It’s easy to take Chinese food for granted — a dynamic cuisine that, in the U.K., has always existed but has most often been understood through a Cantonese lens. It’s worth remembering that there are many regional differences to the country’s food culture, a nation loaded with comforting and delicious dishes from Hunan, Sichuan, Xi’an, and Xianjing. Chinese food in London has only gone from strength to strength over recent years, and this round up is a mixed selection of old favourites, new openings, and a couple of curveballs to sink those chopsticks into.Read More
Where to Eat Chinese Food in London
Classic Cantonese cooking, sensational Sichuan, and damn good dim sum — it’s all here, and it’s all over London
1. Maxim Ealing
Maxim is well worth the trip west to Ealing, especially for the authentic old-school Pekingese dishes that aren’t found anywhere else in central London. Gather a big group of hungry friends, make the journey and dig into a hefty menu spanning over hundred items. The classics, such as duck, lobster, rice and noodles, are all here, but the standout dishes are fried king prawns with egg whites and signature barbecue ribs. And look out for a glimpse of 92-year-old Mrs. Chow pottering about — she’s been running the joint since the 1970s.
2. Shikumen Shepherd's Bush
London W12 8QE, UK
Sometimes, west is best and it’s all thanks to Shikumen. Located on Shepherd’s Bush Green inside the Dorsett Hotel, there’s a homely feel from beautiful rosewood furniture and red lacquered screens. Go to town on the dim sum menu: there’s a mixture of traditional and modern dishes, such as crispy eel and nori cheung fun, king crab dumpling consommé, har gau and scallop shumai — all induce demands for seconds. It’s the perfect antidote for all the nostalgic dim sum Sunday feels.
3. Pearl Liang
There’s no doubt about it, Pearl Liang looks and dresses the part. With its distinct Cantonese interiors: rich pink tones, bamboo plants, water features and gigantic cherry blossom murals — it’s as pretty as a picture. It would be remiss to ignore a selection of exquisite dim sum (visit during the day for the full selection), but the extensive Cantonese menu is as much reason to visit. For those seeking a more luxe dining experience, options include black bean dover sole or abalone from the a la carte dinner section. Going the extra mile is definitely worth the extra tariff.
Also Featured in:
4. A. Wong
It’s no surprise that head chef Andrew Wong has been dominating the food industry ever since he transformed his father’s business in Victoria back in 2013. His creative Chinese dishes continue to blow minds; 63-degree tea egg with shredded filo, duck yolk custard buns that are made to look like tangerines and carrot-shaped rabbit and carrot glutinous puffs. A. Wong is more about exploring the cuisine’s boundaries and throws perceptions of traditional Chinese cuisine out the window. (Wong has since opened a second, more casual venue called Kym’s in the Bloomberg Arcade.)
5. Cafe TPT
London W1D 6PN, UK
A standout among the Hong Kong-inspired cafes that line the west side of Wardour Street, Cafe TPT is a template for how all Chinese restaurants of this type in London can and should be: competent at almost everything and exceptional at some. Fatty brisket curry on rice and Singapore noodles, elastic and smoky from the wok, are great options, but it’s the pork chop Macau-style with onions, cheesy bechamel and spoonfuls of chilli oil that is unmissable — a chaise longue of a comfort dish best eaten in the early hours of the morning to soak up a Soho night.
6. Dumplings' Legend
Dumplings’ Legend does exactly what it says on the tin: legendary dumplings in a flash. Walk in to the site of several pros hand-making and folding dumplings at warp-speed in a glass room. Eating xiao long bao dumplings (the speciality here) is a sophisticated three-step process. First: dunk the soup dumpling in vinegar dipping sauce; then carefully put the dumpling onto your spoon and poke a hole in the wrapper of the dumpling to release the steam and prevent your mouth from burning; finally, down the hatch in one. It’s pretty much like doing a tequila shot, but minus hangover and one very happy belly.
7. Four Seasons
It’s hard not to miss Four Seasons in Chinatown — the scent of their roast ducks hanging in the window from can be detected from a mile off, long before the restaurant comes into view. With the smells of grease and glorious roast meats hanging in the air, it’s near impossible not to follow one’s nose and pop in to try the excellent selection of barbecue meats, steamed sea bass, lobster with cheese and garlicky stir-fried greens.
8. Food House
London W1D 5QQ, UK
One of the few restaurants which has benefited from the recent Chinatown development, moving from Charing Cross Road to Gerrard Street’s main drag has propelled Food House into cult status among young Chinese students who take respite from Dover Street Market in red oil noodles. The menu is shared between Sichuan — dry hotpots and whole fish cooked in chilli oil — and heartier central Chinese fare of belt noodles, rou jia mo (flatbreads with meat) and skewers. Make sure to bring people, this is one of the few places where dumplings can be ordered by the 30 (thirty).
9. Joy Luck Restaurant
London W1D 5QJ, UK
Before it (successfully) pivoted to become yet another hot pot joint, Joy Luck used to be the place to go in Chinatown for la mian (hand pulled noodles) and dao xiao mian (knife shaved noodles) in soup or fried. Only one dish has survived, but it’s the best one — the Wuhan dry noodles, that come topped with sesame sauce, chillis, pickles and two cloves of chopped garlic to be mixed table side. It’s what most London bowls of dan dan noodles want to be when they grow up.
