When a country is as vast as China, the idea of it having a singular cuisine swiftly teeters into the ridiculous. So it is: going for a Chinese might mean plates from Sichuan and Hunan, blistering with numbing spice; it might mean the sweet seafood of Cantonese cooking; or perhaps the colourful precision of the sweet-and-salt of dishes from Jiangsu. It might mean high end or low; exacting or cheerily shapeless; food for bottles of beer or pots of tea. It can be, then, hard to know where to start — at the local spot on the corner, in the warren of Chinatown, or among the moneyed of Mayfair?
And so we radioed for help. Ahead of next week’s lunar new year, some of the biggest names in Chinese cooking offer their favourites, at both the peak and foot of pricing. We’ve cut repeat mentions of a few names — A Wong, Imperial Treaure and the Royal China Club had multiple shout-outs (Filipino-born chef John Javier was at pains to mention their lobster dumplings are the best he’s ever had) — but below are 21 of London’s best Chinese restaurants, as chosen by those in the know.
Z He, Bun House
My go-to is a tiny eatery called Lucky Dog (70 Brick Lane, E1, 020 3730 2346), which serves authentic dishes from the north-eastern region of China. I usually eat here once a week with the family — the food is so comforting and the execution never fails. Skewers are a must — my favourites are the lamb and pork belly skewers and grilled chicken. Other favourites are the Guo Bao Rou, a sweet and sour crispy pork accompanied by Chinese chives or enoki mushrooms, and their signature Liang Pi — cold, glass noodles with sesame peanut sauce. Another favourite is the Mandarin Kitchen (14-16 Queensway, W2, mandarin.kitchen). Here there is a large selection of classic Cantonese dishes and they specialise in Cantonese-style seafood; the must-order item is the signature lobster, Yee Mien — I haven’t found anywhere in London that does better Cantonese lobster noodles!
Bun House, 26-27 Lisle Street, WC2, bun.house
Fei Wang, Hutong
My favourite hidden gem is a small restaurant called Jincheng Alley (43 New Oxford Street, WC1, 07376 666858). Since I am a Chengdu native, I’m constantly looking for authentic Sichuan cuisine and Jincheng Alley provides this with an innovative take on the dishes I grew up eating. They’ve reinvented and even improved traditional Sichuan classics. Both the environment and the flavours are aimed at accommodating the taste of Chinese people — I think it’s a great spot for Londoners who want to introduce themselves to truly authentic Sichuan cooking. I’d also recommend the Royal China Club (40-42 Baker Street, W1, royalchinagroup.co.uk), which serves traditional dim sum and classic Cantonese food — the closest to traditional Chinese dim sum that I’ve found in London (outside of Hutong!).
The Shard, 33 St Thomas Street, SE1, hutong.co.uk
Andrew Wong, A Wong
I love businesses that specialise in one thing and do it really well. In China and Hong Kong, street stalls often make just one dish and have spent generations and generations to perfect it. Here, Dumpling Shack (Old Spitalfields Market, E1, dumplingshack.co.uk) isthe same. Somewhere else I love is New Loon Fung (42-44 Gerrard Street, W1, 020 7437 7332). I go religiously every Sunday with my family for dim sum, and it’s nice to have food so close to Hong Kong in London. New Loon Fung is also a reference point for me; after I’ve been developing a dish for a while, I can lose sight of what it’s meant to taste like, and going back to New Loon Fung I can recalibrate myself. I’m also a massive fan of Sichuan food; my grandma was Sichuanese. I love the offal and welk dishes at Ma La Sichaun (37 Monck Street, SW1, malasichuan.co.uk). Those kinds of dishes really exemplify a Chinese mouthfeel, the chilliness and the cartilage texture. It’s unique to what we do, and it’s good to try dishes that celebrate that.
70 Wilton Road, SW1, awong.co.uk
Charlene Liu and Linda Liu, Liu Xiaomian
We’ve visited Min Jiang (Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington High Street, W8, minjiang.co.uk) a few times over the years for its famous Beijing duck and were impressed by its authentic taste and presentation, which is definitely a must-try for first-timers. You can have it with two servings — we usually have the duck and tofu soup as the second serving. Cafe TPT (21 Wardour Street, W1, cafetpt.com), meanwhile, is a typical Cantonese restaurant in Chinatown. What we like the most is their great value dessert menu: the signature sweet beancurd with mango and grapefruits is our all-time favourite. You can stop by and ask for takeaway, or go there during off-peak hours for a dine-inservice.
