Image credit: Ming Tang-Evans

GuidesLondon

The Resy Guide to London’s Chinese Restaurants, By Those Who Know Them Best

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Chinatown’s popularity has long come down to convenience of location and the quality of food, with older Cantonese restaurants and bakeries mingling with newer dessert shops, regional and diaspora eateries, and hot pot specialists set up to appeal to the increasing numbers of visiting Chinese expats, tourists and students. The area is changing, but the quality of Chinese restaurant food available in London is better than it’s ever been. Pockets of restaurants and food businesses around the city have sprung up to meet the needs of their communities. So who better to ask than the next generation of cooks, writers, and chefs who are passionately propelling Chinese dining culture into the future? 

With the dual effects of COVID-19 and sinophobia hurting Chinese food businesses, now more than ever is the time to remember why we love these communities, and their restaurants so much. Because Chinatowns and Chinese restaurants are where we gather together to eat. And it’s accurate to now say that much of London’s best Chinese cooking can now be found across the city, and not just in the centre — and for that, you’ll have to grab your travel card. 

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Image courtesy Happy Lamb

Central London

Chinatown is still London’s central hub for Chinese restaurants and food businesses, but with the influx of Chinese students to institutions like LSE, SOAS and UCL, the area around Holborn and the British Museum has become a secondary destination in central London for quality Chinese cooking. Of these, Master Wei Xi’an is the most well-known, but hot pot specialists like Shu Xiangge and Happy Lamb are also popular, while specialists like the Hunan-style Rice Coming are increasingly recognised. Meanwhile, alongside Tea Garden in Surrey Quays, Din Tai Fung still does the best xiao long bao in London. 

Holborn

Master Wei Xi’an

I’m a zhajiangmian addict, and their rendition of Wei’s hand-pulled noodles with minced pork and vegetables is my personal go-to. // 13 Cosmo Pl, WC1N 3AP masterwei.co.uk

(Kimberley Hernandez-Ketonen, head chef, Kym’s)

Happy Lamb Hot Pot

I’d recommend Happy Lamb Hot Pot in Holborn. Any hot pot can be a bit overwhelming for a first timer though, so it’s better to go with someone who knows about it. // 2 New Oxford Street, WC1A 1AD +44 (0) 20 7971 1820

 (Peiran Gong, chef and co-founder, Chinese Laundry)

Baker Street

Phoenix Palace

Phoenix Palace is an intergenerational favourite, where we gather grandparents, in-laws, children and friends round the big tables and swap stories over lunch or an early dinner. We love over-ordering on crispy squid with chilli, garlic and peppercorn salt, crispy noodles, or congee with all the toppings. // 5 Glentworth St, NW1 5PG www.phoenixpalace.co.uk

(Helena Lee, Founder, East Side Voices)

Bright Courtyard Club

Bright Courtyard Club is quite good for Shanghainese food, though it’s a little fancy. Order strategically — I would go there for some Shanghainese dishes. I like the si xi kao fu (translated on their menu as Shanghai marinated tofu, though it’s leavened gluten), classic Shanghai smoked fish, Shanghainese ‘lions head’ (pork meatballs), braised hair tail rainbow fish (something rare to find in London). The hua jiao supreme soup (fish maw soup) is great, but it’s expensive. // 43-45 Baker St, W1U 8EW brightcourtyard.co.uk

(Peiran Gong, chef and co-founder, Chinese Laundry)

Chinatown

Cafe TPT

One of the last true dai pai dong-style cafes in Chinatown, TPT has the edge over its competitors in terms of quality — almost everything is decent, while some dishes are truly great. From the vast menu, the highlights are the creamy beef flank curry over rice and the Macau-style pork chop, rich and decadent with onions and a cheese bechamel, baked until molten. // 21 Wardour St, W1D 6PN +44 (0) 20 7734 7980

(Jonathan Nunn, food writer and founder of Vittles)

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Image courtesy Golden Dragon

North London 

With the departure of many of Chinatown’s original residents to leafy North London, the demand for quality Chinese restaurants quickly followed suit. Some of London’s best Cantonese cooking can now be found in suburban shopping centres and strip malls from Barnet to Edgware, with the Wing Yip shopping centre (and its excellent cafes) and the cavernous Bang Bang food hall both acting as beacons for locals and those curious to try the area’s offerings. Meanwhile, despite potentially sombre undertones, the Finchley area’s embrace of a handful of Xinjiang and Uyghur restaurants is further evidence of the style’s increasing popularity across the city. 

