Time Out says
Please note, Cha Chaan Teng has now closed. Time Out Food editors, May 2019.
What do you get if you cross an old-school American diner with a budget Chinese joint? A large helping of hoisin Coca-Cola ribs and a little bit of magic, if Cha Chaan Teng is anything to go by. It’s unabashedly a fusion restaurant – the weirdest and most wonderful one that strait-laced Holborn may ever have seen.
Taking its name from Hong Kong’s popular tea restaurants – which first started pairing the drink with cheap, slightly muddled takes on classic British cooking in the 1950s – this Cha Chaan Teng is a mash-up of East, West and everything in between. Confused? You’re sort of supposed to be. Even walking in is fairly mind-bending. From the outside, it’s scruffy and unremarkable, but push through the double doors and head downstairs and you’ll find yourself in an enormous, subterranean space that’s been sexed up with kitsch collages and art deco booths. The strangest thing of all is that it actually works. And as with the decor, to eat here you have to be ready for anything.
First up – a spam roll. I know what you’re thinking, but this may be the first time in history that spam has actually tasted delicious. It’s tossed in panko and served in a crusty bun, sandwiched between a fried quail’s egg and – the secret ingredient – a bed of sriracha pickle. It’s sharp, vinegary and beautifully fresh, cutting through the salty, fatty spam, and lifting the richness of the quail’s egg. Another highlight was a properly luxurious lobster prawn toast that came flecked with black sesame seeds and drizzled with wasabi mayo. And those hoisin Coca-Cola ribs – sweet, sticky and braised in ginger and dark soy, this dish is basically Cha Chaan Teng on a plate: bucketloads of American indulgence balanced with clean, zingy Asian flavours.
Sometimes, though, they take it all too far. Do not, for instance, order the peanut butter french toast. Imagine a threesome between a peanut butter sandwich, some prawn toast and a flan: this is their bastard love child. Cloying to a (massive) fault, one bite is so much more than enough.
But that aside, Cha Chaan Teng is a great experience and definitely a place to pace yourself. I’m currently clean eating to save calories so I can come back and power my way through the rest of the menu. It’ll be totally worth it.
Users say (32)
Average User Rating
4.1 / 5
- 5 star:16
- 4 star:8
- 3 star:5
- 2 star:1
- 1 star:2
The service at this place was awful. first it took them 5 days to write back to us and say that 50% offer is full on the day we booked (booking is in 4 days time). We still went nevertheless but a booking was not required as the place was half full.
Second I am actually from Hong Kong where cha chaan teng (i.e. chinese tea house) originates from and this is the most non-legitimate cha chaan teng menu i have ever seen or been to. The food here is definitely NOT cha chaan teng food as per what you get in a real cha chaan tang in Hong Kong. This is the ultimate let down, a fraud, a fake.
Save your money and get better, authentic chinese food in Chinatown or bayswater, not some westernised, overpriced chinese food that is not even legitimate dishes you can get in Hong Kong.
Food that we ordered was pretty ordinary and definetely overpriced. We didn't know what to order as nothing is what we expected from a chinese tea house. Maybe the closest thing is the french toast on offer, you will never find those fancy desserts, lobster prawn toast, skewers, crunchy rolls or any of those BAOs in a real cha chaan teng in Hong Kong, which we were forced to try as nothing on the menu was legitimate.
Hong Kong people never use pandan or lemongrass in cha chaan teng food esp not in a cha chaan teng. We didn't try the wonton soup with macaroni but you will never see wonton soup + macaroni in the SAME bowl. Never heard of this in my 30+ years in Hong Kong.
This is just a upmarket fancy chinese restuarant which is overpriced with a misleading name. I would avoid this place.
Went to Cha Chaan Teng tonight after seeing mixed but mainly good reviews. We went at 5:45pm, a bit early but because we where only customers there the service was super quick. The food was, okay. The sweet and sour chicken was nice but only just that. Felt as though you could get that type of sweet and sour anywhere half decent, and for £13 a portion with no rice included (£3 extra for plain white steamed jasmine) it was a bit annoying. The BBQ Beef Rib was much better. A big fork shredding piece of beef smothered in asian BBQ sauce and fries. Not very chinese but very tasty none the less. We also order a side of honey garlic fries. Again, they were nice but because they were skinny fries they got soggy very quickly, think they'd be nicer with thicker chips personally. Washed down with two cocktails, both a fiver, both great for the cost and location in London I would return here again but not in a rush.
