Wong Kei

Restaurants, Chinese Chinatown
2 out of 5 stars
3 out of 5 stars
(24user reviews)
Wong Kei

Wong Kei changed ownership in early spring 2014, amid rumours of refurbishment and a dramatic relaunch which garnered many column inches, even in the national press. Yet we can report that, as of our April 2014 revisit, virtually nothing has changed. It still has the same tired decor, the same perfunctory service, virtually the same Cantonese menu. Indeed, Wong Kei continues to conform to many outmoded stereotypes of a Chinatown restaurant. From the grimy carpets to the sometimes brusque service, impressions still do little to raise expectations.

The menu remains almost biblical in length, with dozens of stir-fries covering everything from pork to seafood. The rice can often be overcooked and the roast meats cold, but you do get free tea and huge portions for low prices.

Our stuffed bean curd, green pepper, aubergine ‘with meat’ in black bean sauce was the pick of our dishes, succulent and well-made, if variable in temperature from tepid to warm. Less impressive was a mound of rice topped with braised pork belly, as the promised preserved vegetables took some detective work to discover. A low point was the hotpot rice, as the sausage topping was meagre, if tasty. These particular dishes were inferior to many high street Chinese takeaway meals we’ve had.

In 'Wongkies' favour, the bill doesn’t have a hidden service charge added in. Too many other Chinatown restaurants are only too happy to add this (in Chinese script), then accept an additional service charge or tip as well, but not here.


By: Guy Dimond


Venue name: Wong Kei
Address: 41-43 Wardour Street
Opening hours: Meals served noon-11.30pm Mon-Sat; noon-10.30pm Sun
Transport: Tube: Leicester Square or Piccadilly Circus
Price: Main courses £4.40-£10. Set meal £9.50-£14.50 per person (minimum 2)
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Average User Rating

3.1 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:7
  • 4 star:4
  • 3 star:4
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:8
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2 of 2 found helpful

I've been here over a thousand times and never ever been disappointed. The portions are huge, the price is cheap, the food is divine and the service is ridiculously fast. I get cravings for this place on almost a daily basis. As long as you aren't fussy about sitting on a shared table (which you shouldn't be - I've met some hilarious and fascinating people this way - many of whom are Wong Kei veterans) then this place is perfect. The "rudeness" of the staff adds to the experience and should just be taken with a pinch of salt. Their manner also adds to the Cantonese authenticity of the place, making it more authentic than many of the other Chinatown restaurants. Service here is as it is in China. They aren't overly rude either, especially not the younger ones. They're polite but efficient. I, like hundreds of thousands of other repeat customers, really love this place. It's legendary and I will continue to go back until my dying day!

1 of 1 found helpful

This is a firm favourite of mine seeing as Young Cheng on Shaftbury Avenue shut down. On Saturday we had 2 dishes of cold roast meet over rice with a side dish of aubergine with chilli black beans. All of this with free green tea and for £18? Bargain. We left a £2 tip too. Where else in London can you get a decent lunch of that size for a tenner each? 

If I was to gripe, I dont like sharing a table especially with a middle aged couple who are comparing how well their children are doing but hey ho i guess thats part of the charm. Dont come here if you dont want to be overheard! 

Also in the TimeOut review they mention their meat is cold on top of the rice, this is traditional chinese dish so to get the meat piping hot youll need to be lucky that its just been cut or if you dare ask..... 

Its also not a place to lounge about after your mains. Its a eat and go type of place. Youve been warned! 

