hen a country is as big as China, the idea that it has a unique cuisine quickly becomes ridiculous. Here’s how it is: Choosing Chinese could mean plates of Sichuan and Hunan peppered with stupefying spices; it could mean the sweet seafood of Cantonese cuisine; or perhaps the colorful precision of Jiangsu’s sweet and salty dishes. It can mean high end or low; fastidious or cheerful informal; Food for beer bottles or pots of tea. So it can be difficult to know where to start – at the local corner spot, in the maze of Chinatown, or among the wealthy of Mayfair?
And so we radioed for help. Ahead of next week’s Lunar New Year, some of the biggest names in Chinese cuisine are offering their favorites, at both prime and foot prices. We’ve removed the repeated mentions of some names – A Wong, Imperial Treaure and the Royal China Club had several shoutouts (Philippine-born chef John Javier took pains to mention that their lobster dumplings are the best he’s ever had) – But Below are 21 of London’s best Chinese restaurants, handpicked by connoisseurs.
Z Er, bread roll house
My go-to place is a tiny eatery called happy dog (70 Brick Lane, E1, 020 3730 2346) serving authentic dishes from China’s Northeast region. I usually eat here once a week with family – the food is so comforting and the execution never fails. Skewers are a must – my favorites are lamb and pork belly skewers and grilled chicken. Other favorites include the guo bao rou, a sweet and sour crispy pork accompanied with Chinese chives or enoki mushrooms, and their signature liang pi – cold glass noodles with sesame peanut sauce. Another favorite is the Mandarin cuisine (14-16 Queensway, W2, mandarin.kitchen). There is a wide range of classic Cantonese dishes here and they specialize in Cantonese-style seafood; A must try is the signature lobster Yee Mien – I couldn’t find better Cantonese lobster pasta anywhere in London!
Bun House, 26-27 Lisle Street, WC2, Bun House
Fei Wang, Hutong
My favorite hidden gem is a little restaurant called Jincheng Alley (43 New Oxford Street, WC1, 07376 666858). Being from Chengdu, I’m always on the lookout for authentic Sichuan cuisine, and Jincheng Alley offers an innovative take on the dishes I grew up eating. They have reinvented and even improved on traditional Sichuan classics. Both the setting and the flavors are geared towards catering to the tastes of the Chinese – I think it’s a great place for Londoners who want to be introduced to truly authentic Sichuan cuisine. I would also recommend the Royal China Club (40-42 Baker Street, W1, royalchinagroup.co.uk), which serves traditional dim sum and classic Cantonese food – this is the closest thing to traditional Chinese dim sum I’ve found in London (outside Hutong!).
The Shard, 33 St Thomas Street, SE1, hutong.co.uk
Andrew Wong, A Wong
I love companies that specialize in one thing and do it really well. In China and Hong Kong, street stalls often do just one dish and have spent generations and generations perfecting it. Here, dumpling shack (Old Spitalfields Market, E1, dumplingshack.co.uk) is the same. Somewhere else I love is New Loon Fung (42-44 Gerrard Street, W1, 020 7437 7332). I go to dim sum with my family every Sunday and it’s nice to be able to eat in London so close to Hong Kong. New Loon Fung is also a reference point for me; After developing a dish for a while, I can lose track of the flavor and returning to New Loon Fung allows me to recalibrate. I’m also a big fan of Sichuan food; My grandma was Sichuan. I love the offal and withered dishes But La Sichaun (37 Monck Street, SW1, malasichuan.co.uk). This type of dish truly exemplifies a Chinese mouthfeel, coolness and gristle texture. It’s unique in what we do and it’s good to try dishes that celebrate that.
70 Wilton Road, SW1, www.awong.co.uk
Charlene Liu and Linda Liu, Liu Xiaomian
We visited Minjiang (Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington High St You can have it with two servings – we usually have the duck and tofu soup as a second serving. Cafe TPT (21 Wardour Street, W1, cafetpt.com) is a typical Cantonese restaurant in Chinatown. What we like best is the well-priced dessert menu: the signature sweet bean curd with mango and grapefruit is our absolute favorite. You can stop by and ask for takeaway or dine there off-peak.
