From Sichuan to Shaanxi, Hunan to Yunnan, Cantonese and everything in between
nce upon a time, going for a Chinese meal in London meant Cantonese in Chinatown. That central London, packed with everything from bakeries and grocers to Chinese doctors and travel agents, remains many Londoners’ first experience of Chinese food. But an influx of East Asian students — as well as Brits’ growing realisation that there’s a whole lot more to Chinese food than what expats brought back from Hong Kong — has led to an explosion of regional Chinese cooking in London, not only from beyond the borders of Guangdong (formerly Canton province) but beyond the borders of Chinatown.
The fiery flavours of Sichuan province, famous for the lip-numbing sensation of Sichuan pepper, have become increasingly familiar for much of this century. But how about exploring hot and fiery Hunan cuisine, sour and spicy Xi’an cooking or the central Asian-influenced dishes from Xinjiang in the far north-west of China?
That said, the classic dishes of the Anglo-Chinese repertoire are revered for a reason. The sweet and sour at Hakkasan (based on Duke of Berkshire pork) and the char siu at Imperial Treasure (involving honey-glazed iberico) are just two delicious examples of high-end restaurants making these takeaway clichés taste freshly minted by using superior ingredients.
However, it pays to go off-piste in a Chinese restaurant more than any other. Avoid the set menus, and if you really want to be adventurous, ask whether there is a Chinese-language or “special” menu – even the grumpiest of Chinatown waiting staff is likely to light up if you ask for a personal recommendation and order something that, for Western diners at least, is out of the norm.
So from Sichuan to Shaanxi, Hunan to Yunnan, Cantonese and everything in between, here is our guide to the very best Chinese restaurants in London, from cheap-eat caffs to Michelin stars in Mayfair. And yes: it is unacceptable for a fully grown adult not to know how to use a pair of chopsticks.
The cooking of the persecuted Uyghurs is one of the final frontiers of Chinese food in London and this small, family-run dining room in Walthamstow is the capital’s most prominent outpost of the cuisine. The style of cooking was created by Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang region of north-west China, which borders Mongolia and various post-Soviet states, and tastes like Chinese food seasoned with Middle Eastern spices. Hand-pulled laghman noodles sprinkled with sesame seeds, and chicken tingling with Sichuan pepper in a stew of potatoes and peppery sauce, are the two must-orders, and if Cantonese cuisine is the pinnacle of pork cooking, there’s nothing the Uyghurs don’t know what to do with lamb, from skewers of kidneys to trotters in a tomato sauce. It sounds full-on but the end result is surprisingly homely given the punch of the ingredients. Etles is BYO, too, so remember to go via the off-licence for something stronger than tea boiled with milk and salt to drink.
235 Hoe Street, E17 9PP, etleswalthamstow.com
LSE graduate Andrew Wong took over his parents’ Pimlico restaurant Kym’s following time spent on a foodie tour of China and set about re-fashioning it along the lines of what one might expect to find in a hip district of Shanghai. A decade later and he’s been rewarded with two Michelin stars for his efforts at his synonymous restaurant — the only Chinese restaurant outside Asia to receive the accolade, which should give an indication as to the sort of bill one might expect here. Wong’s travels are on display in the regional likes of Chengdu street tofu, Anhui fermented seabass and Yunnan seared beef but there are also knockout takes on honey-roasted pork, soy chicken and crispy chilli beef, all savoury and refined, subtle and sublime. Luxury ingredients – caviar, wagyu, foie gras – extend to the lunchtime dim sum menu of individually priced dumplings. Can’t get a table? Try a seat at the chef’s counter, with its view straight into the kitchen.
70 Wilton Road, SW1V 1DE, awong.co.uk
There is, appropriately, a quartet of Four Seasons across central London, including the Queensway original and two outposts on Gerrard Street, all instantly recognisable by the burnished chunks of roast duck and pork hanging in the window for which the chain is justly celebrated. But this tiny Wardour Street branch is our favourite. The belly pork just seems that bit crisper, the char siu a tad juicier, the duck fat slightly more luscious, while the handful of tables means things never get too rowdy and make it somewhere to know when you just fancy a solo set lunch deal of roast meat on rice (£13.50) and a scroll though the news. A side order of ginger and garlic oil is essential while there are also the usual crab and lobster plates, bowls of viscous soup and blandly reassuring bean curd dishes, plus esoteric specials of griddle-cooked pig’s trotter and poached sliced beef in hot chilli oil – but really, if you’re not here for the roast meat, you’re in the wrong restaurant.
