Another central London Chinatown restaurant institution has announced it will close permanently — the latest in a string of long-serving business closures in an area whose leaseholders are increasingly at the mercy of rising rents, “placemaking” landlords, and broader demographic and commercial shifts in the last half decade.
On Instagram, the restaurants owners wrote:
“It is with a heavy heart we announce that we will be closing from 4th July and there will be a change of management. The current team will all be leaving after nearly 30 years of service and we want to say a huge thank you to all of you who have supported us, especially the last two years in the pandemic.
“We are truly grateful for you all. Thank you so much for your trust and support, and we will miss you all dearly.”
Joy King Lau is one of a generation of Cantonese restaurants in the area, which date back to the 1980s and 90s, serving dim sum through the daytime and a full menu of roast meats, fried dishes, curries, and soups at dinner. It is especially well-known for its siu mai and har gau, according to this guide to the best dumplings in London.
A pattern has emerged whereby these restaurants are now closing more frequently, as a new generation of business is moving in because rent of demands in 2022 principally determined by the most powerful landlord in the area, Shaftesbury, and its counterparts. Joy King Lau is not a tenant of Shaftesbury, but it belongs to the “Chinatown London” portfolio brand the landlord created and owns.
More, it fits into the pattern James Hansen recently observed, when analysing the mega merger of landlords CapCo and Shaftesbury. He wrote, “consider the deliberate reconfiguration of Chinatown into a TikTok-optimised, mono-dish playground of bubblewaffles and fried chicken, while Cantonese institutions that nobody wanted to disappear are forced to shut up shop.”
A representative of the restaurant responded to Eater’s request for comment, saying that it “wasn’t sure on what the future plans are for the brand itself,” suggesting that the restaurant name may live on and new operators could take over at the premises.
The restaurant also wrote on Instagram that its manager, King — “[whom] you would often see bustling about in her suit every day!” — “would like to thank all the team who made it possible for us to create and serve the food we are so passionate about. She will miss all our guests, from regulars to those who passed through our doors just once...”
The restaurant will close this coming Sunday, 3 July, at 3 p.m.
Update: 27 June 2022, 9:20 p.m.: This article was updated to clarify an implication made that Shaftesbury PLC was Joy King Lau’s landlord.
Update: 28 June 2022, 5:58 p.m.: This article was updated to include a response from Joy King Lau.