Also Featured in:
Located off Caledonian Road by the canal, Kaki is out there on its own, one of London’s newest Chinese restaurant openings: Sichuan peppercorns (high grade green tops rather than red tops) in an excellent, face-numbing seabass in chilli oil offer a dictionary perfect definition of ma la, but the more subtle dishes are the most intriguing. A dish of cold, sliced tofu comes with the sour hot heat of pickled chilli, an umami rich soy dressing and then fresh, briny oysters, creamy and barely steamed from the sauce — a simple dish turned into something riotous. The chef is from coastal Dalian in Liaoning, rather than Sichuan, and there is clearly an affinity with fish and seafood here.
11. Xi'an Impression
Xi’an Impression? More like Xi’an impressive. Yes, it may not be the glossiest or the most comfortable restaurant around, but it definitely scores a hat trick on price, taste and being BYO. To bag a table, make sure to visit on a non-match day as it’s directly opposite the Arsenal stadium in Holloway. Everything here is regional Chinese food that is unavailable at other Chinese restaurants in London. Expect things like open-ended fried dumplings, beef and pork ‘burgers’ (more like kebabs), elasticky biang biang noodles and their signature liang pi crunchy noodles.
Also Featured in:
12. Yipin China
From the outside, Yipin China may not look like much, but really it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Expect a rich and unique combination of intensely spicy, chilli-based flavours mixed with regional-specific curing and smoking techniques. Here there is plenty of authentic Hunan dishes such as spiced snails, pig’s liver with pak choy and Chairman Mao’s red-braised pork, alongside a range of neighbouring Sichuan and Cantonese province dishes on the menu. Make sure to get in early before, 5pm, as there’s a special menu offering a range of dishes with rice for just £5.50. It’d be rude not to.
13. Wuli Wuli
Traditionally seen as the places to go when you can’t get into Silk Road, Wuli Wuli is now more than just a last resort. In some aspects it now surpasses its Camberwell cousin. Having gone through a few iterations, most notably as a blood, guts, and fire Sichuan, it’s now relatively home-style with a pared back menu and biang biang noodle section added as a new string to its bow. Get one plain to appreciate the balance and texture, with translucent parchments of double cooked pork on the side.
Also Featured in:
14. Silk Road
London SE5 8TR, UK
A south of the river institution that needs no introduction, but for those unfamiliar, Silk Road is a north-western Chinese-specialised affair that’s brought Xinjiang cuisine to the masses. Nibble at grilled cumin lamb skewers while waiting, slurp on handmade chilli belt noodles and wash everything down with a couple of bottles of Tsingtao beer for the full Xinjiang experience. The best thing? Everything should cost approximately £20 — £25 a head (including drinks) for the whole shebang. An unrivalled bargain in the city.
Duddell’s doesn’t do things by halves; they go the whole hog, or in this case, the whole roast duck. Presented as a two in one dish, the waiter dextrously carves crispy Peking duck skin in a theatrical fashion, served with three different delectable sauces and wafer-thin pancakes, plush the remaining chunks of tender bronzed meat. But that’s not all; there’s plenty of other great dishes, like the crispy salted chicken, soya chicken, a lobster supreme noodle showstopper, and the XO seafood pot. Prepare to dig deep though, here are big prices alongside big flavours.
Also Featured in:
16. My Old Place
Prepare for the barrage of numbing-spicy dried red chillies, a Sichuan speciality that’s featured on the majority of items on the menu. This no-frills east London restaurant is loud and occasionally questionable, but packs a punch in heat and flavour. The slide-right-off meat skewers, mapo tofu and mountains of hot, steaming dumplings are the real MVPs here. But, for the adventurous, there are off-cuts of various animals, too: the likes of deep-fried intestine, duck tongue, pig’s liver and sliced lung.
17. Etles Uyghur Restaurant
Mukaddes Yadikar’s restaurant near Walthamstow Central station is London’s first and finest Uyghur restaurant and, perhaps, E17’s finest neighbourhood spot. Some advice: One — go with a group. Two — order, to start, Chaomian, a stir-fry of short, cut lengths of noodle wokked with chunks of of beef, spring onion and tomato. Three — Da pan ji (‘big plate chicken’): a remarkably deep, savoury, and spicy chicken and potato stew, teeming with Sichuan peppercorns, served with flat hand-pulled noodles.
18. Chu Chin Chow
Ask locals about Chu Chin Chow and they might tell you it’s an excellent buffet restaurant, a place to come on Saturday and load up on chow mein. Another type of local might say that actually, get the Malaysian chicken with caramelised wands of lemongrass, or the fruity capital ribs or the duck with an exoskeleton of crispy yam, or gigantic butter prawns with sugar spun floss, or salted yolk squid, or chilli crab with roe sweeter than treasure, from what is London’s best Canto-Malay restaurant hidden in Zone 5 Barnet. Others say there is a further secret menu containing poon choi, gigantic buns filled with curry and exemplary chicken rice with the pink flesh and yellow skin of a Battenberg. Huge, if true.