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Elaine Zhao

Elaine Zhao

Contributor

Elaine Zhao is a London-based freelance writer from Hong Kong, who is deeply interested in covering the experience of food, music, travel and culture, particularly through an East and South East Asian lens. When not writing, she's also a DJ and trained life coach.

Articles (5)

The best restaurants in Notting Hill

The best restaurants in Notting Hill

Whether you’re after a simple chippy or something a bit more snazzy (or even Michelin-starred), Notting Hill is jam-packed with great cafés and restaurants. Whatever you desire – from a Carnival time top-up to a posh dinner – pile through our list below of the best eateries in this ace area. Fancy a pint afterwards? Here are Notting Hill's standout pubs. Or head for something a little more refined at the area's best bars. RECOMMENDED: The 50 Best Restaurants in London. 

The best restaurants in Camden

The best restaurants in Camden

There's loads more to Camden than its big, bustling markets, storied musical history and excellent selection of places to enjoy a pint. The area is packed with loads of lovely restaurants dishing out the likes of vegan pizza (and a whole host of other plant-based joints), great pub grub, and deliciously fast cheap eats. Looking for somewhere to eat in the north-west of London? Here's a list of the best of the best. RECOMMENDED: The best Chinese restaurants in London. Leonie Cooper is Time Out London’s Food and Drink Editor. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines.

The best restaurants in King’s Cross

The best restaurants in King’s Cross

Once upon a time, the only reason to grab a bite at King’s Cross was if you were waiting for your train. But this once-grimy post-industrial area has undergone an enormous regeneration, and these days it’s packed with fine restaurants. Be it the lofty, warehouse-sized joints around Granary Square, the trendy cafés in Coal Drops Yard or the hip little spots around lower Pentonville, and a selection of Cantonese cult classics, there’s something for all tastes (and budgets, high or low). Check out our list of the best. RECOMMENDED: Dine further afield by trying out the best restaurants in London.   

The best restaurants in London’s Chinatown

The best restaurants in London’s Chinatown

Soho’s Chinatown will always be a symbol of culture and community in the heart of Central London, even though a growing number of alternative Chinatown enclaves in the likes of King’s Cross and Aldgate have emerged in recent years; often in response to large influxes of students from China. In fact, the city’s earliest Chinatown was in Limehouse, though Chinese-owned restaurants and shops here were largely destroyed during the Blitz. It’s particularly apt then, that the Chinese word for crisis is made up of two characters: wei for danger and ji for opportunity, as the next wave of Hong Kong immigrants arriving after WWII decided to invest in Soho’s cheap properties, laying the foundations for present day Chinatown in the centre of London. Globally, Chinatowns have always been a symbol of resilience and adaptability, showing how communities find a way to integrate, celebrate and protect themselves. Stepping through Wardour Street’s kitsch pagoda gates today, the infectious buzz is undeniable, with supermarkets, cafes, hairdressers, community centres and eateries all bundled into this colourful blockade and the main thoroughfare of Gerrard Street. London’s Chinatown is always evolving, with the most recent wave of restaurants representing Malaysian, Korean, Singaporean, Thai and Taiwanese cuisine alongside regional Chinese flavours like Sichuanese, Cantonese and Gansu style classics – not to mention an entire alley of pan-Asian dessert options. In true Chinatown spirit, there’s

London’s best Chinese restaurants

London’s best Chinese restaurants

The philosophy of traditional Chinese medicine believes that our bodies need a balance of five core flavour profiles for good health: salty, sweet, spicy, bitter and sour. Yet for a country as vast as China, translating this across the regional variety of 22 provinces makes ‘Chinese cuisine’ an ambitious umbrella for the culinary kaleidoscope it attempts to represent.  Having grown up in Hong Kong, a city overrun with options – from street stalls and bustling food courts to Michelin-star fine dining – London is now a worthy second home for Chinese food cravings, with its incredible variety of restaurants across regions and price points. The following list is chosen through the lens of locality and authenticity, with restaurants spanning the salty, saucy tangs of Cantonese seafood, flavour-packed noodle houses inspired by Xian, Yunnan and Guilin influences, the numbing sensations of Sichuan dishes and the aromatic, barbeque flavours of Xinjiang. These are the spots where whatever the occasion, they stand out for their flavour, bang for buck and being the best at what they offer. RECOMMENDED: The best restaurants in Chinatown and the best dim sum in London. Elaine Zhao is a London-based writer from Hong Kong. She writes about food and culture through an East and South East Asian lens.

Listings and reviews (6)

Dumplings’ Legend

Dumplings’ Legend

There are few Chinatown restaurants that give you as quintessential an experience as Dumpling’s Legend. Its menu is almost as long as the Bible, the changeover of guests are often greeted with blunt service, and if you’re sitting in one of the middle tables, the surrounding din is close to deafening. But it’s all part of the experience, and a unique chance to try so many regional Chinese flavours rolled into one kitchen. Owner Geoffrey Leong, who also runs nearby Leong’s Legend which specialises in Taiwanese cuisine, has created an extensive menu that celebrates dishes from Dongbei, Guizhou, Manchuria, Sichuan, Xinjiang and, of course, Cantonese, the most prevalent cuisine in Chinatown, all under one roof. Perhaps controversially, I’d skip dumplings and dim sum and instead opt for the more flavoursome sharing dishes. The stand-out is egg tofu with enoki and mushrooms, which is stewed in a lightly umami sauce. For spice lovers, try the Sichuanese classic of whole sea bass with mixed chillies, lotus root and potatoes.