23 Wardour Street, W1D 6PW, fs-restaurants.co.uk
Imperial Treasure is a very big deal in Asia, where its portfolio includes Michelin-starred outposts in Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong. No corners were cut when the high-end group opened in St James’s in 2019, enlisting French designer Christian Liaigre to convert an extravagantly corniced Grade II-listed former bank into a series of discrete spaces. Cantonese cooking is the default in most UK Chinese restaurants; here it is the cuisine’s subtle interplay of texture and flavour that is emphasised, with steep prices justified by luxury ingredients: Angus beef ho fun, wagyu beef puffs, iberico pork char siu and king prawn sesame toast. The (big) money-shot is Peking duck carved tableside for £118 and served in two courses. Smart staff deliver ceremonial service including expert wine pairings, while two set-lunch menus will keep the bill below £40 by drinking tap water.
9 Waterloo Place, SW1Y 4BE, imperialtreasure.com
This old-fashioned restaurant near Baker Street tube, resplendent in regal gold and red, is hugely popular with Chinese families who appreciate the big tables and easy access to whatever takes their fancy with a spin of the lazy Susan. However, Phoenix Palace is as well suited to tables of two as 15 (the largest table), with well-rendered versions of the Cantonese canon (300 dishes and counting) produced for higher-than-average prices that are just-about justified by the quality of cooking. Classic dim sum (prawn dumplings, beef balls, turnip cakes) is a good, and good-value, place to start, or tackle the full menu, from excellent soft-shell crab and mixed seafood noodles to the less common likes of pan-fried foie gras with scallops, a fabulous dish of five-spice pork belly with sweet buns, and various eel specialities. It can get pretty loud, and service can go off the boil at busy times, which is almost all of the time – try mid-afternoon for the calmest experience.
5-9 Glentworth Street, NW1 5PG, phoenixpalace.co.uk
Few people outside Mayfair seem to have heard of classy Kai, which is odd as not only has the restaurant held a Michelin star since 2009 but it serves some of the best modern Chinese food in London. Chef Alex Chow is behind some of the great inventions of recent years – we have him to thank for wasabi prawns – while elsewhere on the manageably sized menu, wagyu beef is gently cooked on the table on a heated block of Himalayan salt, the bao are made from roasted Duke of Berkshire pork belly while lobster sits atop a pile of noodles dressed with lobster oil; there’s a separate vegetarian menu, too. If the ingredients were not a clue as to cost of it all, the plushest of soft furnishings, Buddha heads carved from stone not fiberglass and fish tanks filled with a reef of tropical specimens do not come cheap.
65 South Audley Street, W1K 2QU, kaimayfair.co.uk
This Taiwanese dumpling specialist is a global phenomenon, with a Michelin star for Din Tai Fung’s first Hong Kong branch and another 100-plus restaurants around the world. The house speciality is xiaolongbao, the soup-filled pork dumplings which require as much skill to make as they do to eat – one wrong move can discharge a spray of scalding stock. A team of white-coated chefs handcraft the dumplings in a glass-walled kitchen; each 18-pleated parcel reputedly takes 40 minutes to make. Elsewhere on the menu are prawn and pork shumai, steamed chilli crab and pork buns, yellow hillocks of egg fried rice inlaid with prawns or pork, noodle soups and arrestingly flavoured cold plates such as cucumber in spicy sauce. It’s an experience that is as enjoyable as it is educational and will leave you counting the pleats on all future dumplings – perhaps at the next Din Tai Fung, due to open at Centre Point, later in 2022.
