With Year of the Rabbit celebrations coming up tomorrow in Chinatown, here's our top ten list of favourite Chinatown treats (in no particular order except alphabetical). Have fun and eat well!
Better known sibling Bar Shu offers a fine dining take on Szechuan cuisine, but Ba Shan brings the honest street food that inspired it all. Fuchsia Dunlop’s done the food consulting here, making sure that everything from the dan dan noodles to the chilli bean paste is as authentic as you’re going to get without going via Heathrow.
4 Romilly Street, W1D 5AH
An essential in this list simply for being so tucked away, Candy Cafe is one of the few Chinatown spots where you won’t be jostling with tourists for familiar favourites. Spot the sign on Macclesfield Street, climb the stairs and enjoy a jelly drink, bubble tea, Ipoh coffee (yes, that is pronounced i-poo...) or Taiwanese breakfast cake with a regular or two. It’s an internet cafe as well.
3 Macclesfield Street, W1D 6AU
Best roast duck in the world? That's what Financial Times writer Nicholas Lander reckons, and it was his write up about Four Seasons that led Londonist there to investigate. We have no way of knowing if it's the best in the world but it's the best we've had in London. One piece of advice based on our experience here: forego the rest of the menu and just order the duck. Everything else on the menu is perfectly decent but nowhere near as good as the duck.
12 Gerrard Street, W1D 5PR
Golden Gate Cake Shop
Golden Gate Cake Shop is so small, you could easily walk by it and not notice it. Despite its size, the shop sells over 80 different types of baked goods, from sweet pandan cake, black forest cake, and custard bun to pineapple bun, coffee cake, and mango pudding. The buns are moist and delicately made with a crispy outer layer of flaky pastry dough. It is self-service so they encourage you to use throngs and trays that are provided near the entrance. Try the sesame seed balls, a deep fried pastry filled with red bean paste and coated with sesame seeds. The custard tarts are also popular favourites, as are the beautifully decorated whole cakes, which are filled with fruit and sweet cream.
13 Macclesfield Street, W1D 5BR
A good, solid Chinatown standby. Great duck, noodles, salt and pepper squid … it’s all good … especially the bubble tea!!! Yum. Yay. HK Diner is perpetually packed yet they always seem to have a table available or will in less than five minutes. We suppose this has much to do with the surly - but incredibly efficient – service.
22 Wardour Street, W1D 6QQ
For fairly authentic Taiwanese in an evocative (if kitsch) “1120 AD” setting, check out Leong’s Legends on Macclesfield Street (or its sister restaurant, Leong’s Legends II, around the corner on Lisle Street). When you go, give the flavoursome xaio long ba burst-in-your-mouth soup dumplings a sampling. Delish. The porkbelly's pretty awesome too. In fact, everything we've tried on the menu is yummy. Finding a decent place to eat can in Chinatown can be hit or miss. Leong's is a reliable standby that's clean, with good service and offers a tasty assortment of Taiwanese food.
4 Macclesfield St, W1D 6AX
This Lisle street restaurant has been around for years and may be able to boast the most extensive menu in Chinatown – which is no mean feat. Westernised dishes hog the set menus, so go a la carte for an exploration of the likes of chickens’ feet, ducks’ tongues and jellyfish. Their less outlandish prawn toast and hotpot are also widely praised as amongst some of Chinatown’s best.
21 Lisle Street, WC2H 7BA
Sushi Ga Ga
More than anything, Sushi Ga Ga is a fun place to eat some interesting food. Yummies here include “Wagu Beef” sashimi, Wagu nigiri, butter-like yellowtail sashimi and ebi siu mai (prawn dumplings). We especially like the wasabi prawns, delightfully presented with a light tempura coat, a vibrant swab of wasabi mayo and dangling from sticks on a thick cutting board. A whole lot better than we ever would have imagined, we must admit the Spaghetti Ga Ga (fresh ramen cooked with minced wagu beef tomato sauce) is one of the most moreish dishes we sampled all of last year. Best with a group of foodie friends to ensure an adventurous romp of the menu, Sushi Ga Ga offers amusingly tasty dishes in a manner that seems to buck tradition and cast aside worries about blending upscale with downmarket or sophistication with broad appeal.
16 Lisle Street, WC2H 7BE
Wan Chai Corner
Its position by the pagoda and the aggressive tout outside, ensure Wan Chai is usually pretty full. For some reason, though, this excludes the restaurant’s upper floor. Ask to be seated there and you’re guaranteed a fast-track, and if you order some of the more adventurous dishes from the menu, the staff will reward you with much better service. Try the deep fried crab with chilli and garlic (crab crackers provided) and the eel in black bean sauce.
3 Gerrard Street, W1D 5PP
Wong Kei, possibly the UK’s largest Chinese restaurant has a bit of Marmite effect. Whilst some rave of it as a traditional Hong Kong style cafe, others just think the service is bloody rude. The mantra is to come, order, eat large portions of good, cheap Cantonese food and then go. Expect bad service and a fast turnaround but very, very good crispy pork.
41-43 Wardour Street, W1D 6PY
By Chris Osburn and Ben Norum
Photo by cafedereves
This article is part of our Best of London Food and Drink series. Visit the page for more recommendations of where to enjoy the capital's top food and drink, categorised by cuisine, food type and more.