1 of 1 found helpful

I write this a depressed and disappointed man and for the first time in 54 years, the word bereft is the mot juste. You see, I, too, have just returned from our first post-revamp meal at what used to be my favourite place on Earth - the Lake District's pretty good but you can't get Chow Ho Fun with Beef & Black Bean Sauce in the middle of Lake Windermere. I've been a devotee for 33 years - in the '80s I worked in the West End and had lunch there two or three times a week. I took my wife there on our first date and 30 years on Kate is as loyal  - despite once collapsing on the top floor resulting in her having to be stretchered out. I should add that this had nothing whatsoever to do with the food but with pneumonia. Never have I been so grateful for London traffic as this delayed the ambulance just long enough for me to shovel down both our orders.This may sound callous, but 1) Kate never lost consciousness; 2) by sheer chance we were sharing a table with a nurse who confirmed that her life was in no danger and 3) Kate understood that the Wong Kei was not a place where a near-near-death experience should get in the way of finishing your meal. Obviously, if this had not been the case, I would have stopped eating and asked for the food to be put into take-away containers. But the Wong Kei remains the yardstick by which we de Angelis measure the suitability of a prospective partner - our children (both willing and enthusiastic members of the cult) know that if their partner turns up his/her nose on their first visit, they're a wrong'un.

OK, we like the place -  a lot. And so did many, many others all as prepared as we were to queue for our fix. So what on Earth does new owner Daniel Luc think that he will achieve by his ill-judged changes?

First of all, the food: For 30 years Kate has been ordering Fried Quai Due - essentially Singapore Noodles made with the thicker Ho Fun white rice noodles instead of the thinner egg noodles). Kate ordered this yesterday. The waitress (more of whom in a minute) didn't say that the dish had  not only changed its name (Malaysian Noodles) but the recipe too. We all ordered our favourites (we were there to celebrate our daughter's 20th birthday and she'd brought along her boyfriend who passed the test) and we all noticed varying degrees of change in either recipe or cooking.

Next, the menu: Still as long as ever but now its in English with small Cantonese translations rather than the other way around. And they've added unnecessary and unappetising colour photographs. I remember when the back page was only in Cantonese and any request to try something from this list of forbidden delicacies would be met with a stern rebuke: "You no like."  I did manage to overcome this reluctance, though the waiter would generally be proved right - chicken's feet, for example, are as redundant as a menue item can get. A vegetarian could chew on them for a day and still be in no danger of ingesting anything that would challenge his beliefs.

Third, the staff: The waiters never were rude - just professionally brusque. And remember, the mantra was "upstairs please." Saying 'please ' is not rude. Plus, they never got an order wrong and they brought it almost before you'd ordered it. When we walked in yesterday, we immediately noticed that we didn't recognise any of them. We started off with a waitress who clearly was all at sea - I've been ordering from memory all these years and not once has a waiter ever asked me a supplementary question. Our waitress made up for this and I was thoroughly interrogated. Hitherto, my banter with the waiters had been limited to: "You order too much."  Once the food started to arrive (eventually) it appeared she had been replaced by a perfectly polite (I complained about this) twenty-something lad of obvious Chinese heritage and equally East London intonation. Sorry, Wong Kei waiters are meant to be properly Chinese - that way we know we're in a proper Chinese restaurant.

The Wong Kei used to be a tourist attraction because it was sublimely authentic - now that it is trying (and failing)  to be a tourist attraction, it is no longer authentic and therefore no longer special. I once read that it used to be one of London's busiest and most profitable eateries - if the empty seats yesterday is representative, that might be changing.

I like change because I like new things - but I like things I like (especially when that fondness is widely shared) to be constant and consistent. We've decided to give our alma mater one more chance.

In the meantime, I want my old Wong Kei back and I understand that the internet can move mountains - e-petitions and the like. So if anyone out there shares my views and understands how to do such things, please get in touch.

The worrying thing is that if he could afford to buy the Wong Kei, he can afford to buy the Mona Lisa. So, next time you pop into the Louvre and you find that La Giaconda is now sporting a flower in her hair and a touch of lippy, you'll know who to blame. As a bishop once remarked, if you want to know what God thinks of money, look at those to whom he gives it.

1 of 1 found helpful

I was invited by a friend to dine at Wong Kei in 1984. I still keep returning there several times a month. Almost uninterrupted for thirty years. Inimitable old school, very good food at 'real' prices. Table talk starts almost immediately, but it is also possible to stay solo and sip the trademark free jasmine tea at your leisure. The staff has only ever been 'imitation' rude to achieve notoriety and through that, popularity. They succeeded. They have in fact gone a bit soft lately. Sign of the times. The number of regulars keeps increasing. Long may this outfit continue and prosper.

