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Ask Eater: Is Walking Into Chinatown Without a Reservation a Fool’s Game?

What’s the vibe, where should I go, and do I need to book?

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“Go to Chinatown as you would have done before”

Hi Eater,

So, Chinatown was my main “walk-in, last minute” dining spot, based on what I felt like eating as I walked past (and happy to wait for a table if it was full). But I am very conscious that in this time restaurants need bookings beforehand...

Is Chinatown a place that is still a good spot to wander and chance a walk-in? Especially at busy times, such as Sunday lunch? How are the outside tables working? Don’t want to travel into town and not get a seat, happy to book if I need to be organised (I am very disorganised).

Hello there!

Well, Chinatown feels very bustling and vibrant with all the tables outside, as most of the restaurants have an area with outdoor seating, especially on Gerrard Street, the main drag. This does give a slightly skewed idea of how busy the restaurants actually are, as the inside spaces are often empty — particularly on a hot and sunny days.

If it is just two of you, then a chance walk-in spot outside is high and with a shorter wait time. Big groups — up to six, of course — will need to be seated inside. On a recent Bank Holiday Monday, after queuing in a few lines, my brother and sisters and I (one in each queue, another scouting) spotted a four-top come free at Leong’s Legend and were able to snag that. That whole process took about 30 minutes of leisurely walking up and down Gerrard Street, thinking, debating what we felt like eating, gossiping, joining the queues.

If you have a very particular favourite and are not opportunistic like us, then you might have to wait a bit longer, but if you’re happy to sit inside once you get to the front of the queue, you will probably be able to get a table straight away. If you need inspiration of what to eat and where to go, then do consult Jonathan Nunn’s ever-dependable Chinatown restaurant guide, but I do quite like seeing what is available and/or what captures my fancy on the day as well.

In general, especially if it is sunny, approach Chinatown with leisure. Get a bubble tea and sit on the benches in Newport Place, eat at a few different spots — Jen Cafe, Good Friend Chicken, Cafe TPT — take an outside table if it’s free, sit inside and enjoy the air conditioning, if not; take time and enjoy. Moral of the story: Go to Chinatown just as you would have before.

Happy turning up!



Jen Cafe

4-8 Newport Place, , England WC2H 7JP 07587 500959


199 Tooley Street, , England SE1 2JX 020 7183 2117 Visit Website

Cafe TPT

21 Wardour Street, , England W1D 6PN 020 7734 7980 Visit Website

Good Friend Chicken

14 Little Newport Street, , England WC2H 7JJ Visit Website