Chopsticks at the ready! There’s Cantonese dim sum, classic Beijing-style roast duck, spicy Sichuan cuisine and plenty more to choose from in our round-up of London's best Chinese food. Do you agree with our choices? Use the comments box below or tweet your suggestions.
Such acutely stylish venues rarely last, but after a decade Yauatcha can add longevity to its enviable list of attributes. So why do people still glide down the stairs of this self-styled Taipai tea house into its sensual basement? The design helps: the long bar, spot-lit black tables and illuminated fish tank still have allure, and the nightclub vibe is boosted by beautiful staff and bass-heavy beats. Even being shunted away to seats behind the staircase has benefits (privacy). And there’s substance behind the style. Day-and-night dim sum was a Yauatcha innovation, and a special of scallop and edamame crystal dumplings produced three delicate, pendulous sacs filled with a textural mix of resilient beans, crunchy carrot morsels, flavourful fragments of scallop and juicy sweetcorn. Gai lan came with just enough salted fish sauce to pique the palate, and fragrant lotus leaf rice held moist treats of egg, chicken and dried shrimps. Exotic teas and East-West fusion desserts (yuzu brûlée tart) are highlights too (sample them in the ground-floor tea room), and main courses hold interest (sea bass with shiitake and wolf berry, say), but grazing on exquisite snacks is the primary culinary draw – though prices might make you wince.Read more
The distance north of Shaftesbury Avenue, though only 20 metres, is important. Barshu (the original of a Sichuan quartet along with Ba Shan, Baozi Inn and newcomer Baiwei) is distinct from Chinatown’s mostly Cantonese restaurants in looks and pricing, as well as cuisine. The dark wooden ground floor is brightened by red lanterns and partitioned by a beautifully carved screen; upstairs is similarly woody. Despite such rusticity, you could spend extravagantly here – though there are ways to lessen the bill. Order tea (£2 per person) rather than wine (the cheapest bottle is £21.90). You’ll need to slake your thirst to counteract the fiery, numbing and sour flavours that characterise western Chinese cookery. The menu holds much interest, listing the likes of pea jelly, prairie tripe, and stir-fried chicken gizzards with pickled chilli – each dish is depicted. To start, order from the ‘Chengdu street snacks’ section, rather than the pricey appetisers; sweet-potato noodles in hot and sour sauce was a filling bowlful of noodle soup, chilli oil and numbing peppercorns, for just £4. Main courses of fish-fragrant pork slivers (a pleasing textural mix including wood-ear fungus and crunchy bamboo shoot) and stir-fried long beans, chopped small and well-paired with minced pork, also hold delight. Drawbacks? Many dishes are hot and oily, so order steamed rice and (expensive) plain vegetables for balance. Service could be sharper too, but Barshu nevertheless remains London’s prime exponeRead more
More than a decade after it started wowing London’s big spenders with its classy Cantonese cooking, this Michelin-starred trendsetter remains a benchmark against which all high-end Chinese restaurants should be judged. The basement’s stylish interior (all dark wood lattice screens and moody lighting) still attracts the kind of beautiful people who might suppress their appetites – though there was little evidence of restraint on our midweek night visit. Plate after plate landed on tables around us, including signature dishes such as silver cod roasted in champagne, and jasmine tea-smoked organic pork ribs. We started with the dim sum platter, a basket of superbly crafted dumplings. The pastry was perfect in give and texture, just elastic enough to encase generous bites of flavour-packed meat and seafood. Sweet and sour Duke of Berkshire pork with pomegranate was equally good, the melting tenderness of top-quality meat turning the clichéd staple into a luxury – Chinese takeaways should weep with shame. Drinks run from cocktails via high-priced wines to specialist teas. The original Hakkasan that spawned a global empire (including a newer branch in Mayfair) retains all its appeal: cool enough to be seen in, yet authentic enough to dash pretension.Read more
Venue says: Don't forget to purchase your London Cocktail Week 2015 wristbands folks! 5-11 October.
