but if you find yourself in Chinatown, you’ll want to head to Butifarra. Named after the slow cooked meat sandwich found in Peru, this Peruvian street food joint also specialises in ceviche. Fill your butifarra with meat and salsa or opt for sea bream tigers milk ceviche, washed down with an organic cold-pressed juice.
Where: 24 Rupert Street, Chinatown, W1D 6DQ
What: Instagrammable Street Food
Why: We told you about Bubblewrap when it opened a few weeks ago and this Hong Kong street food snack has not let us down – the queues say it all. Pick your base (plain/chocolate/matcha) then pack it full of everything from pistachio gelato to Oreos, before drizzling with salted caramel sauce. A little birds tells us the correct way to tackle the beast is by ripping individual circles off but we say do what you’ve got to do… Instagram compulsory.
Where: 24 Wardour Street, Soho, W1D 6QJ
What: Vietnamese Street Food
Why: Casual Vietnamese joint, Vietfood, resembles the cafes found in Hanoi. Ex-Hakkasan chef, Jeff Tan, is behind it, putting his own experimental twist on traditional dishes like crispy coconut calamari and five spice soft shell crab. Try the homemade soy sauce fried rice with Vietnamese sausage and king prawns – it’s one of Jeff’s specialities and a dish his father used to make for his packed lunch.
Where: 34-36 Wardour Street, Chinatown, W1D 6QT
What: Sharing Style Dining
Why: Hot Pot is making sharing food fun. Gather round boiling pots of broth and cook your own food, adding fresh ingredients like wagyu beef and lobster. The concept of hot pots is centuries old, dating back to Mongolia via China, hence why it sits in Chinatown today. Round up a group of friends or colleagues and settle into your booth, pick your broth, add your meat and drop in your veg; there are over 60 ingredients available so the combinations are limitless.
Where: 17 Wardour Street, Chinatown, W1D 6PJ
What: Authentic Korean Desserts
Why: Named after Shibuya, a district of Tokyo, the Chinatown version is a little less intense. No less authentic, though, as you can enjoy very good sushi, katsu curry, soup and – the best bit – frozen desserts. Watch on as staff make the ice cream in front of your eyes; mounds of shaved ice heaving with Oreos, strawberries and azuki red beans. The dessert counter is packed full too – try a matcha cream cake.
Where: 110 Shaftesbury Avenue, Chinatown, W1D 5EJ
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