Area Guide: Chinatown
We’ve rounded up the best places to eat and drink in Chinatown, from new openings to established favourites.
You can find a Chinatown in just about every big city on Earth, but thanks to London’s huge Asian community, we’ve lucked out with one of the most vibrant, exciting and authentic Chinatowns outside of China.
An unfortunate misconception about Chinatown is that its offerings are limited to Chinese cuisine. In reality, this area is a multicultural blend of many distinct nationalities. Here, you’ll find Vietnamese, Japanese, Malaysian, Thai food and more.
Not sure where to start? Below, we’ve highlighted a few of Chinatown’s newest restaurant openings. After that, read on for a guide to the best dishes in Chinatown and where to get them. Even if you’ve missed the Chinese New Year celebrations, you’ll still find plenty of excitement in this neighbourhood.
The Best New Restaurants in Chinatown
Bao & Noodle
This place cuts right to the chase: at Bao & Noodle, you’ll find plenty of bao buns and noodles. They draw inspiration from Dongbei, the northeastern region of China, known for hearty cooking with frequent use of pickled ingredients. Buns are available with several types of fillings, and even though it’s not in the name, handmade dumplings are on the menu, too. You’ll even be able to watch the chef prepare them.
Address: 16 Lisle St, London WC2H 7BE
Contact: 020 7287 6606
Le Hanoi is a newly opened Vietnamese restaurant specializing in pho, a fresh, light take on noodles that many find completely addictive. At Le Hanoi, the stock is slow-cooked for 16 hours to create the broth. And while seafood or vegetarian pho are available, the combo pho is the real winner, featuring six different cuts of beef. Le Hanoi’s dishes might be traditional, but its space is sleek, modern, and popping with bright colours.
Address: 4 Macclesfield Street, London W1D 6AX
Contact: 020 7287 0288
This popular ramen brand has just opened a six-month pop-up in Chinatown, starting December 2016 – it’s their first stint in the U.K. They can be found at Shuang Shuang, serving their signature handmade ramen noodles in tonkotsu broth. Fans of spicy food should go for the tobanjan ramen. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your toppings, and try some of the snacks, like the Japanese salads and dumplings they’ve got on offer.
Address: 1st Floor of Shuang Shuang, 64 Shaftesbury Ave, London W1D 6LU
A Foodie’s Guide to Chinatown
Best Hot Pot: Shuang Shuang
Hot pot is one of the most important parts of China’s culinary and social culture, a tradition that goes back centuries. Guests at Shuang Shuang get a true Chinese hot pot experience, cooking at their own tables. Choose from over 40 ingredients that roll past on a conveyor belt (yes, like the sushi places), and toss in portions of fish, chicken, beef, vegetables and more. It’s an interactive experience where you get to learn about another culture – and get your food cooked exactly the way you like it.
Address: 64 Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 6LU
Contact: 020 7734 5416
Best Dumplings: Dumplings Legend
Siu long bao is a traditional, steamed soup dumpling that can be sampled at Dumplings Legend, where it’s made with a range of fillings. Some of these include spicy pork, prawn, chicken and vegetable. Other types of dumplings are available as well, such as the crescent-shaped jiaozi, alongside dim sum, chow mein and several more classic Chinese dishes.
Address: 15-16 Gerrard St, London W1D 6JE
Contact: 020 7494 1200
Best Bubble Tea: Happy Lemon
Happy Lemon is an international institution: with more than 500 branches in over 100 cities across the world, they’re a firm fixture in the bubble tea phenomenon. Bubble tea is a Taiwanese drink traditionally made with black tea, milk and tapioca balls, but since it’s found mainstream popularity, most places serve it in an array of colourful variations. At Happy Lemon, they keep things simple. They offer their “milk tea with tapioca” (that’s the one you want) in just a few flavours, keeping their concoctions close to the original.
Address: 24A Newport Court, London WC2H 7JS
Contact: 0207 734 1966
Best Chicken: Baiwei
Baiwei specializes in authentic Sichuan cuisine. Sichuan is a province in China known for spicy food, making use of peppers and ginger – this is the home of the original Kung Pao Chicken. Baiwei cooks up a more traditional version of that popular dish, emphasizing spice over sweetness. But don’t hesitate to try things with names you haven’t heard before, either. From stews to stir-fry to salads, every dish at Baiwei is true to the spirit of Sichuan cooking.
Address: 8 Little Newport St, London WC2H 7JJ
Contact: 020 7494 3605
Best Street Food: Baozi Inn
Many make the trip to Chinatown just for the bao buns at Baozi Inn. Perfectly fluffy, made with real flour instead of rice, and stuffed with the usual varieties of meat or vegetables, Baozi Inn’s buns are a filling and flavourful snack. This is another place specializing in Sichuan cuisine, so expect more spice. Along with the bao buns, try the skewered meats or the dumplings.
Address: 26 Newport Court, London WC2H 7JS
Contact: 020 7287 6877
Best Curry: Rasa Sayang
Moving away from China for a moment, Rasa Sayang is an excellent spot to try Malaysian and Singaporean food. The menu covers a range of traditional dishes, including Nasi Lemak (coconut rice with curried chicken) and Singapore Black Pepper Crab. Rasa Sayang is also the only place in Chinatown, to our knowledge, where you can find Kueh Pie Tee, a kind of savoury tart filled with chicken and shrimp.
Address: 5 Macclesfield St, London W1D 6AY
Contact: 020 7734 1382
Best Bar: Opium
Opium is a three-story venue where you can get dim sum and Chinese tea as well as liquor. They’ve got an intriguing seasonal cocktail menu put together by expert bartenders and mixologists; drinks are crafted with homemade syrups. The ambiance is intimate and relaxed, immersing guests in a Hong Kong of decades past.
Address: The Jade Door, 15-16 Gerrard St, London W1D 6JE
Contact: 020 7734 7276
Words by Brittany B.