In The Jackalope in Marylebone Village, W1, liu-xiaomian.com
Ken Hom CBE
My all time favorite Chinese restaurant in London is a win (70 Wilton Road, SW1, awong.co.uk), especially if I have some money to spend. Why? Because it’s real Chinese-London food that doesn’t stand still. Chef Andrew Wong’s dishes are constantly evolving and changing – always for the better. His dumplings are out of this world, and Andrew makes traditional dishes his own, like his Peking Duck. I also love the way he takes veggies to extraordinary heights, so much so that I almost want to go vegetarian. The secret at A Wong is to ask for the latest dish of the day. You will not be disappointed. Another one I love is By Tai Fung (two in WC2, one in W1, dintaifung-uk.com), an offshoot of the famous Taipei store in Taiwan. Here you can watch the chefs fold the famous xiao long bao, a steamed dumpling with soup. But the inside info is that everything else on the menu is up to date too. The pork chop is excellent, as are the stuffed chili peppers and the magically flavorful beef noodle soup. It’s easy to eat your way through the menu and then come back for more.
Peter Ho, MiMi Mei Messe
I really enjoy how traditional The Imperial Treasure (9 Waterloo Place, SW1, imperialtreasure.com) Cantonese flavors and its Singaporean heritage. Try the dim sum and drink it with tea as they go well together. And I remember after I left Beijing and came to London perch (28 Frith Street, W1, barshurestaurant.co.uk) was the first place I discovered the traditional lemon flavor. It stays authentic. I would recommend beginners to mention their tolerance of spicy food to the staff as it can often be very spicy. I tend to order the Chongqing chicken and fish with pickles.
55 Curzon Street, W1, mimimeifair.com
Lee Che Liang, Park Chinois
Hunan (51 Pimlico Road, SW1, hunanlondon.com) is fantastic for its no menu concept – it takes the pressure and chaos out of ordering and you remain in the hands of the masters. You just say what you like and how spicy, then waves of small plates come to the table; We had about 18. The chili beef and squid were outstanding. Otherwise, Xi’an impression (117 Benwell Road, N7, xianimpression.co.uk) might not look like much from the outside, but I like going there for authentic and typical local Xi’an food. Their hand-pulled noodles are second to none, finished to perfection with hot oil and ground chili wrapped around the noodle ribbons. I also have fond memories of dining with friends at plum mental (20 Gerrard St, W1, plumvalley.co.uk). Family-run, it puts a fun spin on classic regional dishes: always start with some fresh dim sum, while the Hong Kong-style fried whole crab in a windbreak is a showstopper dish that has us arguing over who’s last piece gets.
17 Berkeley Street, W1, parkchinois.com
John Javier, The Tent (At the End of the Universe)
On the top end, the Peking duck is great MiMi Mei fair (55 Curzon Street, W1, mimimeifair.com) and the ones I’ve had here come closest to those in Sydney and Asia. But when it comes to London’s Chinese restaurant scene, my heart lies on the more accessible end of the spectrum: Dim sum and duck (124 King’s Cross Road, WC1, dimsum-duck.business.site) used to be my favorite – when I could get a table! If you are lucky and there is no line, satisfaction is guaranteed. Get the shrimp wantons with lettuce cream, har gao, siu mai, roast duck and the beef flank stew. Still, my absolute favorite is this one Chinese restaurant on Old Street (184-186 Old Street, EC1, theoldstreet.co.uk). I always order the sizzling fillet of fish, the double-cooked pork belly, the stir-fry frog legs, and the cabbage simmered in a great broth. If you’re feeling adventurous, pork kidneys in chili sauce and the sliced beef and ox tripe in chili oil are also big hits.
17 Little Portland Street, W1, little-portland.com
Geoff Leong, dumpling legend
One place in Camden that has my favorite street food dishes like pancakes and other East Asian delights like laksa and Haina chicken and rice is Lan Kwaifong (27 Chalk Farm Road, NW1, lankwaifongcamden.com), named after the busy area of Hong Kong. It’s a good place to eat, have a draft beer and play digital beer pong. I’ve hosted many parties with karaoke and beer pong in the private rooms: you get a taste of Hong Kong party life without breaking the bank. But I love too Park Chinese (17 Berkeley Street, W1, parkchinois.com). It’s not the marble or the gold faucets or the bulletproof glass and there’s no need to have both beluga and peking duck, but it just has a wonderful ambiance and I love live music. It’s cosy, the cocktails are good and so is the food.
15-16 Gerrard Street, W1, 020 7494 1200