Chopsticks at the ready! London’s Chinese food scene is a diverse beast. There’s Cantonese dim sum, fiery xinjiang hotpots, snazzed-up teahouse staples, fragrant Sichuan dishes and classic Beijing duck (and way, way more), at eateries both high end and super casual – including some of the city’s best spots and most sought after places for cheap eats. They’re all included in our round-up of London’s best Chinese restaurants. Missed something? Use the comments box below or tweet your suggestions.
These 16-foot-long noodles are a Chinese specialty, try them at this Mayfair restaurant...
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The best Chinese restaurants in London
Forget gilded dragons, book-length menus and stir-fries by numbers, Andrew Wong’s pared-back Pimlico Chinese is a singular affair offering elevated cuisine at everyday prices. Preserved duck egg with marinated tofu, chill and soy is typical, as is poached razor clam with sea cucumber, vinegar tapioca and wind-dried sausage. Enjoy at your leisure.
Venue says: “Try our famous Sichuan dandan mian (noodle) – it is one of the most popular Chinese street foods.”
Kitsch Communist Revolution decor meets northern Chinese street food tidied up for London at this lively joint. True to Sichuanese form, red is the predominant colour and chilli fire the overriding taste sensation: dan dan noodles, ‘smacked’ cucumber salad and crescent dumplings are all good. Yes, the food’s spicy, but it’s also deliciously cheap.
The original of a Sichuan gang that also includes Baozi Inn, Barshu is a refreshing change from Chinatown’s mostly Cantonese restaurants. Come here for prairie tripe, ‘fragrant and hot’ pig’s trotters, stir-fried chicken gizzards with pickled chilli and other fiery tongue-tinglers – just remember to have plenty of soothing tea on tap.
Fun buns in a stylish, dinky setting? Surely Bao has the market sewn up? Not quite: these buns are of the Cantonese variety – closed up, then stamped with their identity. Order some duck-tongue ‘fries’ too, and brace yourself for the ‘red choc’ dessert bun (‘red’ as in pigs’ blood and chilli). Trust us, you’ll love it.
At a glance, Café TPT’s menu looks longer than the complete musings of Confucius, with offerings from across mainland China and beyond. Best bets are Cantonese staples such as succulent roast duck on rice or garlicky prawn-stuffed tofu in a hot stone pot, although we crave the Hong Kong-style ‘Tai pai tong hawker dishes’ too.
Taking its name from Hong Kong’s vintage 1950s tea cafés, this oddball fusion eatery is an unashamedly inauthentic East-West mash-up – try the BBQ hoisin Coca-Cola ribs and pandan Arctic roll for size, not to mention the stuffed mushroom and carrot omelette topped with almond crumb. CCT is a bit bonkers, but we love it.
Housed in Pop Brixton, this tiny Hong Kong-style teahouse does a lot of things well, but we’re here for its toast. Specifically, an epic starter called ‘prawn toast revisited’ topped with bonito and pickled kohlrabi, and a dessert of ‘French toast’ – a fried peanut butter sandwich that would tempt Elvis himself back into the building.
Something a bit different, this family-run restaurant specialises in Uyghur cuisine – a fusion of Chinese, Middle Eastern and Persian influences developed by ethnic groups around the Silk Road. Traditional dishes such as ox tongue in chilli and vinegar or herb-marinated lamb hoof with peppers are great value – and a world away from sweet-and-sour.
A famous purveyor of Cantonese roasted meats, long-serving Four Seasons still deals in the ‘golden trio’: crispy duck (a contender for London’s best), char siu (barbecued pork) and siew yoke (crispy pork belly). Everyone is here for plates of these chunky specialities on rice, although the 20-page menu is full of possibilities.
It may look like a provincial function room, but this Chinese roast meat specialist attracts as many visitors from the Far East as it does local students. The must-orders are the duck and char sui (barbecued pork), which can be seen hanging in the open kitchen by the front window – although most dishes pass muster.
Find the best restaurants in Chinatown
Despite growing competition, the Opera Tavern remains one of Covent Garden's best dining options and among London’s top tapas restaurants. Formerly a pub, it’s split into a slightly charmless upstairs restaurant and a cosy, mirror-backed bar at street level. The latter has been stylishly updated with chocolate leather bar stools, copper spotlights and an open grill; the main kitchen is in the beer cellar. The Spanish-Italian menu is kept fresh with regular specials. The signature burger of juicy ibérico pork and foie gras remains deservedly popular, though more inventive combinations better showcase the kitchen’s delicate touch and careful sourcing of ingredients. Char-coated venison was enlivened by jerusalem artichoke, pickled walnuts and truffle, while the natural sweetness of scallops (served in the shell) was balanced by a feather-light pea, fennel and mint purée. Watch out, though: portions are dainty and it’s easy to rack up a hefty bill. The Spanish and Italian wine list is well curated; smooth and nutty manzanilla pasada is the ideal aperitif for sherry sceptics. Little touches such as allowing diners a taste before committing to a glass exemplify the sophisticated, amiable service. Opera Tavern is part of the Salt Yard Group, along with Dehesa in Soho and Salt Yard in Fitzrovia.
Venue says: “Our £30 Paella Sundays include starters, paella, puds and sherry or cava. Step aside, eggs! Every Sunday from noon, booking advised.”