Barnet

Chu Chin Chow

A gem so hidden in Zone 5 it’s a miracle it exists at all. You wouldn’t know it from the outside, but this restaurant on an anonymous stretch of suburban road does some of the best Canto-Malay food in the city. The regular menu features some great dishes — the dish fried with yam paste, Capital ribs and Malaysian fried chicken — but for the truly best stuff, befriend the owners and the Cantonese-only menu will unlock a whole new level.

(Jonathan Nunn, food writer and founder of Vittles)

Chu Chin Chow is the local you wish you had; infuriatingly good at the mainstays most of the time, but also with infinite depths to plumb via the secret menu of preordered items. // 7 Cat Hill, EN4 8HG chuchinchows.co.uk

(Feroz Gajia, food writer and chef-owner, Bake Street)

Cricklewood

Wing Yip Cricklewood

If a degree of irreality is a prerequisite for Chinatowns, fake facades and outdated pagodas, then Chinatown only exists in Soho and in a few hundred square metres off the North Circular in Cricklewood, where the Wing Yip complex contains not just a supermarket, but two restaurants. Reindeer Cafe is the casual place to go for roast meats, won ton noodles and cha chaan teng-style comfort food, while Wing Tai is for go big or go home dim sum. // 395 Edgware Rd, NW2 6LN wingyip.com

(Jonathan Nunn, food writer and founder of Vittles)

Reindeer Cafe

Reindeer Cafe in the Wing Yip Centre in Edgware is a great Chinese cafe. I love their siu yuk Chinese roast pork and roast duck. Their won ton noodles are also fantastic, as are their beef ho fun flat rice noodles which come with a good wok hei.

(Mandy Yin, chef-owner, Sambal Shiok)

Reindeer cafe does some of the best meats I’ve had. Once a year, I go for the suckling pig.

(William Akman, co-founder, Deliver Aid)

I can’t even explain why their soy chicken is so good, but it just is. Every time you go there, they just manage to serve it perfectly. It’s succulent, juicy and delicious. My wife Nathalie loves it too — if I ever go by myself I always bring her some home. // 2, Wing Yip Business Centre, 395 Edgware Rd, NW2 6LN reindeercafe.co.uk

(Andrew Wong, chef-owner, A.Wong)

 

Wing Tai 

Get the suckling pig or turbot with preserved cabbage. // 395 Edgware Rd, NW2 6LN wingtai.co.uk

(William Akman, co-founder, Deliver Aid)

A dish at Uncle Chilli. Image courtesy Bang Bang Food Hall

Southgate:

Honeymoon

They have an “off-menu” menu written in Chinese on their wall. Not so great for someone like me who doesn’t read Chinese, but just ask the friendly owner for their most popular special dishes and he will elaborate. Their crispy lobster noodles are phenomenal, as are their herbal ginger chicken and roast duck with crispy yam. // 84 Crown Ln, Osidge, N14 5EN +44 (0) 20 8886 3509

(Mandy Yin, chef-owner, Sambal Shiok)

Colindale

Uncle Chilli in Bang Bang Oriental Food Hall

Order their incendiary hot and spicy noodle soup, with a choice of around 20 different toppings. My favourites are their tender braised beef, quail’s eggs, lotus root, luncheon meat (spam) and enoki mushrooms. // 399 Edgware Rd, NW9 0FH bangbangoriental.com

(Mandy Yin, chef-owner, Sambal Shiok)

Golden Dragon in Bang Bang Oriental Food Hall

Their quality of dim sum is very high, with a range of dishes that you won’t find anywhere else. Their wu kok crispy taro dumplings are the tastiest I’ve had in London. A bonus is that their dining room is very pretty and comfortable. // 399 Edgware Rd, NW9 0FH bangbangoriental.com

(Mandy Yin, chef-owner, Sambal Shiok)

Finchley

Stag City

Stag City is a collection of the most popular dishes in Xi’an done really well, representing Uyghur cuisine and the Xinjiang dishes that bear their influence. // 291 Finchley Rd,  NW3 6ND stagcity.co.uk

(Feroz Gajia, food writer and chef-owner, Bake Street)

