So many chopstick and rice parlours; so hard to know which one to choose. 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, stalwart Chinese joints, eateries doing modern takes on classic Oriental cuisine and a few fine non-Chinese options (including – gasp! – Spanish tapas).
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Where to eat in Chinatown
Venue says: “Let’s try our famous Sichuan Dan Dan Mian (noodle) and 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.
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.
It may be getting ragged round the edges, but this plainly furnished Chinatown veteran is once again on song – especially when it comes to its famed one-plate rice and noodle dishes piled high with juicy meats (roast duck, barbecued pork, soy chicken etc). Service is noticeably friendly and accommodating by Chinatown standards.
Never tried xiao long bau? 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 also like DL’s moreish fried turnip cake and quivering cheung fun.
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.
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.
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.
Cheap and cheerful is an increasingly rare commodity in Chinatown, but this casual Vietnamese joint could change all that. We’ll forgive one rather bland pho, because some positively classy food is on offer here – from juicy prawn summer rolls and pork dumplings wrapped in betel leaves to an utterly zesty mango salad with crispy shrimps.
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.
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.