Joy King Lau

Restaurants, Chinese Leicester Square
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 4 out of 5 stars
(14user reviews)
2 Love It
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A traditional Cantonese restaurant close to Leicester Square.

The sign outside the restaurant translates as ‘drunken men’s tower’ – 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. A robust air-conditioning and ventilation system (switched to US levels of chill on our visit) repels the summer heat and keeps the smell of grease in the kitchen.

If you’re not in a hurry (and not wearing anything white or that needs dry-cleaning), it’s worth ordering a messy dish such as crab in pungent, fragrant black bean sauce, to see the kitchen excel and to exercise your shell-cracking skills. Other winners include crystal prawns with a perfectly juicy texture and the taste of the sea. Lowlights of our meal were what might be Chinatown’s saltiest roast duck, and an aubergine dish that hadn’t been stewed long enough to get rid of the skins’ bitterness.

By: Time Out London Food & Drink


Venue name: Joy King Lau
Address: 3 Leicester Street
Opening hours: Meals served noon-11.30pm Mon-Sat; 11am-10.30pm Sun. Dim sum served noon-5pm Mon-Sat; 11am-5pm Sun
Transport: Tube: Leicester Square or Piccadilly Circus tube
Price: Main courses £7.50-£18. Dim sum £2.80-£5.50. Set meal £12-£35 per person (minimum 2)
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Average User Rating

3.8 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:5
  • 4 star:4
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:2
  • 1 star:1
2 people listening

After a craving for Chinese food my friend and me somehow ended up at Joy king Lao, instantly welcomed by a friendly waitress who seated us right away. Once seated I had a quick scan of the menu, decided to go for the Grilled beef and rice whilst my friend had the Tofu with Black Bean sauce as a side, with Lobster as a main.

All three items lacked in any flavor or effort and was smothered with sauces. Based on my experience I concluded to myself that this place is aimed at tourists visiting Leicester Square who come in once and leave so they have zero incentive to keep up any levels of quality. Massive disappointment on my part and extremely overpriced too I may add.  Don’t waste your time. 

Deon Pillay (theindependentfoodie)

Joy King Lau is where Londoners go to eat authentic Chinese, from its amazing selection of DimSum, crispy duck with pancakes, this place will not disappoint. Booking is highly recommended as it is usually packed to the rafters, across all three floors. Tonight was no exception, great ambience all be it slightly noisy, service which is usually great but suffered tonight, it felt sloppy and curt. Every dish arrived piping hot and packed full of flavour. Their crispy salt & chilli squid comes highly recommended and always goes down a treat. Tonight the shredded pork, aubergine hot pot and Enoki mushroom with snow pea shoots were amongst my favourites. The free flowing green tea also goes down a treat. £255 for a group of 12 including service, soft drinks, green tea and 2 beers. A great way to socialise and try a variety of food. Great authentic food, mediocre service and

Misha M.

I am glad to see another Cantonese place staying in Chinatown. More and more traditional Cantonese restaurants are being replaced by new players from other ethnic Chinese cuisines. That being said, Joy Kin Lau offers authentic and traditional dim sum. Yes, you can go to Hakkasan or Yuatchua for modernized dim sum with caviar equivalent ingredients, but you really can't beat the traditional way of prepping for food! It is my go-to place for dim sum in Chinatown now. 

Ed. T

Joy King Lau is often spoken about as the best place for dim sum in Chinatown, and it's taken me far longer than I wanted to to get down there and try it out. To answer my own question for you all immediately, no, it's not the best in Chinatown. It is however, definitely one of the better ones. 

All the dim sum are pretty much on point, with char siu buns being a particular highlight as well as their fried dim sum in general. It never particularly wow'd me though, but was certainly tasty enough to get more of each dish. Where JKL really shined is their cooked dishes of noodles and rice etc, with their crispy noodles having a great crunch and sauce to go on top, and their beef ho fun have an incredible smokey flavour and not too greasy texture from the wok. 