Dilara

One of the places I’ve been to the most outside Chinatown is Dilara, an Uyghur restaurant. It’s kind of my local — everyone goes there for big plate chicken, so definitely get that, extra spicy. I always order the Uyghur kebab, polo, and manti. My recommendation would be to go there with a group of people and order the whole Uyghur menu. //  27 Blackstock Rd, N4 2JF +44 (0) 20 7226 2446

(Peiran Gong, chef and co-founder, Chinese Laundry)

Image courtesy Kaki

Angel

Yipin China

The stewed pork belly with pickled mustard greens is a favourite here, and a must-order. // 70-72 Liverpool Rd, N1 0QD yipin-china.co.uk

(Colin Tu, founder, Salvation in Noodles and Mam)

Kings Cross

Kaki

Each time I go to Kaki, I have to order the dry hot pot, oolong pork belly, and stir-fried potatoes with aubergines. They also sell my favourite mapo tofu in London. // 125 Caledonian Rd, N1 9RG thekaki.co.uk

(John Li, chef and co-founder, Dumpling Shack)

Highbury & Islington

Xi’an Impression

I’d recommend Xi’an Impression, a Shaanxi restaurant in Highbury — the biangbiang hand-pulled noodles and “mouthwatering chicken” are both well-known. // 117 Benwell Rd, N7 7BW xianimpression.co.uk

(Ellen Parr, co-founder, Lucky & Joy)

 

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Image courtesy A.Wong

West London

Along with Soho, Chinese immigration in the 1960s was mainly focused on Bayswater, with many agricultural workers from Hong Kong finding work in the catering trade, before eventually opening their own restaurants. Both the original Four Seasons in Queensway and Gold Mine are known for their roast duck; meanwhile, both Shikumen and Pearl Liang are justifiably popular for their dim sum. 

Ealing

Maxim

I would recommend wor ba at Maxim in Ealing. Wor Ba is a puffed fried rice dish that is served with a hot and sour sauce that sizzles and crackles at the table. It’s old school but very technical, and pretty underappreciated.

(Andrew Wong, chef-owner, A.Wong)

Maxim is a place that delivers on getting you to focus on eating and sharing with the company you keep. The best way to order is to take a chance and order a few dishes that pique your curiosity, and ask for help if they aren’t too busy. // 153-155 Northfield Ave, W13 9QT maxim-ealing.co.uk

(Kimberley Hernandez-Ketonen, head chef, Kym’s) 

Victoria

A. Wong

I’ve spent over a decade looking for this kind of cookery and flavours that grab you at the core and shake you. It’s best to do the tasting menu if you can. // 70 Wilton Rd, SW1V 1DE awong.co.uk

(Kimberley Hernandez-Ketonen, head chef, Kym’s)

Paddington

Pearl Liang

I like Pearl Liang for dim sum my favourites are the cheung fun with XO sauce, and the Hong Kong-style cheung fun. I also love the razor clams with garlic, pei pa tofu, morning glory belacan, and snow pea shoots in broth. Chrysanthemum buns to finish! // 8 Sheldon Square, W2 6EZ pearlliang.co.uk

(Helen Goh, author and chef)

Pearl Liang does dim sum classics really well, such as the har gau and cha siu puffs, and are a step up from some Chinatown options without a big difference in price. Their fried chrysanthemum bun is an indulgently delicious way to finish yum cha.

(John Li, chef and co-founder, Dumpling Shack)

Image courtesy Min Jiang

Shepherds Bush

Shikumen Shepherds Bush

I like Shikumen in Shepherds Bush for the venison puffs (so good!) and their Peking duck. // 58 Shepherd’s Bush Green, W12 8QE shikumen.co.uk/

(Helen Goh, author and chef)

Queensway

Four Seasons

The original Four Seasons in Queensway for the three roast meats (roast duck, crisp skinned belly pork, and char siu) with rice and wonton kon lor mee (by special request as they usually do this in broth). // 84 Queensway, W2 3RL fs-restaurants.co.uk

(Helen Goh, author and chef)

Kensington

Min Jiang

I’d recommend Min Jiang for Peking duck with a view. Also for Chinese New Year banquet! // 2-24 Kensington High St, W8 4PT minjiang.co.uk

(Helen Goh, author and chef)

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Chinese Laundry. Image credit: Issy Croker

South London 

While South London remains relatively unsung as a dining destination — for both Chinese and non-Chinese restaurants — the growth of an enclave of notable restaurants in Surrey Quays (yes, you read that right) has quietly begun to change that narrative. As well as dumpling specialist Tea Garden, Ma Po is popular with locals. Elsewhere, the influence of Chinese investment in and around the Greenwich peninsula and beyond is evident not just in the area’s glittering high-rises, but also in the Chinese restaurants that have sprung up along Trafalgar Road and the rest of the peninsula. 