5 Henrietta Street, WC2E 8PS, dintaifung-uk.com
This light and bright restaurant down one side of spruced-up Newport Place (now alas minus its pagoda) is a more sanitised offshoot of the original Jinli on Leicester Street and makes up for in the salubriousness of the surroundings what it lacks in old-school authenticity. It’s a smart (by Chinatown standards) split-level space where ignoring the average likes of prawn toast and salt-and-pepper squid is the way to go to make the most of the strong Sichuan influence on the menu (Jinli Road is a famous restaurant street in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province). Pretty much anything worth eating here comes in chilli: whole sea bass, deep-fried to flaky perfection, in chilli oil, dry chilli and Sichuan peppercorns; huge plates of golden fried chicken laden with chilli-braised bean curd in chilli sauce; translucent slices of pork floating with bean sprouts and veg in chilli broth. There’s a third London branch deep in suburban Uxbridge.
16-18 Newport Place, WC2H 7PR, jinli.co.uk
Xi’an-born chef Wei Guirong’s first London restaurant – she also owns Master Wei in Bloomsbury – is a tiny space in the shadow of the Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium; it’s a good idea to check that it’s not matchday before turning up for one of the dozen seats. Standouts of the northern Chinese menu include a burger that is really a cumin-fragrant kebab sandwiched in a flatbread-style bun, the gentler charms of pork and seaweed potsticker dumplings, and no end of noodles: try the slippery house special of liangpi, chewy cords of fat rice noodles served at room temperature and assertively dressed with chilli oil, or a warming bowl of pork biang biang noodles with tomato, egg sauce and chilli. Cheap thrills don’t get any tastier, and it’s BYO too.
117 Benwell Road, N7 7BW, xianimpression.co.uk
The price for dining with a view of London is often not only a bill as sky-high as the setting but food quality that remains determinedly earthbound. Hutong, however, is that rare restaurant where cooking would pass muster whether it was on the third floor or the 33rd, from where a panorama of the capital stretches westwards and St Paul’s, Tate Modern and the BT Tower line up like a viewfinder of London landmarks. The food is nominally northern Chinese (a “hutong” is a type of narrow street in Beijing) though spicing has been dialled down for western palates in the likes of ma la chilli prawns, mapo tofu and wagyu beef in hot and sour broth. A lunchtime set menu offers good choice for £45 (expect to pay at least double that in the evening), though the best time to come is whatever hour coincides with sunset when the river turns into a gold ribbon wrapping up London.
Level 33, The Shard, 31 St Thomas Street, SE1 9RY, hutong.co.uk
A reincarnation of Hackney’s Mao Chow, Facing Heaven is twice as big in size and twice as big in its offering, expanding its all-vegan Sichuan repertoire to include Cantonese, Yunnan and Shaanxi cuisine. And since founder Julian Denis was raised in LA by a Portuguese mother and Haitian and Puerto Rican father, those influences all make it on to the menu, too. Some dishes need no updating from their authentic selves: a potato salad with wild garlic dressing, or peanut-topped dan dan noodles, are much as you’d find in any northern Chinese restaurant, vegan or not. Elsewhere, cauliflower makes a convincing substitute for chicken in a ma la plate livid with red chillies. Facing heaven, by the way, is a type of chilli pepper from Sichuan province, which grows with its leaves pointing skywards rather than to the ground, which should indicate the spice levels here. The neon-lit setting, however, is pure east London – which means the most natural thing to drink is craft beer.
1a Bayford Street, E8 3SE, facing-heaven.com
There’s far more to this place than just dim sum and duck. Pungent minced pork in chilli with stir-fried French beans, say, or a superior version of crispy shredded chilli beef. But everyone is here for the handmade dumplings, which are served from lunch until late rather than being the daytime-only delight they are in most Chinese restaurants. There are baskets of plump prawns jammed into pleated casings, minced pork and stock held like a water bomb within a xiaolongbao, and glossy sheets of slithery cheung fun. The dim sum tends to be better than the duck, which isn’t as tender as you might find in Chinatown, though the intensely savoury beef ho fun is a must-order. Get there at 6pm or expect a long wait for dinner, though Dim Sum Duck is at its best for leisurely afternoons when the tiny dining room will transport you to somewhere far more exotic than King’s Cross.
