Looking for Chinatown restaurants? Here are our favourite places to eat and drink in Chinatown London. We’ve found the best dumplings restaurants in Chinatown, along with hidden cocktail bars and Asian street food. We’ve also visited some of Chinatown’s best restaurants for Malaysian, Chinese, Taiwanese and Szechuan cuisine.
Chinatown’s fried chicken joint has a Taiwanese twist. Queue up at this small takeaway for fried-to-order pieces of chicken in a variety of shapes and sizes. The owners brought their oven over from Taiwan to ensure authenticity, and the chicken is cooked in the oven then fried at two different temperatures to make extra juicy and tender. The ultimate crumb is achieved by tossing the chicken in three different flours before frying, making this the one of the crunchiest fried chickens we’ve tasted.
Pimp your snack with a sprinkling of one or a mixture of seven seasonings – Thai spice, salt and pepper, chilli, or the more unusual but popular plum.
14 Little Newport Street, Chinatown London
The best dumplings in Chinatown – Dumplings Legend
This large Cantonese restaurant lives up to its name, making approximately 8,000 dumplings a day. With 27 dim sum varieties to choose from, the menu can be overwhelming, but peer into the glass-fronted dedicated dumpling station to watch chefs roll out, fill and weave together intricate little parcels. Take your pick from comet-shaped prawn wontons, tightly-packed juicy sui mai garnished with cod’s roe, and plump steamed prawn dumplings.
There are eight varieties of xiu loung bao soup dumplings (spicy pork, pork and crab, veggie to name a few), and there’s even a guide to eating these slippery little mouthfuls alongside the menu. The fragrant meaty stock liquefies in the steamer and then bursts out of its case, so be careful not to burn your mouth.
15-16 Gerrard Street, Chinatown London
Make our recipe for soup dumplings here:
The best cocktails in Chinatown – Opium
It’s easy to miss the subtly-marked entrance to the best cocktail bar in Chinatown, as it’s just a black door between two restaurants on busy Gerrard Street. Venture up the narrow stairway, however, and the space opens out into a warren of cocktail dens spread over two floors.
The first floor is the apothecary, where Chinese medicine bottles sit behind the red and green wooden bar, each filled with a decanted spirit for signature cocktails. Try the bitter sweet boulevardier; a concoction of Michter’s bourbon, bitter Cocchi Americano and vanilla Campari that gives the drink its name. The separate zodiac cocktail menu showcases cocktails in elaborate vessels. The rat is a ceramic vase-like pot that overflows with smoke on arrival, filled with a punchy combination of vodka and smoky mezcal with spiced apple, ginger and lemon tea.
Upstairs in the attic, portraits of the owner’s ancestors watch over as you snuggle into comfy mismatched chairs. There’s a little area (and yet another bar) tucked away around the corner decked out like an old Chinese train carriage, complete with suitcases and wooden-clad ceilings. The menu up here reflects the surroundings – salted caramel sazeracs twisted with coffee liqueur, and apricot and cardamom old fashioneds with chocolate bitters.
Wherever you choose to park, order a round of dim sum to accompany your cocktails. Go for seabass and fennel dim sum for something a bit different, or taste all the classics (siu mai, har gau, fluffy char siu bau) on a platter.
15-16 Gerrard Street, Chinatown London
The best Taiwanese restaurant in Chinatown – XU
The Taiwanese trio behind BAO (read our review here) have come a long way from their steamed milk bun shack at Netil Market, Hackney, setting up a bricks-and-mortar spot in Soho in 2015 and another in Fitzrovia in 2016. Their latest venture, XU (pronounced shu), is a smart restaurant in Chinatown that celebrates the diversity of Taiwanese cuisine, from the home cooking of Taiwan’s indigenous tribes, to street food brought over from mainland China, and influences from Japanese and Dutch colonies.
XU is an upmarket space, complete with sleek and stylish interiors based on 1930s Taipei – baby-pink banquettes, a dedicated tea kiosk and a dark wooden bar with a mottled marble counter top.
Xiao tsai (small plates) and mian shi (meaning ‘wheat plates’) are stunning – plump carabinero prawns bathe in sweet and punchy XO sauce, melting short rib meat is served with bone marrow, pancakes and fresh, crunchy trimmings, and crisp chicken wings come with a sticky soy, sesame and sugar glaze (here’s the recipe).
Flavour-packed mains include super-soft sea bass topped with pickled red and green chillies, fragrant and tender chicken served in a large pot, and the now Insta-famous chilli egg drop crab presented in a crab shell. Don’t skip the side dishes, though – pork lardo melting into fluffy rice is cracking (here’s the recipe), and bits of pork, pickled radishes and fried shallots crank up a crunchy kale salad.
30 Rupert Street, Chinatown London
The best Szechuan restaurant in Chinatown – Baiwei
Expect a lot of heat from this small, no-frills joint that specialises in fiery cuisine from Szechuan and North China. The interiors provide a tongue-in-cheek nod to Mao’s reign, with propaganda posters and brightly coloured murals painted directly on the walls’ rough surfaces. Red chopsticks and little dipping bowls await on wooden tables dotted around the two higgledy piggledy floors.