I'll definitely be back here again, especially as they take bookings and price wise, they're on the lower end of Chinatown's dim sum establishments. But best dim sum? Not quite!

Tamara B

The ruthless efficiency of Chinatown service is at its best at Joy King Lau. You won't be seated unless most of your party is present and then your table needs must be relayed via walkie talkie to the correct floor. You are barked to your table and a request for your order is taken within 2 minutes of sitting down. The restaurant is clearly very popular with a lot of Chinese clientele. Weekend lunchtimes for dim sum are very busy and thus we were warned that after our initial order, it might take 45 minutes if we needed more food. The dim sum was flavourful and I especially liked the char siu croquettes and turnip cake. Unfortunately, there was a mix-up - we'd ordered steamed and fried dim sum and the steamed portion of our order was forgotten. It took another 45 minutes (although we'd ordered all in one go at the outset) to get the steamed part of our order. The wait-staff were not apologetic. Well, it meant we felt full from drinking so much tea and waiting! It was an enjoyable experience even if the service is a little bit iffy, and it's great value for money.

Paola M

Worst dinner ever- this place is a has-been.    We came late after theatre and we ordered the pork  and prawn dumplings which were very stodgy, the duck with pineapple and ginger was very hard to chew, even the tofu dish was not acceptable and we swapped for some mixed vegetable which were oily and flavourless. Even the rice wasn't fluffy enough! The service was OK but we left everything there and we still had to pay for 27£. Never going back!


I've been to just about every dim sum specialist in Chinatown and JKL is now one of the two that I go back to most regularly. It's initially disconcerting to be guided to your table by someone using a walkie-talkie, but they're needed here as the place is on three storey and communicating face to face would be impossible. Even when there's a sizeable queue you generally do not have to wait long for a table. 

At the table, service is [at best] friendly by Chinatown standards and [at worst] brisk and business-like. Orders are taken swiftly and food arrives in the same manner. There are no particular standout dim sum dishes but no weaknesses, either. Uniform, consistent quality - what more can you ask? I suspect I'll be going to this place for the rest of my life. 

Jacqueline C

I think that in the Cantonese dialect,

"Joy" sounds like "again",

"King" sounds like "see" or "meet" and

"Lau" sounds like "building" or "level".

So the whole phrase "Joy King Lau" might translate to something along the lines of "a place where people meet again and again" or "a place that customers would return"

Would native Cantonese speakers agree?

Connie L

I was there last weekend with my husband for dimsum.  I must say the dimsums are authentic and we liked whatever we ordered.

Happy to go back there again, hopefully soon


possible the best food on this planet. my family has been eating here for 25 years. we have tried our level best to find a better chinese restaurant in london and in different parts of the wworld, and have failed each time misreably. Our favorite dishes include crispy seafood noodles, king prawwn chun fun, salt chilli squid from the kitchen, wwafer wrapped prawns, and fr dessert -- steamed spongue cake and steamed custard buns.The chilli sauce and chilli oil is simply perfection.

Pauline Naidu

Have eaten @ Joy King Lau on numerous occassions but the customer service &quality of food is going downhill. A couple of the waiting staff were brusque; banging plates on the table when serving; clearing the plates away before one has swallowed the last morsel of food & presenting the bill without being asked. When I complained to the manageress about the atrocious service, she didn't take my complaint seriously and treated it as a joke asking me if she can offer me a dessert or what do I want! The restaurant's bill is not transparent as well as it only states the whole amount to be paid. It doesn't indicate how much per dish or whether service charge is included. I shall stay away from this restaurant - lots of other restaurants around in chinatown- don't have to put up with shoddy service & food.


My husband and I had our first date here 14 years ago, we now go with our two kids almost every other weekend. The food is reassuringly good quality, inexpensive and delicious. Go now and make sure you book!

Leila Rolfs

I have been dining at Joy King Lau for over 10 years. I have never been disappointed with their excellent food.