124 King’s Cross Road, WC1X 9DS, dimsum-duck.business.site
The name isn’t so much a reference to the high quality of the dumplings but Hong Kong-born owner Geoff Leong, whose no-less modestly monikered Leong’s Legend serves Taiwanese street food a few doors down on Gerrard Street. That said, there’s something mythical about the dumplings here, made in lickety-split time and on full view behind a glass screen in the spic-and-span white dining room. The Shanghai soup dumplings of xiaolongbao are the house speciality, dunked in vinegar sauce before releasing their heat with a gentle poke of a chopstick and being dispatched in a mouth-filling swirl of filling and stock (we’d recommend both the pork and veggie versions); elsewhere are prawn dumplings and larger plates of stir-fried green beans with minced pork and a finger-lickin’ crab stir-fried in black pepper sauce. The best bit? The dumplings can be ordered by the eight. Greed really is good.
15-16 Gerrard Street, W1D 6JE, 020 7494 1200
Many Chinese restaurant menus offer a bewildering amount of choice; at Three Uncles, there are just three roast meats (duck, pork, chicken), another trio of meat-topped lo-mein noodles, a handful of rice and veg sides and a greatest hits of half-a-dozen dim sum. Three Uncles Brixton is the first sit-down offering of a proposition that was founded in 2019 by three friends from Hong Kong as a grab-and-go offering in Camden and the City, and offers the holy grail of London dining: good value for good quality. Those sweet and savoury meats, marinaded for 48 hours and chopped to order, are the star of the show, although it’s a toss-up as to whether the excellence of both meat and cooking is better showcased by being served straight up on rice, or in a noodle soup which amplifies the depth of flavour. Expect to have a hefty wait for a table, but nothing sharpens the appetite like the smell of roasting meat.
Unit 19 & 20, Brixton Village, SW9 8PR, threeuncles.co.uk
There is a good reason the Hakkasan brand has been successfully exported around the honeypots of the world, from Miami to Muscat, Mumbai to Shanghai. The winning formula involves a menu that corresponds to many people’s idea of how Chinese food should taste, only refined beyond recognition with quality ingredients and skilful cooking, washed down with a groundbreaking wine list and served up in cool, low-lit surrounds. Classic salt-and-pepper squid comes as great mounds of bouncy seafood in the lightest of batters, or there are signature dishes such as roasted silver cod in Champagne and honey crying out to be ordered. Daytime dim sum such as langoustine har gow is no less luxurious, while drinking tea (or tap water) will keep the bill down.
8 Hanway Place, W1T 1HD / 17 Bruton Street, W1J 6QB, hakkasan.com
All areas need their long-standing neighbourhood Chinese and 40-year-old Hunan is Belgravia’s. The setting might lead one to think this is nothing more than an upmarket local – an elegantly restrained dining room of white walls and wooden floor, crisp tablecloths and hangin artworks – but the cooking of chef YS Peng and his son Michael draws an audience far beyond SW1. Instead of a menu, customers are asked what they like to eat, how much spice they can tolerate and how hungry they are, before a succession of courses begins to appear (we’d also recommend you suggest how much you wish to spend). The effect is not so much a tasting menu as a graze through reinvented versions of prawn toast, roast duck and steamed sea bass, plus house specials such as tempura green beans and hand-pulled noodles. Infrequent diners might find that they are served the same meal as on their previous visit; the best way to get the greatest variety out of the kitchen is to have a more active discussion about the menu, or simply become a regular.
51 Pimlico Road, SW1W 8NE, hunanlondon.com
Some Chinese restaurants have roast duck carved tableside as their signature dish; here at Café TPT, it’s Macau-style pork chop with onions, chilli oil and bechamel – a booze-absorbing cheese bomb that makes a lot more sense just before the restaurant closes at 1am than it might over a quick pre-theatre supper. Cantonese classics are done just as well as at more expensive Chinatown alternatives – grilled pork dumplings on a pretty floral plate for £5.50, a huge portion of garlic prawn-stuffed tofu in a hot stone pot for £9, plus all the usual roast-meat-on rice combos – though the street-food specials from the Singaporean section of the menu are well worth a punt too: Hainanese chicken rice or curry laksa, say. The series of cramped dining rooms set over various narrow floors are not somewhere to dress up for (and it’s astonishing how such a tiny galley kitchen can produce so much well-made food) but the staff are as cheerful as the jolly orange front door.
