You can expect to find plenty of Cantonese food in London’s Chinatown. The neighbourhood around Gerrard Street in the West End has been the centre of the city’s Chinese community since the late 1960s, and the food served here—from Dim Sum to Peking Duck—reflects that community’s roots in Hong Kong.
But things are changing. Modern Chinatown (which is on the doorstep of Hotel Indigo London—1 Leicester Square) boasts a variety of Chinese cuisines, and more besides. In the last few years, excellent Sichuan, Taiwanese, and even Americo-Japanese food has arrived here, and that’s before you mention the most extravagant ice-cream treat to hit London since the Knickerbocker Glory.
Hungry? Here are six of the best of Chinatown’s new breed:
Dumplings are hugely popular in much of China, and nowhere more so than Beijing. At this simply-decorated, Michelin-Guide-listed spot on Lisle Street – where you can enjoy the surprisingly relaxing pleasure of watching the dumplings being made – these handmade-to-order pleasures are served either pan-fried or with soup.
Try: the pork and chive dumplings.
When it opened in the summer of 2017, there were queues down the street outside this tiny shop in Wardour Street. It doesn’t take long to work out why: the Hong-Kong style waffles served here are the most outrageous sweet treat imaginable. Essentially, it’s a huge folded waffle stuffed with ice cream and topped with a variety of sweet extras, from Oreo cookies to salted caramel. If you have a sweet tooth, this is not to be missed.
Try: Oreo Up, which comes with Oreos and Nutella.
London has many, many burger restaurants but few of them can touch Ichibuns for excitement and pure panache. What you have here, essentially, is a burger bar that has been thoroughly Japan-ised; given that Japan has perhaps the world’s most sophisticated and interesting food culture, that’s a really good thing. Alongside burgers, you’ll find sushi, gyoza and udon noodles on the menu, plus cocktails for when the sun goes down.
Try: the Katsu Chicken Burger.
Chinatown now has many Sichuan restaurants to cater for Londoners’ developing taste for this fiery but sophisticated cuisine. None is more authentic, though, than Jinli, where Sichuan pepper and interesting cuts of meat (for which, read offal) are the order of the day. Located a few doors down from Hotel Indigo London—Leicester Square, this large restaurant offers both classic Chinese cuisine and a selection of Sichuan treats. It’s very popular with Chinese students, which gives a fair idea of its authenticity and value.
Try: Grilled Fish in chilli oil.
Plum Valley is not new but it is one of the most interesting of the old brigade. Extensively renovated a few years’ back, it focuses on Dim Sum and modern Chinese fusion. That’s down to Stanley Cheung, who inherited this restaurant from his father and decided to take it in a different direction: the dark, booth-heavy interior, for example, is quite a break from the traditional Chinese restaurant look.
Try: Barbecued pork buns.
The interior at Xu, which has been designed to evoke 1930s Taiwan, is genuinely breathtaking. It’s intricate, too: there’s two floors, with a back room with tables for playing Mahjong. The founders of Bao, one of London’s most heralded new restaurants of the past few years, are responsible for Xu—but while Bao’s interior was simple, Xu’s is pure opulence. That theme continues with the food, which is rich, hearty and very good.
Try: Char Sui Iberico Pork.