Jen Cafe, one of Chinatown’s great institutions, has permanently closed.
Eater London has learned that the iconic jade-fronted cafe on Newport Place closed in recent days, with the site now empty; its windows covered with sheets of white paper.
The restaurant has been serving Chinatown peerless steamed Beijing dumplings (jiaozi) since the year 2000.
“The chameleon of the dumpling world, jiaozi have different sub-genres depending on whether they have been boiled, steamed, fried or are in soup ... [and] best at the triangular, green-fronted specialist Jen Cafe,” Jonathan Nunn wrote in his guide to dumplings. “They come chubby and crimped, filled with pork mince and chive. A spartan dumpling to enjoy while watching other diners come in and order the instant noodles by mistake.”
On news of the closure, writer Angela Hui, who has reported extensively on Chinatown and its restaurants, told Eater she was “genuinely sad.”
“I was always so mesmerised watching the aunties make fresh dumplings in the window,” Hui said.
For me, it’s nostalgia more than anything and it reminded me of old-school cha chan teng in Hong Kong. I always ordered the grilled dumplings covered in chilli oil and vinegar and a luminous bright green apple slush fruit bubble tea.
I know I’m a child having a stupid green slush drink and not milk tea lol
But I loved chatting to the aunties who worked there in Cantonese, the blunt/curt but efficient service and how we would chat about memories of Hong Kong and gossip about other bad customers who’d walk through the door. —Angela Hui
Few restaurants in central London are as cult or as universally loved as Jen Cafe was for more than two decades. It will be sorely missed.