Chinatown, London, foodie guide: where to eat and drink
Check out our list of the best places to eat and drink in Chinatown London, from dumplings to duck, cocktails to chicken
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.
The best fried chicken in Chinatown – Good Friend
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
Best cocktails in Chinatown – Viet Lounge
Fans of speakeasy-style bars should check out Viet Lounge, a slinky drinks den tucked away on the third floor of Viet Food. Here, mixologist Alex Loois (The Dorchester, Park Chinois and Hakkasan) uses ingredient such as yuzu and szechuan pepper to create syrups and cordials for his drinks. Enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail or two (try the Hakuna Matata, made with homemade yuzu syrup, limoncello, lemon curd and champagne) before heading downstairs to the restaurant to feast on head chef Jeff Tan's Vietnamese dishes, from slow-cooked phos to octopus salsa and seafood pancakes.
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34-36 Wardour Street, Chinatown
Best laksa in Chinatown – C&R Café
Hidden away down a narrow side street, this no-frills Malaysian restaurant has somewhat of a cult following for its laksa, a spicy, sumptuous noodle soup (C&R offers two regional variations, sour assam laksa and sweeter, coconut-milk-based Singapore laksa). You can also find other Malaysian classics on the menu, including Hainanese poached chicken with rice, nasi lemak (rice cooked in coconut milk with dried anchovies, peanuts, boiled eggs, sambal and chicken curry) and roti canai (flaky, buttery flatbreads).
4-5 Rupert Court, Chinatown
Best hot pot in Chinatown – Shu Xiangge
Hugely popular in China, hot pot is as it sounds: a pot of broth bubbles away on a burner in the middle of a table, and diners (carefully) toss in raw ingredients to cook and eat. Shu Xiangge specialises in the fiery Szechuan style – chilli-laced broths (with numbing szechuanese peppercorns, to balance the heat), although gentler options are also available for the heat-averse. Perfect for groups, order a selection of finely sliced raw meat and fish, tofu and vegetables (offal fans should try the more traditional offerings, which include the likes of tripe, brains and aorta) and get cooking.
43 New Oxford Street, Chinatown
Best Szechuanese food in Chinatown – Jinli
Spice lovers should make a beeline to this much-garlanded restaurant for its hyper-local take on Szechuanese cuisine. Focussing on the dishes of Chengdu (the capital of Sichuan province), Jinli is named after a thoroughfare in the city famous for its street-food dishes. Discover a wealth of well-executed regional classics (and some interesting twsits), from grilled cumin-spiked lamb to blistered, stir-fried green beans with minced pork and sour and spicy braised aubergines.
4 Leicester Street, Chinatown
Best Filipino desserts in Chinatown – Mamasons Dirty Ice Cream
People may head to Chinatown in search of bronzed roast duck or sumptuous dim sum, but the area is also a hot spot for quirky, interesting desserts, from Tsujiri's black sesame soft serve and Bake's fish-shaped Japanese taiyaki cakes filled with custard (see below), to Yolkin's ice cream macaron sandwiches. One of the newer arrivals is ice cream parlour Mamasons, where Filipino ingredients such as ube (purple yam) and calamansi (a cross between a lime and a kumquat) are used to make colourful ice creams. It also offers other treats such as bilogs (ice cream in a toasted milk bun), halo halo shakes (coconut strands, sweet red bean, shaved ice, egg flan and ube ice cream) and freshly baked Filipino bread.
32 Newport Court, Chinatown
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
We recommend a trip to Jen's Cafe, on 48 Newport Place, for their highly commendable dumplings. If you stand outside their Chinatown restaurant you can watch and salivate while your homemade Chinese pork dumpling is being rolled, filled and pleated. They are the best in London, and for under a fiver you get eight crisp, juicy, crescents. Dunk them in the black vinegar or roasted chili sauce provided on the plastic-covered tables.
The best bar 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 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
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 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.
Best Turksih food in Chinatown – Hovarda
A sophisticated Aegean-inspired restaurant in Chinatown serving refined Turkish food in a relaxed setting. Leave room for a plate of lokma – Turkish doughnuts that came light and crunchy, with a sticky honey syrup, topped with crunchy walnuts and a gently spiced cinnamon ice cream.
We chat about the best dumplings in Chinatown on our podcast here:
For more information, visit Chinatown.co.uk