Someone's gone to a lot of trouble to make this Chinatown cocktail bar and 'dim sum parlour' look shabby. The design is Eastern smoking den meets Western hipster hangout, with Chinese vases and burning incense mixed with deep funky beats and retro armchairs straight from granny’s sitting room. Be sure to visit the loo: there are motion-activated lights and the speakers will blast you with terrifyingly loud Mandarin announcements. It’s all very theatrical – but that’s nothing compared to the drinks. The signature Opium Cocktail No.1 is poured into a crimson dry ice-based vessel at the table for maximum effect. So while you may not be smoking, your glass is. A heady, syrupy concoction of two kinds of rum, a lick of absinthe, mandarin juice, kaffir lime syrup and a mini-shot of liquid ginseng, it doesn’t taste half bad, either. To eat, there's dim sum. Strictly speaking, yum cha is a lunchtime food, but they’re not playing by the rules here. Of the steamed dumplings we sampled, the dough could have been a little thinner, but the ingredients (such as sweet, juicy prawns with crushed water chestnuts and slices of chives), were bang on the yuan. Another plus is that the place is open very late - until 3am at weekends, with food served until 2.30am. To find Opium, look for the jade-coloured door on Gerrard Street, close to Chinatown’s main gate. And don’t be scared of the bouncer. He’s a real sweetheart.Read more
The Shard you already know. Hutong, half way up the Shard, needs more than just a ni hao of introduction. The original Hutong in Hong Kong is a glitzy, high-end Chinese restaurant with magnificent views, mainly patronised by expats and tourists. And this London branch of Hutong is exactly the same. The same Sichuan and northern Chinese menu, the same mix of plate glass and ersatz Old Beijing decor, the same hard chairs – even some of the staff are the same, brought over to help clone the successful original. What’s different about the Hong Kong and London kitchens is the level of spice. The Kowloon restaurants of David Yeo’s Aqua Group give the full assault of chilli and sichuan pepper, but three of the dishes we tried in London were much less fiery. Not meek, just toned down a bit for the gweilo (foreigner) palate. A ‘red lantern’ of softshell crabs had to be fished out of a huge bowl of decorative deep-fried chillies, a dramatic presentation which can render the edible part of the dish incendiary; yet the crisply cooked crabs were only agreeably spicy. Dan dan noodles had the recognisable ma-la (‘numbing, spicy hot’) combination of this Sichuan dish, but the dish was a bit overcooked and it was a little heavy on the peanut sauce, turning it into more of a soupy laksa than a Chengdu street snack. White meat was used instead of dark for the shredded chicken, but heck, most Estuary English speakers will prefer it that way . Northern Chinese food is at last making more frequRead more
A pioneer of London’s trend for branching out into regional Chinese cuisines, Silk Road quietly churns out favourites from the north-west frontier province of Xinjiang. Dishes can be fiery, but are also balanced with a plethora of spices, a legacy from the Silk Road that ran through the desert area, transporting treasures from east and west. The cuisine of Xinjiang’s Turkic Uighur Muslims, the area’s largest minority, exhibits many of the hearty traditional standbys found around Central Asia – notably kebabs and dumplings – but with a bold Chinese influence, bringing a spiciness and vibrancy its counterparts elsewhere can lack. Silk Road’s short menu includes Sichuan-style dishes – perhaps an influence of the ethnic Han owners – but skip past these dishes to focus on the Xinjiang specialities. Small, fatty pieces of lamb crusted with ground cumin, chilli and salt and grilled on a skewer are an example. Dumplings – filled with meat or vegetables – are typical northern China staples, although here lamb dominates instead of pork. It would be a shame not to try a few. What attracts most people to Silk Road is the noodle and stew menu. Our favourite was the ‘medium chicken’, a wonderfully rich star anise-and-chilli-flavoured broth bobbing with pieces of bird on the bone, plus potatoes. When you near the bottom of the serving bowl, and are approaching fullness, your waiter will bring a heaped pile of superb handmade noodles to dump into the aromatic broth and soak up the rest ofRead more