21 Wardour Street, W1D 6PN, cafetpt.com
London’s dim sum pioneer now has six branches across the capital, each with a distinct character, but this all-purpose Baker Street branch is our favourite since the lockdown demise of the Queensway original. The large room is as suited to business lunches as get-togethers of old friends and the staff will always find space for diners who rock up on their own. Frenetic dim sum sittings see har gow, shumai and xiaolongbao delivered alongside turnip cake with cured meats, honey-roast pork puffs and prawn cheung fun; evenings are marginally quieter and calmer for consistently good classics of soft-shell crab, braised duck and even a decent version of chicken with cashew nuts that redeems the takeaway staple. It’s not the cheapest, but for mid-market Chinese dining that feels a cut above, Royal China is hard to beat.
24-26 Baker Street, W1U 3BZ, royalchinagroup.co.uk
London’s trio of Murger Hans answer two of the capital’s perennial restaurant questions: somewhere decent to eat near Euston station and somewhere cheap to eat in Mayfair (the third branch, by Monument, is less out of the ordinary). A murger is the Chinese equivalent of a burger, with slow-cooked meat slipped into a flap of flatbread; at around £7 a pop, a fun time could be had deciding whether pork, spicy beef or roast duck is the best flavour, or there’s also a vegan-friendly mixed vegetable version (other good plant-based options include tofu skewers, vegetable gyoza and spring onion and chilli-oil biang biang noodles). One murger, however, is probably enough to allow space for the menu’s meat-topped handmade noodles, clay-pot dishes and dumpling soups. A fourth Murger Han is due to open in Elephant and Castle in June 2022.
62 Eversholt Street, NW1 1DA and 8A Sackville Street, W1S 3DF, murgerhan.co.uk
Originally opened by Hakkasan founder Alan Yau, Park Chinois is not so much a restaurant as a wormhole into a whole extra level of Mayfair extravagance. Every surface seems to be covered in some sort of velvety, tasselled and fringed fabric – one can only salute the bravery of having open fires in here – while the duck-shaped taps in the loos are gold-plated. The inspiration is decadent 1930s Shanghai, and the level of unabashed ostentation might explain why the Chinese embraced communism so enthusiastically a decade later. Still, as long as you can stomach the opulence of the one per cent, there’s some creative, top-notch cooking on show here. “Park carbonara” is one signature dish, a riff on the pasta classic involving udon noodles spun with guanciale, sea urchin and a sous-vide organic egg; the other is roast duck (aka “duck de Chine”), available with three different grades of caviar. If there’s any spare cash to flash, head downstairs for after-dinner drinks to live-music venue Club Chinois.
17 Berkeley Street, W1J 8EA, parkchinois.com
A recent move from Charing Cross Road to Gerrard Street has cemented Food House as one of Chinatown’s restaurants to watch. Not that you’d know it from a plain interior of worn carpet and paper tablecloths that verges on the gloomy. Instead, be reassured by the lively groups of Chinese students who are this place’s biggest clientele. Dim sum, which can be ordered in portions of 30 dumplings, is one reason why they come; another is an authentic taste-of-home menu split between Sichuan cooking and, less common for London, central Chinese food. The former might bring dry hotpots and a whole sea bass cooked in chilli oil; the latter is represented by skewers of cumin-coated offal and wide ribbons of belt noodles with chilli oil and braised lamb, which are not unlike eating a Chinese-flavoured bowl of pasta – and thus a double-whammy of deliciousness.