One huge issue, the online menu is not equivalent to what they offer so don't get your hopes up there. No Bao offered tonight!
When I walked down I imagined a really dodgy old school shop that has old men playing poker out the back but walked into this Great Gatpsy, 1920's with a modern twist style restaurant/cocktail bar. It was stunning. I love hidden gems like that. We decided to leave it up to the pro to order the food (he knew the menu well, possibly off by heart) and we were impressed, to say the least. Everything that came out looked and tasted amazing. I have to say those pork ribs are to die for, I'm going to be dreaming about those ribs for weeks. I can't stop thinking about them or the special fried rice. I also had the lychee cocktail which was the perfect amount of sweet. All in all we had an amazing night and I'd definitely go back for seconds!
Been several times in Hong Kong and lived in China. I was super excited to try out this restaurant. Located in Holborn, not my favourite district to go out for food, I was thinking that this restaurant really needs to impress me to come back a second time. Writing this review, I have been there now twice and its was both times B E A U T I F U L !
Both times I was there with a special offer they provided which was 50% off their food, one was their soft launch and the other one I think a December special. My expectation didn't got disappointment, even tho I experienced with high discounts sometimes not the best quality served as it should be. But what makes me wondering is, that this restaurant is so beautiful but takes heavy losses on their location of the actually restaurant which you cant see from the outside as its down stairs. I think a lot of people are afraid or don't know what to expect there and don't even try. For me its super elegant and arty at the same time and I feel very welcome but maybe for other people it is a bit overwhelming with those in your face art decoration on the walls. But hey, depends on what they are targeting on so I believe for a younger and hip crowd its ideal, as well their cocktail offers will make a great party perfect.
So I had this little Buns which are named 'Bao Burgers', which they had in 4 different flavours, are a must starter, we had the Squid, beef and duck one. Now they have 6 flavours to choose from, great decision as they are so fluffy, fresh and juicy. Then we had the Crispy kale ‘seaweed’ & marbled beetroot tea egg which sounds healthy, but the taste, oh my god,...if you like kale don't miss this out, and the egg is just perfectly cooked.
And coming to the main bit we shared the Whole crispy sea bream and the Braised black bean beef short rib lo mein, both are beautifully presented and tasty as hell. Sea Bream, super soft and juicy with a delicious flavoured sauce and some nice vegetables. The Beef lo mein, could have been better, still great but not a 'wow' like the Sea bream.
Anyway the dessert is taking it all away and just finishing up a great evening with my memories taking back to Hong Kong and an impulsive mix with the city I am living in and loving.
We ordered all 3 dessert, which the winner and one and only is Hedgehog cinnamon doughnut bun, I could eat them every day, they where super yummy steamed and sweet with the perfect round up with the classic CCT condensed milk.
So yeah, Holborn for me is getting better in having some great spots to eat. Go and find out.
Great looking venue with beautiful interiors and lovely staff, however the food is not authentic at all!
The baos are miniature and overpriced. If you want to get a good bao, go to Bao Fitzrovia or Soho. The ribs were dry and the tofu was bland. The only slightly redeeming dish was the fried fish. I went with my family and we wouldn't recommend anyone who is actually Chinese to go here, you'll be bitterly disappointing!
They had an extensive cocktail and tea list. Didn't try either of these, but they looked pretty decent.
Not a place for a proper foodie!
Pleasant staff, Danien a very friendly and helpful person. Good character, good food, lovely atmosphere
Service - Amazing
Cocktails - Amazing
Food - Unbelievably tasty, definitely going back. What a find :)
Simply beautiful, tasty and absolutely delicious food! If you want a mind blowing food explosion on your taste buds - you will get it at Cha Chaan Teng!
Fabulous food, fabulous venue, Lincolnshire Inn field is a stunning square. Superb service, could not recommend more highly
Really great place with spot on ambience and really fun tasty dishes.