1 of 1 found helpful

Having lived in China a while back, I am always looking for Chinese restaurants in London that can take me back to the amazing food I had when I was there. I started to go to Wong Kei in 1993. The place may not look exuberant, staff may not ask you every two minutes if everything's alright and I have seen better food presentation in a McDonald's BUT when it comes to having a cheap, fun and tasty eating-out unique experience Wong Kei is second to none. From the tasty and filling hot-pots, the garlic-y Broccoli, the brisket of beef with rice, the braised pork in preserved veg to the steamed sea bass and the crispy pork and roasted duck fried noodles. I have always brought tourists and friends there and it has never let me down to this day (including Vegan/Vegetarians). People from all walks of live, snobs and paupers have invariably taken away some rare fond memory of the place. Let it be the free "magic" tea that the more you drink the more you can it or the fact that you sit with people you don't know and they don't seem to mind having their conversations broadcasted right in front of you... And all of this, for around £5 to £10 per head (depending on greediness).

1 of 2 found helpful

My husband and I have been going to Wong Kei for over 25 years. When our children were born they joined us .All this time we have been regular customers (at least once a week). Therefore we were shocked to discover that after Wong Kei re-opened after a 'refurbishment' the old staff were gone only to be replaced by rude, arrogant, jelled up to the eyeball unpleasant staff. As if this wasn't bad enough we were bitterly disappointed to discover that the quality of the food had left with the previous staff. Where we were always assured of a quick, good quality tasty meal, we were left with a dissatisfied feeling of disappointment when we discovered that we no longer will be able to share our regular family dinner at Wong Kei as we will not go there anymore. The food is less then mediocre-if not below the average standard of a cheap supermarket dinner.

Where are the old cooks and staff? Bring them back!!!! 


This place used to be my go to place for a fast, cheap and cheerful place pre West End shows. Not any more now since it is priced similarly to other Chinese restaurants nearby. Food quality here has also gone down. We ordered sweet and sour meat on rice and a combination of BBQ meat this time round. When food came out, the sweet sour meat was barely lukewarm on top of the hot rice. The Soya chicken portion was also full of bones, not much meat! We didn’t order anything else and the bill came out to £17.5 which is steep considering the portion and quality!


Was well prepared for my first experience. I'd been well warned about the rudeness, but that the food was cheap and good. Pleasantly they were not rude to us at all AND we got our own table. The plates are plastic, with a giant table bib for us messy eaters. I thought everything was excellent and I would go again!


As there have been a lot of closures in Chinatown I was prepared to give Wong Kei another try. Nice to see that their reputation for being so rude hasn't changed. The waiter snapped at us as we didn't follow him to the table fast enough which was a bit off putting. Unfortunately it wasn't a case of the food being so good that you could over look the shabby decor and the rude staff. We ordered the stuffed aubergine, pepper and bean curd rice. This was tasty but the gravy was so greasy which made the steamed rice into a plate of sloppy mess. As was everything else. My sister order pork and rice and the cuts of meat were fatty and unpleasant. The beancurd rice and fried noodles with pork and beanshoots were slightly better. Wong Kei is famous for being rude so if you want to visit it for a laugh then do so however the quality just isn't there in the food and you are better off avoiding this place and trying out one of the other eateries in Chinatown. You can't do any worse. 

We thought the customer service at Wrong Wei had changed, but it is still the same -primarily because of the sour-faced attitude of the manageress. My friend and I ordered the same dish, but one with fried noodles and the other with ho-fun - basically the same topping but with a different base. We did this because my Chinese friend had been going there for years and knew the dish to be good. However when the two dishes arrived they were completely different meals, not just the noodles being different. We said this is not what we wanted and asked them to make the fried noodle have the same topping as the ho-fun. They however refused and insisted we pay for this dish even though it was not what we wanted. I should explain the topping was described in exactly the same way in the menu - there was no indication in the menu that they were totally different. We refused to pay and they would not let us leave the restaurant and barred the way, so we asked them to call the police. When the police arrived they told the staff they could not make us pay for food we had not touched and was not what we had ordered. As the copper said, if you order pasta you don't expect a pizza. They escorted us past the obstructing staff so we could leave the restaurant. Our advice is stay well away, there are plenty of other good restaurants nearby.