Baiwei means “100 flavours” in Mandarin, so get as many tastes in as possible with a few dishes to share. Smacked cucumber with strips of tender chicken in a bath of chilli oil, soy sauce and Chinese herbs is a refreshing start. Dig deep in a bowl of springy Chengdu Dan Dan noodles to discover a peanut and sesame sauce hidden beneath. Mix it through the caramelised beef for a real umami hit.
Plump gong bao prawns in a sticky vinegar and sugar sauce come with chunks of celery, peanuts and the numbing heat of Szechuan pepper, along with chillies and spring onions. Don’t miss the fish fragrant aubergines, slow-braised with minced pork in more of that red chilli oil.
8 Little Newport Street, Chinatown London
The best cakes in Chinatown – Bake
Bake creates sweet and savoury treats made famous on Asia’s street food scene. The speciality is the taiyaki, a Japanese fish-shaped cake filled with custard. Bake has got creative with this iconic fish mould to create flaky and buttery taiyaki croissants and even an Instagram-worthy fish-shaped waffle cone filled with soft matcha ice cream.
If you’re in the mood for something savoury, try a fluffy steamed bao bun stuffed with BBQ pork, or a sticky pandan lotus pastry. Often mistaken as matcha due to its vibrant green colour, vanilla-esque pandan has been dibbed the new ‘superfood’ by famous foodies, and here it is swirled through knot-like pastries.
9 Wardour Street, Chinatown London
Here’s how to take really good photos for instagram, a guide from our art team.
The best Malaysian restaurant in Chinatown – Rasa Sayang
Rasa Sayang means “loving feeling” in Malaysian, and this simple café provides just that to their customers. Pretty tiffin boxes and kitsch ornaments (tiny red and white plastic chairs) lining the shelves, and an extensive menu of authentic, halal Malaysian dishes are true to Malaysian cafés.
Get stuck into the comfort food and dip super light and chewy pull-apart roti into curry sauce to scoop up tender pieces of chicken, or indulge in melting pieces of beef coated in fragrant rendang curry. We’ve heard the Singapore chilli crab is pretty epic, too.
5 Macclesfield Street, Chinatown London
The best street food in Chinatown – Baozi Inn Takeaway
Stop by this tiny hole-in-the-wall Chinatown takeaway to pick up a bag of hotpot skewers. A southeast Asian street food speciality, these skewers (known as lok lok) are a great pre-dinner snack.
Pick between the long list of meats and veggies (spongy fish balls, tofu and squares of frozen bean curd) before they are plopped into a boiling pot of spiced Szechuan chilli broth to soak up the fragrant juices for a spicy mouthful.
Served in a paper bag with plenty of coriander, this is a great quick fix to have on the move before the theatre or as a pick-me-up between shopping sprees.
26 Newport Court, Chinatown London
The best fusion restaurant in Chinatown – Plum Valley
If you’re looking for a contemporary fusion meal in Chinatown, Plum Valley is the place. Owners Iris and Stanley turned quite a few heads in the Chinese community when they threw tradition out the window and revamped Stanley’s dad’s bookshop to create this modern restaurant. The multi-storey building is separated by candlelit staircases and dark corridors that open out into small dining rooms with slick interiors brightened up by Gaudi-esque touches reminiscent of Chinese gardens (tile effects at the windows, lattice floor dividers, mosaics).
Start with a refreshing lychee martini and order a selection of dim sum. The head dim sum chef has a team of seven, and they play around with traditional recipes to create modern twists such as wasabi prawn dumplings, vibrant green spinach cases, and cod rolls wrapped in wispy strands of kataifi pastry.
20 Gerrard Street, Chinatown London
The best hot pot in Chinatown – Hot Pot
Asian hot pot is as it sounds: a pot of broth bubbles away on a burner in the middle of the table, and diners toss raw vegetables, meat, seafood and fish into the soup to cook and eat. It’s a popular way to dine across Asia, from suki in Thailand to shabu-shabu in Japan and huo guo in China.
Hot Pot offers five different types of broth. There are three Chinese varieties: a classic fiery Szechuan number and more soothing chicken and clear soups for the spice averse.
Hot Pot pays a nod to its Thai origins with a hot and sour version and vegetarians can enjoy a mushroom-infused broth. If you’re unable to choose then they also offer hot pots divided in the middle so you can enjoy two broths at once, and large tables come with multiple burners–so come with a big group if you want to sample as much as possible.
Read our full review of Hot Pot here.
The best Cantonese restaurant in Chinatown – Orient London
Orient London serves three menus – dim sum, Chinese, and a set menu. If you want to try something adventurous (including braised sea cucumber with fish lips, marinated spicy duck tongues, and fresh lobster with turnip paste and pepper sauce), make sure you ask your waiter for the ‘Chinese’ menu.
The set menu sticks to the classics – hot & sour soup, crispy duck, sizzling king prawn – and delivers them well, at good prices. Cantonese style sweet & sour pork is coated in a thick, glossy sauce with just the right level of sweetness, and sticky pan fried fillet of sea bass with teriyaki marinade comes in bite-size pieces.
Read our full review of Orient London here.
We chat about the best dumplings in Chinatown on our podcast here:
For more information, visit Chinatown.co.uk