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Where to eat in Chinatown

Dine at the finest Chinese restaurants the West End has to offer for Chinese New Year 2015

So many chopstick and rice parlours; so hard to know which one to choose. But Time Out’s food and drink reviewers have eaten at all of them – many times, over many years  – to produce this definitive guide on the best places to eat.

Chinatown on a budget

Baozi Inn

At Baozi Inn, kitsch Communist Revolution decor meets northern Chinese street food tidied up for London. True to Sichuanese form, red is present in most dishes – if not as a slick of potent chilli oil, then in lashings of sliced or whole chillies. The kitchen occasionally gets things wrong, but when it’s on song – which is often – the food is spicy, delicious and cheap.

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Chinatown

Café TPT

It’s not unusual to see a big menu in Chinatown, but such a vast repertoire seems impossible from a kitchen galley the size of an origami boat. Not so, because dishes from Hong Kong, mainland China and the diaspora are all produced competently, and some of them with commendable aplomb. TPT isn’t the cheapest of the budget Chinatown cafés, but both cooking and service are better than you might expect.

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Chinatown

Four Seasons

Famed for their Cantonese-style roast duck, this modest restaurant displays barbecued meats – pork ribs, pork belly and whole ducks – in the window facing busy Wardour Street. Of the two Four Seasons in Chinatown, this branch has the friendlier service. Open until 4am daily, Four Seasons is a decent restaurant for a late night meal in central London that wouldn't burn a hole in your pocket.

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Chinatown

HK Diner

The interior is bigger than the narrow frontage suggests; staff will hasten you towards any unoccupied booth seating. The menu covers Chinese standards, such as roast duck (impressively succulent), 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. Open until 4am daily.

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Chinatown

Leong's Legends

They offer a single concept: ‘Taiwanese’ cooking in tea house surrounds. In truth, the menus are dominated by Cantonese dishes, with just a sprinkling of Taiwanese options, but the decor delivers – doing away with white tablecloths and round tables in favour of dark woods and carved latticework. The cooking isn’t always as successful; however, the full-flavoured one-bowl dishes (such as dark, sticky pork belly on a huge mound of steamed rice) offer terrific value, and are reason to visit alone.

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Chinatown

Longji

If you’ve ever wondered what a fast food joint in Hong Kong looks like, this is it. The brightly-lit, functional space is spread over several floors, each with HK-pop piped overhead, and is deservedly popular with Chinese students – or, in fact, anyone with an eye for good value. Service is fast, and by London Chinatown standards, fairly friendly.

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Old Tree Daiwan Bee

This Taiwanese street food will sate even the most homesick emigre from Taipei. Highlights of the menu include own-made Taiwanese sausages, and the salt and pepper fried tofu was sensational. From an oyster omelette that was stuffed and blanketed with tingle, taste and texture, to noodles that were nestled in richly-spiced broth, the short menu of affordable fare didn't disappoint. Be warned there’s no toilet on the premises and the place looks a bit drab, but the makeshift approach is reflected in the reasonably priced, cash-only bill.

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Leicester Square

Or for something a bit smarter

Imperial China

A small wooden bridge spanning an ornamental fish pond, warm wood panelling, kind lighting and a second floor offering a view of the dining room below set this Cantonese stalwart apart from all others in Chinatown. Yet in every other respect, it’s indistinguishable. Service is efficiently brusque to maximise customer turnover. We’ve often had to wait for a table, whether we had booked in advance or not – as if an empty seat, even for a minute, is seen as a threat to profits. No surprise then, that dishes are delivered quickly. During a weekend dim sum lunch, about a dozen baskets arrived simultaneously, minutes after ordering. There were no standouts among the parade of dishes we tried, but we had no complaints either.

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Chinatown

Joy King Lau

The waitress claimed the name doesn’t mean anything, though she was pretty sure ‘joy’ approximated most closely to ‘tsui’, or ‘drunk’. Yet while some Chinatown eateries get rowdy late at night, this seems unlikely at JKL – despite its proximity to Leicester Square. The decor is nicer than it appears from the outside, best described as being on the posh side of nondescript, over all three floors. The clientele is overwhelmingly and reassuringly Chinese, many of whom come for the long-renowned lunchtime dim sum. 

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Chinatown

See the restaurants on a map

Comments

4 comments
Nigel R
Nigel R

You guys really need to consider the hygiene standards when you're making your best restaurant lists. A restaurant cannot be a best if it has a dirty kitchen or bad practices no matter how tasty the food. A quick visit to http://food.gov.uk/ratings would resolve this easily

KChamings
KChamings

@Nigel R I'm not paranoid and I have an immune system so I don't care. As long as they aren't doing anything especially dodgy, let's not over regulate and let these smaller businesses thrive in a london which is full of boring sanitised chain restaurants 

Truculent S
Truculent S

@Nigel R  Well, since we're concern trolling, here's the latest from the FSA site:

These all got 4/5 (Very Good):

  • Baozi Inn
  • Café TPT
  • Longji (this venue has changed name since its last inspection - 2011 - when it was known as 'Café De Hong Kong')


These all got 3/5 (Generally Satisfactory):

  • Four Seasons
  • Old Tree
  • Imperial China
  • Joy King Lau


Only one got 1/5 (Major Improvement Necessary):

  • HK Diner


And only one got 0/5 (Urgent Improvement Necessary):

  • Leong's Legend.


So, given that the vast majority of these restaurants are, at the very least, satisfactory, are you going to apologise?

Fred F
Fred F

I don't know who Nigel R is, but I think he has a valid concern. I don't want to dine in a restaurant with 0 out of 5 as a hygiene score; and I wouldn't expect to see such a restaurant in a list of recommendations.