I’ve been here many times and although the shared seating could take a while to get used to, the standard of service is usually taciturn and quick. Bants is definitely not the forte of the waiting staff but any notion of aggressive service has to be dispelled.

The place is over several floors with the infamous shared round tables being ‘Upstairs’. I have seen many dates being held here so the restaurant must be considered semi respectable for people to entrust their romantic fortunes to it.

However, I must judge it on my most recent visit last week. The portions are still well endowed and bottomless Chinese tea is always much appreciated. We tried the Soft Shelled Crab as starters, however, this lacked any sort of freshness. The menu is extensive and some of the meat dishes are not always served hot, which is why I always opt for the Roast Duck in plumb sauce. However, at GBP 11.50 for half a duck, it’s probably one of the more expensive items.

Oh no! I went yesterday and it was closed with a notice on the door from the heath department. They had found mice, cockroaches, and an extremely dirty kitchen that had resulted in a large number of food poisoning cases. Yikes! I ate there just last week!


I used to come to this restaurant quite frequently in Chinatown, for its cheap but great food and huge portions. Unfortunately, there seems to have been a change in their cooking recently and the food has now slipped to just a Chinatown average of "ok". Even the potion sizes are no longer as large as they once were, and now has me clutching at really positive reasons to come here repeatedly. 

Come here if you're looking for something quick, filling and decent value for money. It's still decent quality, especially compared to some of the other venues in Chinatown, but overall, not one of my favourites! 


A trip to Wong Kei's is alway an experience. The portions are gargantuan and the food is akin to a basic takeaway but it does the job. The menu is massive so you won't struggle to find something that takes your fancy. The service whilst super speedy is brilliantly rude. I make it a personal challenge every time I go to try and persuade the staff to make eye contact or crack a smile I haven't succeeded yet but I shall not be defeated. I think the fact that it is packed even at lunchtime speaks volumes. 

We have a pretty high threshold for rudeness and bad service, and it's never put us off Wong Kei before. We've been going here for years, and like many have always shrugged off the staff's rudeness as funny. But tonight the line was definitely crossed, and we will never be returning, no matter how cheap the food is.

We turned up wanting a table for two and were plonked at a table for eight, alongside two strangers. As the restaurant was nearly empty at the time, we sat leaving a space between us and the other two, and were immediately pounced upon by a very gruff waiter, who ordered us to sit exactly where we had been told. As we began to explain that we would rather sit where we could face each other while we were eating, a second waiter weighed in. 

At this point we decided to leave, and began to collect our things. Suddenly, and without prompting, a third waiter shouted across the room "Go on then, get out! Get the f*** out! F*** off!" As we headed to the door we looked back to discover that we were being bullishly followed by all the waiters in that room, who at this point were all shouting aggressively at us. There was complete silence from the other diners, who I can only assume were as shocked as us.

Perhaps there was some kind of misunderstanding, but whatever happened that kind of behaviour is completely unacceptable, especially in the service industry. We left in complete shock, physically shaken, and spent the next hour trying to understand what on earth had just happened. The only conclusion we can come to is that the restaurant is run by vicious thugs, who are looking for trouble, and leapt at the first opportunity for an altercation!

Rudeness can be funny, but actual abuse is unforgivable. Don't go to this restaurant.

I have been going to Wong Kei for more than 30 years now and have always enjoyed their food - perticularly in recent years their excellent Vegetarian set meal that included two dishes not on the main menu - vegetarian Peking duck and vegetarian sweet and sour pork which tasted almost like the real thing.

We went there yesterday for the first time after the change of ownership and ordered our regular meal.  The first thing we noticed was that the food was slightly different (we thought the tofu with chilli and garlic was better than before) but the portions noticibely smaller - the seaweed was even served on top of some lettuce (to make it look like a bigger portion?) but we weren't too worried  as we usually struggled to finish the meal anyway.

