Where to Celebrate Chinese New Year in London
Chinese New Year is upon us, and on the 16th February, billions of people will be getting together with family and friends to celebrate. London has a ripe selection of places to do so, and here are some suggestions of where to eat particularly auspicious foods, to welcome in the new year and to ensure you have a prosperous Year of the Dog. Chinese food at this time of the year is all about symbolism, so different foods are eaten to make sure that every aspect of the coming year is covered. Chinese New Year also lasts for two weeks, so there is plenty of time to eat your way through the festivities.
Sanxia Renjia, Deptford or Goodge Street
What to order: Steamed seabass (whole) with wild chilli sauce.
Whole fish is often eaten at new year (and the head of the fish pointed at the guest of honour or the eldest at the table) as a symbol of prosperity. The word for fish in Chinese is ‘yu’, which sounds like the word for riches or abundance so eating this will make it so for the year to come. Offered either in the classic manner of steamed with ginger and spring onion or with the addition of wild chilli, Sanxia Renjia has two London branches – if your night takes off at the Goodge Street branch you can even get stuck into some karaoke.
Sanxia Renjia, 36 Deptford Broadway, SE8 4PQ or 29 Goodge Street, W1T 2PP
Food House, Leicester Square
What to order: Red oil noodles.
Noodles symbolise longevity, so definitely don’t go cutting them up, as it’s very bad luck. Eat them long, slurp them up and enjoy many years ahead of you. Food House’s noodles are handmade; wide, belt-like and with incredible propensity to flick that searing hot chilli oil all over your front, and it’s worth every stain. While Food House’s décor isn’t much to look it’s a wallet-friendly option for a few friends to try out the vast menu.
Food House, 67 Leicester Square, WC2H
Photo: Chris Goldberg
Jen Cafe, Chinatown
What to order: Fried Beijing dumplings
Dumplings are said to resemble gold ingots, so eat lots of these to bring you prosperity and wealth – especially ones with golden fried bottoms. At Jen Cafe they’re roughly hewn in the window for all to see, the intense chive flavour punching through the pork filling. We love them splashed with black vinegar, soy and chilli oil.
Jen Cafe, 4-8 Newport Place, WC2H 7JP
Rice cakes (nian gao)
Mrs Le’s Grill, Battersea
What to order: Rice cakes, duh
Most commonly found sweet, many families make these at home and fry them so they have a crisp exterior. They symbolise increasing prosperity throughout the year. At Mrs Le’s they serve them savoury and spicy alongside their Vietnamese grill menu.
Mrs Le’s Grill, 178 Lavender Hill, SW11 3TQ
The Orient, Chinatown
What to order: Turnip cake
Turnip cake is a popular dim sum item – made using radish and by steaming the cake, the slices are then fried crisp, and served with chilli oil. Radish is a homophone for ‘good fortune’, which is why it’s considered lucky to eat it. The Orient is often busy for dim sum but you can book in advance, a rarity in Chinatown. Don’t miss out on their cheung fun dim sum dishes either.
The Orient, 15 Wardour Street, W1D 6PH
Whole roasted duck
Gold Mine, Queensway and Duddell’s, London Bridge
What to order: Cantonese or Peking-style whole roast duck
Eating duck symbolizes fertility, and both Gold Mine and Duddell’s serve some of the best in London. The two restaurants’ similarities end at ‘Cantonese’; they could not be more different. Go to Gold Mine and attack the menu with gusto, especially their gorgeously sauced Cantonese roast duck, served room temperature; don’t be expecting any accompaniments other than rice. Dress up for Duddell’s and make sure you’ve got cash in the bank because the full gamut is served Peking banquet style, and gunning for Michelin.
Tong Yuen / Mochi
Glutinous rice balls filled with dessert ingredients – often black sesame or red bean – symbolise unity and togetherness. Though Tsujiri is Japanese, not Chinese, they have a great range of mochi, including in matcha sundaes, which makes a fun change from when they’re usually served bobbing in sweet ginger soup. It’s a little tricky to find, being nestled within the hoardings in Newport Court, but this minimally designed dessert shop in its sleek setting is pure zen, a calm in what is often a chaotic Chinatown.
Tsujiri, 33 Newport Street, WC2H 7PQ