Camberwell

Silk Road

The Xinjiang dishes are filling and pretty good for the price, but I am a bit of a child and can’t get enough of the northern-style dumplings, with thick doughy skins – the lamb and onion dumplings are highly recommended. Meat lovers should (carefully) try the (sharp) kidney skewers. // 49 Camberwell Church St, SE5 8TR +44 (0) 20 7703 4832

(Mukta Das, food anthropologist, SOAS Food Studies Centre)

Surrey Quays

Tea Garden

At dim sum specialist Tea Garden, care and attention are key to reproducing that homestyle taste — plus, they have cheeseburger spring rolls with Special Sauce. // 166 Lower Rd, SE16 2UN teagardendimsum.com

(Feroz Gajia, food writer and chef-owner, Bake Street)

Greenwich

South and North

South and North would be one of the few culinary reasons to visit Greenwich, but not one to be overlooked especially if in larger groups. Dishes and hot pots aimed at large groups may one day be normal again. // 241 Greenwich High Rd, SE10 8PH (0) 20 7018 7690 

(Feroz Gajia, chef-owner, Bake Street)

Brixton

Mamalan

I went there the first week it opened in the village, when chef Ning Ma and her mum were only serving small bites: dumplings, wings, pickle, and seaweed salad. Ning has grown the menu and has other sites now of course, but I still walk into Brixton and order those same items each time, because they evoke the Beijing street food I devoured when I was there in 1998. // Brixton Village, Unit 18 Coldharbour Ln, SW9 8PR mamalan.co.uk

(Mukta Das, food anthropologist, SOAS Food Studies Centre)

Brockley

Chinese Laundry

One of my favourite places to eat is Chinese Laundry — one could say it’s the perfect combination of traditional flavours with touches of innovation and creativity. When cooking food that has been impregnated with so much culture and history, they manage to really represent what could be the future of Chinese food in the UK. The perfect balance. // chineselaundryroom.com

(Anaïs Van Manen, R&D Chef, Bao, Xu)

 

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Xiaolongbao at Shikumen.

East London 

Out East, the focus, as ever, has always centred on the area around the original Limehouse Chinatown. It’s notable that several Chinese restaurants continue to fly the flag in the neighbourhood, the most notable of which is Shanshuijian, a no-frills Dongbei restaurant (and part of a franchise in China) with a memorable guo bao rou (crispy sweet and sour pork). Elsewhere, Spitalfields enjoys multiple Sichuan options while overlooked sections of Poplar and Canary Wharf play host to restaurants that are popular with local Chinese, but also worth seeking out in their own right. 

Walthamstow

Etles

I’m a fan of Etles, an Uyghur restaurant based in Walthamstow. They’re known for their big plate chicken and hand-pulled noodles. // 235 Hoe St, E17 9PP +44 (0) 20 3620 6978

(Ellen Parr, co-founder, Lucky & Joy)

Shoreditch

Old Street Chinese Restaurant

For more traditional, I always find comfort in The Old Street Chinese Restaurant, a great place to celebrate Hot Pot Birthday Parties, in a time where we could share and dip into the same hot steamy flavourful broth. The à la carte menu also offers great dishes, more in the Sichuan style it’s just so fun and full of memories for me!

(Anaïs Van Manen, R&D Chef, Bao, Xu)

Dry fried anything is pretty much a staple at most Chinese restaurants, but I have to commend Old Street restaurant (on…Old Street) for their stellar wok technique. I’d order the stir-fried pig kidneys as they’re soft and smokey. // 186 Old St, EC1V 9FR +44 (0) 20 7253 6346 

(Sirichai Kularbwong, head chef, Singburi

City

The Sichuan

A lunch favourite if you work in the City. A special mention for their Sichuan beef in sizzling chilli oil, which is a revelation. // 14 City Rd, EC1Y 2AA thesichuan.co.uk

(Colin Tu, founder, Salvation in Noodles and Mam)

Aldgate

Shikumen Aldgate

A quiet restaurant, with exquisite service (the maître d’ has a wicked fashion sense) and consistently good quality dim sum. A great place for business lunches or impressing the in-laws. // 1st Floor, Dorsett City Hotel, 9-13 Aldgate High St, EC3N 1AH shikumen-luxe.co.uk

(Jenny Lau, founder, Celestial Peach)

Sichuan Niu Rou Mian at Noodle and Beer in Spitalfields. Image courtesy Noodle and Beer.