Inside The Jackalope in Marylebone Village, W1, liu-xiaomian.com
Ken Hom CBE
My all-time favourite Chinese restaurant in London is A Wong (70 Wilton Road, SW1, awong.co.uk), especially if I want to splurge. Why? Because it is true Chinese-London food that does not stand still. Chef Andrew Wong’s dishes are constantly evolving and changing — always for the better. His dumplings are out of this world, and Andrew makes traditional dishes his own, like his Peking duck. I also love the way he takes vegetables to extraordinary heights, so much so that I almost want to turn vegetarian. The secret at A Wong is to ask about the latest dish of the day. You will not be disappointed. Another I love is Din Tai Fung (two in WC2, one in W1, dintaifung-uk.com), an offshoot of the famous Taipei shop in Taiwan. Here you can watch the chefs folding the famous xiao long bao, a steamed dumpling with soup inside. But the inside scoop is that everything else on the menu is also up to par. The pork chop is excellent, as are the stuffed chilli peppers, and the magical aromatic beef noodle soup. It is easy to eat your way through the menu and then return for more.
Peter Ho, MiMi Mei Fair
I really enjoy how traditional Imperial Treasure’s (9 Waterloo Place, SW1, imperialtreasure.com) Cantonese flavours are and its Singaporean heritage. Try the dim sum and have it with tea, since they go well together. And I remember, after I left Beijing and came to London, Barshu (28 Frith Street, W1, barshurestaurant.co.uk) was the first place where I found the traditional citron flavour. It remains authentic. I’d recommend first-timers mention their tolerance to spicy food to the staff, since it can often be very spicy. I tend to order the Chongqing chicken and the fish with pickled vegetables.
55 Curzon Street, W1, mimimeifair.com
Lee Che Liang, Park Chinois
Hunan (51 Pimlico Road, SW1, hunanlondon.com) is fantastic because of the concept of having no menu — it takes away the pressure and chaos of ordering, and you’re left in the hands of the masters. You just say what you like and how spicy, then waves of small plates arrive at the table; we had about 18. The chilli beef and cuttlefish were outstanding. Otherwise, Xi’an Impression (117 Benwell Road, N7, xianimpression.co.uk) might not look like much from the outside, but it’s where I like to go for authentic and typical Xi’an local food. Their hand-pulled noodles are second to none, perfectly finished with hot oil and ground chilli wrapped around the ribbons of noodles. I also have fond memories of eating with friends at Plum Valley (20 Gerrard St, W1, plumvalley.co.uk). It’s family run and puts a fun twist on classic regional dishes: always start with some fresh dim sum, while the Hong Kong-style wind shelter stir-fried whole crab is a showstopper dish that leaves us fighting over who gets the last piece.
17 Berkeley Street, W1, parkchinois.com
John Javier, The Tent (at the end of the Universe)
At the top end, the Peking duck is great at MiMi Mei Fair (55 Curzon Street, W1, mimimeifair.com)and the closest I’ve had here to the ones in Sydney and Asia. But with London’s Chinese dining scene, my heart lies with the more accessible end of the spectrum: Dim Sum and Duck (124 King’s Cross Road, WC1, dimsum-duck.business.site) used to be my favourite — when I could get a table! If you’re lucky and there’s no queue, it’s guaranteed satisfaction. Get the prawn wontons with salad cream, har gao, siu mai, roast duck and the beef flank hot pot. Still, my all-time favourite is the Old Street Chinese Restaurant (184-186 Old Street, EC1, theoldstreet.co.uk). I always order the sizzling fish fillet, twice-cooked pork belly, frog legs in an iron wok and the braised cabbage in superior broth. If you’re feeling adventurous, pork kidneys in chilli sauce and the sliced beef and ox tripe in chilli oil are also big hits.
17 Little Portland Street, W1, little-portland.com
Geoff Leong, Dumplings Legend
One place in Camden, which has my favourite street food dishes like pan-fry dumplings and other East Asian delights like laksa and Hainanese chicken and rice, is Lan Kwai Fong (27 Chalk Farm Road, NW1, lankwaifongcamden.com), named after the bustling area of Hong Kong. It’s a good place to eat, have a draft beer and play the digital beer pong. I’ve had many parties of karaoke and beer pong in the private rooms: you get a taste of Hong Kong party living, without breaking the bank. But I also love Park Chinois (17 Berkeley Street, W1, parkchinois.com). It’s not the marble or the gold taps or the bulletproof glass, and there is no need to have both beluga and Peking duck, but it just has a wonderful ambience and I love live music. It’s comfortable, the cocktails are good and the food is too.
15-16 Gerrard St, W1, 020 7494 1200