I went to Cha Chaan Teng for a Friday night out with girlfriends but imagine it would work really well for a date night. The decor is retro cool, with great cosy booths for catching up (as well as more open tables) and a great balance with the music - enough to feel like a night out but still have good conversation.
We possibly ordered too much (a few bao buns, a few sides and 2 mains plus rice for 3 ladies) but enjoyed trying lots of different things. The highlights for me were definitely the buns (slider size, with fresh herby flavours complimenting the protein), the seriously indulgent lobster toast (think prawn toast with more butter, more flavour, worth every inch of sacrifice to the waistline) and the sticky pork main (a classic with generous portions).
Service was really splend. I got the sense they've really invested in staff with a passion for both helping customers navigate a menu with some less than typical dishes and simply engaging with customers. In a weird way I could imagine the same people working in the restaurant in First Dates!
The half price soft launch price tag was definitely a sweetener, but had we not over ordered (I'd think 4 small plates and 2 mains would have been plenty for us 3), I think it would be comparable to a mid-priced London outfit.
And when I go again, I have my eye on trying some of the stranger sounding dishes too.
I had a lovely dinner with friends and family staff service is great and food to dream about..A new up and coming vibe, amazing food. If you want something refreshing and a change worth a try.. enjoy everyone 😉
Amazing place and awesome staff...very clean and a general nice feeling about the place-I highly recommend:-) Karlos
Love this restaurant and its concept: comfort food influenced by Hong Kong tea houses.
On a table of 6, I managed to sample a fair chunk of the menu. There were a lot of great dishes, a couple less so. A few teething issues with tweaks to be made but this is to be expected from a soft launch. The real question to ask yourself after a soft launch is whether you would return and pay full price. My answer is yes, most definitely.
The salted duck egg XO fried rice alone is worth returning for. The deep fried whole sea bream was another standout. With pictures of whole fried fish from this and other restaurants floating around Instagram at the moment, I can see this dish becoming the latest craze in London. Bao are all the rage and have been for a while with no signs of baoing out, so it’s no surprise to see a selection of these on the menu. The beef, squid, duck and fish bao were all met with positive reviews – soft, fluffy buns with tasty, well-seasoned fillings. As were the crusty rolls – try the spam and egg! The French toast with peanut butter and condensed milk is another must-try – a Hong Kong classic! Other dishes that I tried that are definitely worth sampling are the: cola ribs, spicy popcorn beef, lobster sesame toast, curried egg spring rolls and the aubergine side (served in an amazing chilli sauce). There were only two dishes that didn’t quite meet expectations: the chicken dolly noodles and the black bean short rib lo mein. I found that the main flavour component of each dish, the chicken stock and the black bean sauce respectively, were not punchy enough. I fed this back to the restaurant manager (who was very warm and friendly, as were all the staff) who took it on board and mentioned that the dishes have been tweaked as they’ve had previous feedback saying these components were almost too strong. I guess you can’t please everyone and I’m sure a balance will be found.
A mention must also go to the lovely bar area at the front of the restaurant as you enter: a stunning little area serving happy hour cocktails till 8pm! I can’t remember the exact names of the cocktails but each one I tried was delicious: one with lychee, a gin sour, the “MSG” and the espresso martini.
I’ve read all the reviews below and would like to counter some of the negative comments that I think are unfair. This restaurant is stylised and influenced by cha chaan teng (tea restaurants) found in Hong Kong, but head chef Jeremy Pang makes no secret (see the restaurant’s website) that, despite its name, this is a fusion, East-meets-West restaurant delivered with his own fun twist. Restaurants with food and décor that stick exactly to their roots in their country of origin are very few and far between, in my opinion. The food will always be a little more refined and dishes will be added/removed/tweaked. One, because head chefs will always put their own stamp on dishes; two, because they’re catering for a completely different audience who may not be familiar with certain flavours or concepts. Chinatowns around the world adapt to the taste buds of its local area (I prefer Manchester’s Chinatown to London’s). This may not be an authentic cha chaan teng exactly as you find in Hong Kong, but it’s a fun, unique restaurant serving tasty, comforting food at reasonable prices.
All in all, my friends and I had a great
experience and hopefully I can make it back next month.
