The Best Regional Chinese Restaurants in London
Just Opened London’s ‘Best of’ series covers a combination of recently opened venues and established London favourites, to make sure you get the full lowdown on where to spend your time and hard-earned cash.
This is one of the most exciting times I’ve experienced in London’s Chinese restaurant scene. Chinese food is in vogue, with many chefs drawing heavy influence from this broad and rich cuisine. Trendy dumpling shops are opening up all over East London and into Central, and rumours abound that Taiwan’s very own darling, Din Tai Fung, home of the fabled xiao long bao (soup dumpling) will be gracing us with their delicate parcels soon. Not soon enough, I say. Here are 7 regional Chinese restaurants that show just how diverse and wonderful Chinese food can be.
1. Food House (Northern Chinese & Sichuan)
In the heart of Chinatown, Food House is the Ronseal of all restaurant names. If you order any of the spicy noodle dishes they warn you that, “it’s very, very, very, VERY spicy!” You should definitely order them though, as the red chilli oil noodles are really excellent. Chongqing hot and sour noodles have that distinct tang of Sichuan peppercorn, numbing the mouth while you break out in a light sweat. Come with a group to bathe and pick around in steaming hot vats of whole fish bobbing in chilli broth, and skewers of meat off the grills.
Food House, 46 Gerrard Street, W1D 5QH
2. Silk Road (Xinjiang)
Silk Road’s USP is food from the Xinjiang region. Located in Camberwell, this stalwart hasn’t changed its interior for the past 6 years; the wooden benches are packed closely, the Tsing Tao beers and elbows jostling for space between dishes of steaming dumplings, plates of lamb skewers interspersed with creamy pieces of lamb fat, and belt noodles plonked into vast boats of anise-scented chicken stew. The vegetable dishes are my favourite – the homestyle cabbage and homestyle aubergines are unmissable.
Silk Road, 49 Camberwell Church Street, SE5 8TR
3. Bao London (Taiwanese)
What sets Bao apart from the rest of this list is its fanciness. I wouldn’t recommend going in for a cocktail at the others, but Bao’s pineapple Yakult cocktail is one of my favourites. The food here is beautiful, refined, and not just restricted to the bao, which are Taiwanese steamed buns filled with delicious things. To avoid the queue, book downstairs at the Fitzrovia branch.
4. Good Friend Fried Chicken (Taiwanese)
This little hole in the wall serves only fried delights. Come for the popcorn chicken or ‘big chicken’, which is a breast they batter out to a centimetre thickness so that it’s as big as your face. The deep fried batter manages to stay crisp for far longer than you can imagine, and a variety of powders are available to shake over before eating. I can’t resist the plum, which gives it a sweet and sour flavour.
Good Friend Fried Chicken, 14 Little Newport Street, WC2H 7JJ
5. Xian Impression (Shan Xi)
This tiny little place opposite Arsenal’s stadium is now always packed because it serves really bloody good food from Shan Xi province. Think lamb, cumin, chilli, spice. The cold skin noodles and ‘Chinese hamburger’ are some of my favourite things here.
Xian Impression, 117 Benwell Road, N7 7BW
6. Baozi Inn Skewer Stall: Chuan Chuan Xiang (Sichuan)
The last time I went to Baozi Inn the noodles bobbed around in what can only be described as dishwater, so give them a big fat swerve. Instead, get yourself next door to their skewer shop whereby you can order all sorts of treats dipped in bubbling hot, spicy, tingling broth for a pittance, and then burn your face off because dammit you didn’t wait till they’d cooled down, did you? My favourites are the enoki mushroom, any kind of fish ball and the luncheon meat. Yes, it is Spam. It is so good.
Chuan Chuan Xiang, 27 Newport Court, WC2H 7JS
7. Gold Mine (Cantonese)
I had to add a classic Cantonese restaurant in here; it is the food of my motherland, my home comforts. Gold Mine in Queensway stands out like a shining beacon amongst a slew of restaurants, and their roasted meats, hanging in the window are the main draws here. Glistening, glossy duck served on or off the bone is absolutely heaven on a plate, and crispy pork belly and char siu shouldn’t be overlooked either. Staff are friendly and happy to talk you through the menu for other dishes too.
Gold Mine, 102 Queensway, W2 3RR