Celebrate Chinese New Year with great food. 'Chinatown Kitchen' author Lizzie Mabbot picks out the neighbourhood's gastronomical delights.
Best place for… duck
Four Seasons (12 Gerrard St) is my favourite place in Chinatown for Cantonese-style duck. It doesn't serve it with pancakes – as is the case with the crispy type – instead, it presents the lacquered version (which you'll spot hanging in the window) on rice or on its own drizzled with the rich, anise-scented meat juice.
Best place for… baked treats
Golden Gate Cake Shop (13 Macclesfield St) has tongs and trays for you to help yourself. Grab a takeaway breakfast like a proper Hong Kong-er with pineapple buns (so-called for their chequered appearance) and egg custard tarts. Or go for something savoury, such as the sweet brioche twists stuffed with a frankfurter.
Best place for… dim sum
Set over several floors in a narrow building, Joy King Lau (3 Leicester St) is a reliable spot for traditional steamed and fried dim sum, served every day until 5pm. If you're feeling adventurous there are more unusual dishes to try, like curry whelks, spicy tripe and duck feet in bean curd roll, and they also do an excellent range of sweet dessert buns.
Best place for… Beijing-style dumplings
At Jen Café (4-8 Newport Place) they serve only two types of dumpling: Beijing-style, fried or boiled. Made with a mixture of pork and Chinese chive, you know they're fresh as you can watch two ladies in the window filling and folding them at incredible speed. The black vinegar and chilli oil dipping sauce, on the table to mix yourself, is essential.
Best place for… soup dumplings
Dumplings' Legend (14-16 Gerrard St) is a new kid on the block and it shows in its shiny whitewashed interior. Soup dumplings, also known as xiao long bao, are delicate little purses, usually filled with pork and broth. It takes a really skilled chef to make the silky steamed dumpling dough and the ones here are the best in Chinatown.
Best place for… noodle dishes
Wong Kei (41-43 Wardour St) is notorious for its 'interesting' service experience; the supposed rudeness is all a myth, though: staff are merely efficient. Flick to the back of the menu for the best dishes. There you'll find crisp noodles, noodles in soup, fried noodles and other rice dishes for an incredibly reasonable price.
Best place for… bubble tea
Originally from Taiwan, bubble tea refers to drinks made with flavoured jelly pearls, drunk with wide straws so you can slurp them up. There are numerous places to try this chewy delight around Soho but I like the bright and breezy Cuppacha (23 Newport Court).
Best place for… fresh pak choi to take home
New Loon Moon (9A Gerrard St) is a brilliantly well-stocked supermarket, not just for Chinese groceries, but Thai and Vietnamese too, in particular fresh vegetables and herbs. For a more traditional Chinese supermarket, head to See Woo (18-20 Lisle St); its fresh veg is perky, replenished frequently and very popular.
Best place for… £1 noodles to take home
Lo's Noodle Factory a is tucked behind the main drag at 6 Dansey Place. It doesn't look like a shop, just a factory, but be brave and approach the man working diligently inside. For a pound, you'll be rewarded with a warm, oiled bag of fresh rice noodles, which are far superior to the dried variety.