The "duck" course was a huge dissapointment - instead of the lovely crispy textured tofu with steaming pancakes we had been looking forward to, we got a plate of minced vegetables and tofu without much taste and some lettuce leaves to wrap it in.  The hoy sin sauce was excellent (tasted exactly like the jar we have at home).  When the rest of the food arrived, the vegetarian sweet and sour pork was again a huge disappointment - tofu with sweet and sour sauce (same as the starter but with a different sauce) - nothing like the dish we had been served on previous occasions.

By this time, I was already thinking of witholding the tip - not because the waiters were surly, which they were despite others saying things had changed - but because the service was so slow, despite the restaurant being almost empty (we went in the afternoon after the lunchtime rush).

The final straw was when we found some meat in the aubergine dish which, as a vegetarian of many years, completely spoiled the little enjoyment I had got from the meal so far.

When we complained, we got a very insincere apology and they offered a 10% discount.  I said we weren't paying for anything and after several different waiters had come over after me asking to speak to the manager, they offered to take the offending dish off the bill too.  They said the manager "wasn't available" and I told them they had 10 minutes to get a manager or call the police and then we were going to leave. 

The waitress spoke to someone on her mobile phone and said we could go.

So goodbye Wong Kei - it was a great 30 years or so - I still have the T-shirt to remind me.  I know my American brother in law will be very disappointed to hear about our experience, as, when we took him there a few years ago, he thought it was the best Chinese food he had eaten outside of China (which he visited often).

Sorry guys, if you haven't already experienced the phenomenon that was Wong Kei - it's too late.

The Family...

                   Remember the WK when it was in Rupert Court. Had the best Wan Tun Noodle soup even then. Been eating there for over 45 years and once met the old owners one late evening back in the early 90s and they were charming. The food is consistently good and cheap. Still gather to eat there....no cheques...no cards cash only { -upstairs...upstairs!!!] A gem of a time-warp. Not for the uninitiated or folk who take themselves too seriously...

For the uninitiated, Wong Kei's must be like something from a British sitcom but once you've experienced it a couple of times, it becomes a hilarious dining experience. I've been eating here since the 1990s and never once have I had poor food. 

The waiters brusqueness is legendary, part of the experience of a Wong Kei's visit for us was to see how quick we could get into an argument with one (never anything major, just trying to exchange a meat dish for a vegetarian one in the banquet set menu resulted in most of the table collapsing in giggles), or how fast they could serve up a meal for 12 people (very!).

Reasonably priced, always capable of taking a table of 10 - 12 people late on a Saturday evening, oodles of tasty food and free Chinese tea, what more can you ask for?

I note they've got new owners and have undergone a refurbishment - that can only be a good thing in terms of having to visit the toilets (which you didn't if at all possible) but I hope they've not done away with all the things which made Wong Kei's unique in Chinatown.

My parents have been eating at Wong Kei when they were in their twenties during the 1970s, and forty years later, they still go there because the food is delicious and reasonably-priced. I'm now in my twenties and I go there too. Wong Kei serves simple no-nonsense food. They don't try to reinvent any dishes, or decorate their menu with gimmicky items. During our last visit in June 2013, the service was pretty good; certainly resembles the service you get from a traditional cha-chaan-teng diner in Hong Kong (not a bad thing!)

Been going here since I was 3 years old (23 now), food it tasty, fast and enjoyable. What more could you ask for? A lot of chinese people choose to go here (I am half chinese) which shows it's a great place for proper chinese food...

I am having lunch at this 'canteen' every time I am in London and have done so for many years. No idea where the myth of unfriendly staff comes from. Fresh food for little money, addictive chilli oil and always someone to have a chat with at the shared tables.

This place is fkin hilarious. Really bad service but great food. You don't come here for good service, you come here for a good laugh.The service is comical.

Wonkies used to be our favourite Chinese restaurant back in 90s and I was really looking forward to eating there as I hadn’t visited the old place for a few years. What a disappointment. All the chicken and prawn dishes that we ordered were undercooked, bland and didn't taste all that great. Never again :(

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