Alan Yau, the man behind Wagamama, Hakkasan, Yauatcha, and Yamabahçe, among others, will return to London with the opening of a Docklands restaurant, which he analogises as a Chinese River Cafe — the globally influential riverside Italian restaurant in west London. He will also open two more London restaurants by 2020, according to the Evening Standard.
Yau’s will open three restaurants — two in Canary Wharf and one at Westfield London — with Chyna, a 120-cover seafood restaurant that will have a “large terrace overlooking the open water of Canary Wharf’s South Dock”. It will be located at Wardian London, a lofty, high-rise development project that consists of 766 apartments, and promises Cantonese cooking that uses European ingredients, as well as two water tanks from which diners can pick their own fish and lobsters. Yau compares it to what he would serve at dinner parties — live water tanks probably do not feature, even at his house. A second restaurant, a 45-cover Japanese grill, will also open at the development.
Yau’s plan to locate two of his restaurants at the London Docklands is significant not only because it has been a thriving hub for trade since the time of the British Empire, but also because some of the first Chinese restaurants in Britain were aimed at sailors in city docksides. Moreover, the same Cantonese cooking that Yau will focus on, has also been routinely taken for granted, and also been exercised to death, whether in London or around the world, although today, Chinese food is gaining in strength, especially in Chinatown in London, where it’s possible to feast on Singapore noodles, rou jia mo flatbreads from Xi’an, or just an egg fried rice. The third opening is a return for Yamabahçe, the pide restaurant that opened in September 2017, which will now open at Westfield London. The Marylebone iteration was also billed as a “return” from retirement for Yau. Speaking at an event in 2018, Yau dubbed the future of Chinese dining in the city as “bleak” — clearly, to some extent, he’s had a change of heart.
This trio of restaurants could be a second second coming.