The rule of thumb in Chinese restaurants is to look around for diners of Sinaean extraction and be sceptical when you don’t see them. That said, Phoenix Palace’s dinnertime abundance of well-fed, tie-wearing western and south Asian men in late middle age is an endorsement; they’re the international businessmen used to the Cantonese food served in the upmarket Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong spots that this large restaurant most resembles. Expensive, heavy Asian wood decor, and Molton Brown hand cream in the women’s toilets emphasise the similarities. The arena-like layout of raised tables on the edge of the central dining area is good for people-watching, and spying to see which tables are being the most bold with the expansive menu. The crispy duck pancakes here aren’t London’s best, but they didn’t disappoint. Scallops in crispy green fried ‘bird’s nest’ were tasty, though we suspect the MSG kick had been diminished for western palates. Service can let things down, with the occasional lengthy wait between courses, but the excellent har gau (shrimp dumplings) are a reminder of why reservations are a must for weekend dim sum – unless you want to queue for more than an hour.Read more
The ‘club’ in the name makes RCC sound like a members-only section of the Royal China Group, which isn’t far from the truth. This, the premier link in the chain, has an air of quiet elegance found in five-star hotels, right down to the faint tinkling of a piano. The kitchen turns out consummate Cantonese cooking, using prized ingredients (abalone, lobster, veal) at every opportunity. At lunchtime, dim sum includes the signature cheung fun, which here comes filled with velvety dover sole and smooth pieces of scallop – all sitting in a puddle of sweet, smoky sauce. A quartet of siu mai (steamed pork dumplings) are topped not with a dice of carrot (as they would be in Chinatown), but with pearls of salmon roe, as you’d expect at the banqueting table. Even simple noodle dishes are elevated to premium status: our steak ho fun noodles were smothered in a dark, soy-laced sauce full of umami savouriness, heaped with expertly judged slices of medium-rare sirloin, and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Wherever possible, the polished, softly spoken staff employ silver-service methods, making everyone feel like a visiting dignitary.Read more
Pay attention as you walk along Wardour Street, adjacent to Leicester Square – it’s easy to miss HK Diner’s narrow frontage. The interior is bigger than you might expect, and staff will hasten you towards any unoccupied booth seating. The menu covers Chinese standards, such as roast duck (impessively succulent) and various Chinese greens stir-fried with your choice of sauce, but on our last visit we were most struck by the generosity of the seafood (scallops, carved squid) in a noodle dish. Everything was perfectly cooked and the service was gracious, which is reflected in the prices being a little higher than the Wardour Street norm. The bubble teas (a long list, from mango to iced red bean with coconut milk) are excellent, and, usefully for night owls, the place is open until 4am daily. Note there’s a minimum £6 a head charge.Read more
The owners of Shikumen were doubling their bets when they launched London’s newest Chinese restaurant concept. They opened this branch in the Dorsett Hotel just six weeks after debuting their first in Ealing’s Xanadu Hotel. Named after a Shanghainese East-meets-West architectural style popular in the seventeenth century, Shikumen claims to reflect the refinement of that period. It isn’t something you’d expect to find. First impressions lived up to the promise – from the courteous greeting at the door to the handsome dining room furnished with leather banquettes and Shanghai-style room dividers. The dim sum menu is a compact selection of exquisitely steamed, baked, and fried dishes ranging from classic har gau and xiao long bao to more sophisticated items such as scallop siu mai topped with tobiko and cheung fun filled with prawn and beancurd skin. The latter was a revelation, each mouthful exploding into a sensual mix of sweet, briny flavours and crisp textures. Pan-fried turnip cake, another lunchtime staple, exceeded expectations with an eggy topping of chopped garlic chives. A generous portion of stir-fried seafood udon in XO sauce was also faultless. We didn’t have time for Peking duck, which requires at least 45 minutes notice and is presented in two servings – sliced and served with pancakes, then shredded and served with fried rice or fried or braised noodles. Judging from the dim sum, I’m willing to bet this dish would be executed with equal meticulousness. ServiRead more