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Photograph: Haydon Perrior
Photograph: Haydon Perrior

The best restaurants in London’s Chinatown

Dine at the finest Chinese spots the London’s Chinatown has to offer (plus a few-non Chinese options, too)

Angela Hui
Written by
Time Out London Food & Drink
&
Angela Hui
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From Sichuanese to dim sum and beyond, there’s so much choice that it’s hard to know which one to plump for. But Time Out’s food reviewers have eaten at all of them – many times, over many years  – to produce this definitive list on the best places to eat in Chinatown, including traditional dim sum parlours and stalwart Chinese joints that have been around for decades. 

RECOMMENDED: Find more Chinese restaurants in London

Where to eat in Chinatown

BaoziInn Romilly Street
  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Soho
  • price 1 of 4

It’s all about the buns at this basement Chinese street-food restaurant, a little sister to the Newport Court BaoziInn round the corner. The bao as they should be: soft and fluffy on the outside; deliciously warm, sweet and sticky on the inside. Take a date for pre-theatre beers and bao, and you’ll do very well here.

  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Chinatown

Big menus are commonplace in Chinatown, but such a vast repertoire seems impossible from a galley the size of an origami boat. Still, TPT manages to deliver its pan-Chinese bonanza with commendable aplomb. Best bets are Cantonese staples such as succulent roast duck on rice, although we crave the Hong Kong-style ‘Tai pai tong hawker dishes’ too.

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C&R Café
  • Restaurants
  • Malaysian
  • Chinatown
  • price 1 of 4
C&R slipped quietly into a Chinatown alley more than two decades ago, bringing with it a passion for Malaysian laksa: giant bowls of spicy coconutty broth packed with juicy prawns,thin rice vermicelli, puffy fish balls, the works. It also serves up umami-rich plates of char kway teow noodles, piled-high rice-based nasi goreng, buttery roti canai bread and the celebrated beef rendang. C&R's vibe is functional but contemporary, while staff are friendly but terrifyingly efficient.
Dumplings’ Legend
  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Chinatown

Never tried xiao long bao? Sometimes called ‘soup dumplings’, these Shanghai beauties are steamed parcels containing both filling and broth ­­– so be sure to pop them in your mouth in one go. The classic pork version is our favourite, while dim sum fans will adore the fried turnip cake and quivering cheung fun.

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  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Chinatown
  • price 1 of 4

The first thing you’ll notice at this Chinatown institution is a row of crispy, tender Cantonese roast meats hanging in the window wafting its deliciousness beckoning you to enter. Evidently, that should be your go-to order. Famed for those three pillars of Cantonese cuisine: roast duck, char siu pork and crispy pork. Tuck into pure meaty succulence and flavourful intensity, and served in generous portions. 

  • Restaurants
  • Chinatown

Dumplings are the stars of the show at this unpretentious joint on the corner of Gerrard Street. Prawn and chive dumplings are plump and sweet, while their rich crabmeat cousins come with a scallop balanced on top. If you like your dim sum with a side of nostalgia, adorably retro Gerrard’s is for you.

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Imperial China
  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Chinatown

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 standby apart from its Chinatown rivals. The food is reliable, authentic and of decent quality – even if portions can seem rather miserly.

Jen Café
  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Chinatown
  • price 1 of 4

Although this green-painted café serves everything from buttered toast and barbecued pork to bubble teas, it’s the hand-wrapped dumplings that keep us coming back. The cheapest are the jiao zi (aka ‘Beijing dumplings’) – eight morsels filled to bursting with pork or vegetables for a fiver. You guessed it, they’re one of our go-to Chinatown snacks.

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  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Chinatown

Now condensed into one site, Leong’s Legend has morphed into a multi-ethnic melting pot. Yes, it still has a Taiwanese slant, but there’s also a sushi bar, a hotpot table and a mini-menu devoted to ‘poeken’ – think Japanese donburi meets on-trend poké. However, stick to the regional Chinese ‘starred’ dishes and you won’t go far wrong.

  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Chinatown

North London’s Old Tree Bakery comes to Chinatown in the shape of this makeshift Taiwanese eatery. Ok, it’s not exactly luxurious, but there’s plenty of authentic stuff on offer. The homemade Taiwanese sausages, salt-and-pepper tofu, oyster omelette and noodles in richly spiced broth are all worth their modest price tags. Note: cash only, no loos.

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  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Chinatown
It may look like a sleek, chic Hakkasan-style oasis in the centre of gaudy Chinatown, but Plum Valley’s prices are more budget than blowout. Moody lighting and pleather upholstery set the scene for a pleasing run though the Cantonese repertoire with a few modish touches, decent dim sum and the odd Thai or Malaysian intruder.
  • Restaurants
  • Malaysian
  • Chinatown

With its hawker (street) food and low prices, this bustling Straits café reminds us of hot and humid days spent in Penang. Choose the light ground floor rather than the dim basement for ambience, and expect a greatest-hits menu of satays, roti canai, noodles and composite plates such as nasi lemak. Drink bubble tea or teh tarik (‘pulled tea’).  

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Shu Xiangge
  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Chinatown
  • price 2 of 4

Smack-bang on Gerrard Street, this Sichuan spot has space for a bubbling hotpot built into every table. If you’re a fan of face-numbingly spicy food and cooking your own meat, head here to feast on adventurous ingredients like brains and beef aorta. Less adventurous delights like fish balls are available as well, but be warned: this place doesn’t pander to Western palates.

Wong Kei
  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Chinatown

Wong Kei is known for two things: brusque service and portions the size of your head. The menu is comically large at this no-frills longstanding Cantonese restaurant. Spanning from stir-fries to pork and seafood. The hero dishes worth your time is the thick and flavoursome beef brisket soup rice vermicelli noodles and the plump and juicy wonton egg noodles. Oh, and did we mention there’s free tea?

 

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