Spitalfields

Noodle + Beer

Need I say more? // 31 Bell Lane, E1 7LA noodleandbeer.com

(Jenny Lau, founder, Celestial Peach)

Canary Wharf

Royal China Canary Wharf Riverside

What could be better on a Sunday morning than to take the whole family to Royal China to dive into a feast of dim sum with a view of the River Thames? It’s difficult to pick out particular dishes, but I personally love the wu kok (fried taro puffs), the har gao, the prawn cheung fun, and a noodle dish like the beef ho fun in black bean sauce. // 30 Westferry Circus, E14 8RR royalchinagroup.co.uk

(Helena Lee,  founder, East Side Voices)

Lotus Floating Restaurant

A floating restaurant where you least expect it: Millwall Dock on The Isle of Dogs. Large round tables are perfect for Sunday family gatherings, with a classic Cantonese dim sum menu at super affordable prices. Lap up that old school Hong Kong vibe while watching waterfront apartment blocks being built up all around you. Surreal. // Inner Millwall Dock, 9 Oakland Quay, E14 9EA lotusfloating.co.uk

(Jenny Lau, founder, Celestial Peach)

Excel

Yi-Ban

This Docklands restaurant is famous for its dim sum and Cantonese cuisine, with Thames and City Airport views. // London Regatta Centre, 1010 Dockside Rd, E16 2QT yi-ban.co.uk

(Jason Li, chef, Dream of Shanghai)

Poplar

Han

This is a local for me, and it’s my go-to for when I have Sichuan food cravings. There are two menus, one contains specials which contains a few gems such as the stir-fried lamb with flatbreads. The cumin lamb skewers are seasoned as well as ones I’ve had in Xi’an and they get the balance of fatty and lean meat right. Order the hot pot and crayfish if you’re going in a group. // 213 E India Dock Rd,  E14 0ED +44 (0) 20 3904 7666 

(John Li, chef and co-founder, Dumpling Shack)

Limehouse

Shan Shui Jian

This Dongbei restaurant’s signature dishes include spicy deep-fried chicken with peppers and chilli, hot and spicy dry pot with cauliflower, and grilled fish “farmer-style”.

(Jason Li, chef, Dream of Shanghai)

Shan Shui Jian has a lamb spine soup darker than the Black Lagoon, seasoned just right for the coldest night. // 562 Commercial Rd, E14 7JD shanshuijian.co.uk

(Feroz Gajia, food writer and chef-owner, Bake Street)

Leytonstone

Panda Dim Sum

Because it’s local, I would mention Panda Dim Sum for their homemade dumplings (just order that, nothing else). // 767 High Rd Leytonstone, E11 4QS, learn more.

(Sirichai Kularbwong, head chef, Singburi)

Stratford

Sichuan Grand

I’d recommend Sichuan Grand because they don’t skimp on the peppercorns and there’s actual flavour in the dishes. I’m a sucker for the dry-fried intestines or the lamb ribs. // Unit 1, Gerry Raffles Square, E15 1BG sichuangrand.com

(Sirichai Kularbwong, head chef, Singburi)

Hackney

Karamay

I’d recommend the signature dishes at this Uyghur restaurant in Homerton; leghman (hand pulled noodle 手工拉面), signature fried noodles (爆炒面), and Uyghur lamb shank pilaf (羊拐抓饭).

(Jason Li, chef, Dream of Shanghai)

New to the scene in Homerton. They specialise in Uyghur cuisine so make sure you order the Uyghur Pilaf or the samsa bites which are wonderfully moreish. // 151 Homerton High St, E9 6AS karamayleicester.com

(Colin Tu, founder, Salvation in Noodles and Mam)

 

David Paw is Resy’s international editor. Follow him on Instagram. Follow @Resy, too.

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