The restaurant and staff were lovely, but the food was pretty terrible. The bao burger and drinks were good, but not exceptional. The flavours and dishes were just off - we had the macaroni soup which came with what tasted like a dark fish sauce base? It was almost inedible.
The main dishes were ok, but it tasted generic and very salty - anything you could get at a delivery shop.
The concept is fun and we could tell that they were trying to iron out the details, but we were really disappointed in the food.
We had an absolutely fantastic meal here last night. If there were any early teething problems, these have now long since gone as the quality was incredible, with some of the friendliest and warm staff I have seen.
The Lobster prawn toast and Coca-Cola BBQ ribs were a job to behold (we even requested an extra helping of the prawn toast to take home with us!) while the beer cocktail went down a treat - especially with the happy hour prices running til 8pm. We will certainly be back.
Brilliant restaurant. Food and service for us were both fantastic! Really fun place to dine with lots of atmosphere and nice big bar to have a drink in before you go to your table. Very attentive staff all round. One even taught us to use chop sticks. Definitely order the duck with French toast! Looking forward to going back as soon as.
In a nutshell: an interestingly curated menu served in an inspired setting with truly warm service.
My top three: the lychee cobbler cocktail, the yummy ribs and the melt-in-the-mouth duck bao.
Thank you for a wonderfully memorable experience!
The food, atmosphere and service were impeccable. The waiting staff were helpful and very knowledgeable. There is a variety of tables to choose from including intimate booths, more spacious tables as well as a comfortable bar area.
We ate 2 different "bao", the crispy duck bao was fabulous but the salt and pepper squid bao did not work, the delicate flavours were lost in the floury bun. Also be warned, they are around £5 each and you only get 1 bun so whilst the restaurant encourages "sharing" it means ordering the bao can turn into an expensive option.
The waitress recommended the ribs to share which were fantastic with copious amounts of sauce. Definitely get these! Apparently they are the chef's family secret recipe!!
For mains we had the XO rice and sweet and sour pork which were wonderful - some of the best I have ever eaten.
Things to watch out for:
- they provide you with tap water for the table which is then added to the bill!
- the booking service is AWFUL. I would just turn up.I emailed to book a table last week and they finally replied last night whilst I was actually eating in the restaurant offering me a table for the following night(?!)
- surprisingly in this restaurant its the management that really let it down. 5 owners (I am assuming here) of the restaurant spent the entire evening loitering around the entrance to the kitchen looking bored. there was no interaction with guests or even the staff!! It seemed they were more interested in welcoming their friends to dine, perhaps if that's why they wanted a restaurant it would have been a little cheaper to extend their own kitchen and hire a chef!!
Having read the other comments here before dining, I thought I'd share our experience for contrast:
Like some of the other comments here, we did find there was a delay in the booking process. But these guys are in the middle of their soft launch and offering 50% off food - ironing out the wrinkles is what it's all about.
The venue is vast and cavernous, finished to a good standard. Service was really friendly, polite and fairly efficient.
We have not been to Hong Kong, but we do a pretty good job of eating our way around London and the world, and we were fairly impressed with the food. It's punchy - strong, salty flavours combined with lots of pickles, sauces and combinations of textures. It used a few typical Western-Chinese flavours (Duck and Hoisin sauce, Chinese five spice, Prawn toast) but gave them a great twist, in good sized portions and great presentation.
Also, we didn't think the price was too bad. We ate very well, ordering 8 things off the menu, and it would have been £70 for 2 people including a beer and service. We paid £40 with the soft launch.
Oh, and the charge for tap water - it's 50p for filtered still or sparkling table water and the money goes to Water Aid. We will usually demand free tap water on principle if they don't offer it, but in this instance I thought it was a reasonable charge.
If you're coming here to taste authentic HK Cha Chaan Teng food, you're probably going to be disappointed.However they don't claim to offer traditional food - they just state they are inspired by the cafes of the 60's and 70's. Likewise if you're a Bao purist, or hold to the values of traditional Chinese cooking, you may be critical. However, if you love tasting the new and creative cooking of the London pop-up scene, we think this place will excite you. You'll leave with a moderate-sized hole in your wallet, but your full belly and dancing taste buds will more than compensate.
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