Mamasons Dirty Ice Cream Chinatown

Mamasons Dirty Ice Cream Chinatown

Much-loved Filipino parlour Mamason’s Dirty Ice Cream is playfully named after the traditional Manila method of using bare hands to make ice-cream. It’s a small but buzzing cafe decorated with tropical palm-printed wallpaper, electric neon signage and drawings of desserts on the wall which works as a giant visual menu. It’s a great pit stop for a sugary boost, with options like Halo Halo (a Filipino dessert made of colourful shaved ice) and east and southeast Asian flavours such as purple ube and red bean.

Good Friend Chicken

Good Friend Chicken

Taiwanese fried chicken was popularised by night market stall owners in the late 1970s, as they tried to recreate western-style chicken nuggets, but ended up making a deep fried, boneless bite-size version or what we now call popcorn chicken. While there’s always an intimidatingly long line trailing out of Good Friend’s bright yellow storefront, luckily it moves quickly, with staff operating at breakneck speed. For the most classic Taiwanese options, the popcorn chicken or karaage are go-to orders, but there’s also crispy squid, chicken skin, crispy tofu and sweet potato options if you feel like branching out.

Kung Fu Noodle

Kung Fu Noodle

For an area that makes as many bowls of noodles as Chinatown, it’s surprisingly rare to find ones that are fresh and traditionally hand-pulled. So Kung Fu Noodle, with their dedication to the craft, was a hugely welcome addition when it opened in 2022. Founded by Alex Xu, who also owns Happy Lemon, the hugely popular bubble tea chain, they specialise in Gansu-style noodles from northwestern China: a region emblematic of the Hui Muslim people who reside there. The noodles are known for their halal meat accompaniments and clear broth flavours, interestingly omitting soy sauce, arguably the most popular sauce across the rest of Chinese cuisine. With hot, cold and soup noodle options on the menu, their signature bowl is the famous Lanzhou beef noodle soup, served with melt-in-your-mouth hunks of beef and a generous amount of chilli oil. For each bowl, you can choose between hand pulled or knife cut noodles. I’d recommend opting for the latter, which gives you a more wheaty but slightly sweet flavour. They also soak up whatever elements they’re cooked in especially well.

Real Beijing Food House

Real Beijing Food House

5 out of 5 stars

Going for a meal at Food House is to choose between parallel universes. Option one is family style sharing in the brightly-lit, carpeted ground floor where you’ll select from an extensive menu of Northern Chinese dishes. Alternatively, option two promises the upstairs dining room, reserved for those enjoying an all-you-can-eat hotpot experience. This floor has a completely different ambience: dramatic red wallpaper, dim spotlights and mirrors casting shadows, all providing an atmospheric backdrop to the mini steam tornadoes rising from pots on each dark oak table. The headliner was whole roast sea bass, soaked in radioactively-red chilli oil and adorned with lotus root slices and Sichuan peppercorns During my visit, I confused their system by booking a table for hotpot – giving me access to the exclusive upstairs room – but at the last minute, decided to go for the cooked dishes instead, after finding the menu too intriguing to miss. I was grateful to be allowed to stay in the hotpot room, which is where the real action was, akin to being at a chaotic family reunion. The waiters were working at maximum speed (one became visibly annoyed when I tried to ask a question: ‘look, just tell me which dish you want!’), with plates charging out of the kitchen every few minutes. Despite a massive 19-page menu of options, I went for the Sichuanese classics, including the pleasantly savoury mapo tofu, which was not too sweet – a balance other outlets can often get wrong. The cucumber s

Portobello 177

Portobello 177

4 out of 5 stars

With the melting pot of cultures that Portobello Road represents, a fusion-inspired menu feels like the only way to do the iconic postcode justice. Notting Hill’s Portobello 177 is headed up by chef Shay Ola, co-founder of Rebel Dining Society and the now-shuttered east London Mexican street food joint Death By Burrito, which inspired a cookbook of the same name. At Portobello 177, Ola pays homage to Caribbean flavours with a modern British twist, mirroring the area’s carnival heritage, and adding the occasional nod to Japanese ingredients, bringing in a welcome citrus-induced freshness. As you enter, you’re enveloped by a lively, loud buzz: with large groups chatting over sharing plates, alongside couples tucked away on intimate booth corner tables. It’s a stylish place, with intimate low level lighting, dark wood panelling and padded sea green seats. On the walls, colourful artwork of tropical scenes creates a relaxed atmosphere, conjuring images of sunny days abroad. As the newest venture by the team behind Trailer Happiness – the long-running tiki bar downstairs – Portobello 177 invokes a similar kind of celebratory spirit.  While the food is technically ‘small plates’, it’s not the kind where your waiter informs you it’s four to five dishes per person and each dish is £20, bankrupting you through one-bite courses. Instead, we shared five dishes between two, leaving us pleasantly full with room for dessert, alongside my cocktail choice of ‘The Fun One’: a refreshing, ta