46 Gerrard Street, W1D 5QH, 020 7287 2818
This Soho offshoot of Sichuan pioneer Barshu over the road is, dare we say, even better. It helps that the prices are easier to swallow, but the setting is also nicer, with wood-heavy interiors referencing a traditional Chinese teahouse, big windows that let in lots of natural light at lunch and a cosy feel come the evening. The menu touts decently done crowd-pleasers of sweet-and-sour chicken, kung pao prawns and crispy shredded beef, but the food works better as a version of Chinese tapas, with small plates to share. The namesake baozi are fluffy, tear-and-share steamed buns filled with sticky pork or dyed green with spinach; the jiaozi dumplings in chilli oil turn up the heat and, if you don’t mind the risk of dribbling soup down your front, there are prawn wontons bobbing in broth. Elsewhere is a choice of salt-and-pepper protein (squid, shredded chicken, spare ribs) and skewers of pork belly, steak and cumin lamb. There’s another BaoziInn near London Bridge as well as a cheap-as-chips BYO Chinatown caff (currently closed) and Market Hall outposts.
24 Romilly Street, W1D 5AH, baoziinn.com
Owned by the team behind upmarket Indians Jamavar and Bombay Bustle, Mimi takes a similarly high-end approach to Chinese cuisine, adopting the Mayfair approach of serving classic Cantonese dishes made with luxury ingredients (and then some). The crispy golden langoustine is topped with Périgord truffle, the baked beef puff is deep-filled with wagyu and the char siu is Norfolk black pork. The short menu of dim sum (king crab dumpling, sea urchin turnip puff) is handled just as deftly by chef Peter Ho and, if you balk at the prices, it’s worth knowing that the standout dish of Peking duck (£88) comes in a portion so enormous it is a meal for two in itself, each handmade pancake barely able to contain a single thick-cut slice of meat. The elaborate Instagram-ready presentation extends to the setting, a series of wood-panelled pastel rooms that feels like eating in a box of sugared almonds.
55 Curzon Street, W1J 8PG, mimimeifair.com
Perhaps it’s the location on Wardour not Gerrard Street that makes Orient stand out from the Chinatown scrum, or maybe it’s a menu that manages to offer all the Cantonese and Sichuan classics while finding space for some more interesting ideas. One might start with five-spiced beef shank, smoked shredded chicken or spare ribs in sambal sauce ahead of an intermediate course of stir-fried clams with black bean sauce then stir-fried Dover sole wrapped in crisp skin. The dim sum, made daily by hand and selected with pen-and-paper tick boxes, is excellent – and great value at around £25 a head with a pot of refillable tea, which makes the smarter-than-the-Chinatown-norm design feel all the more of a treat. What really made Orient so special for us, however, was the genuinely lovely staff.
15 Wardour Street, W1D 6PH, orientlondon.com
King’s Cross has been transformed into a hotbed of eating opportunities but one of the area’s best restaurants is further along the canal on an unassuming corner of Caledonian Road. Kaki is a northern Chinese restaurant specialising in the cooking of Sichuan, Shandong and Xinjiang provinces. Numbing and spicy is the name of the game, whether it’s frogs’ legs or rabbits treated to a seasoning of chilli and Sichuan pepper; there are hot and spicy dry pot dishes, too, plus recherche bits of offal such as braised trotters in brown sauce or chicken gizzards with green chilli. Look to the fish and vegan dishes for a touch more delicacy and be sure to order a couple of cold dishes to cool your palate from the onslaught of chilli: conch slices with spring onion sauce or a salad of black mushrooms, say. Brick walls, wooden floors, unclothed tables and grey walls look like a stylishly austere canteen, while a small canalside terrace further enhances the sense of having stumbled across a local secret.
125 Caledonian Road, N1 9RG, thekaki.co.uk
A pioneer of the cooking of Xinjiang in London, Silk Road brings the food of remote north-west China to Camberwell. Skewers are the best way to get an immediate taste of a cuisine that has as much in common with Indian and Middle Eastern cooking as Chinese – try the crisply fatty lamb rubbed with cumin and chilli powder – ahead of eight or so dumplings and a bowl of da pan ji, an aromatic jumble of bone-in chicken, potatoes and green chillies stewing in chilli broth, with a pile of handmade noodles added to mop up any leftover sauce, typical of the generosity of this place. Silk Road is small, with room for around 20 diners at the canteen tables in the narrow dining room; if you can’t get in here, try a bowl of biang biang noodles at nearby Wuli Wuli.
49 Camberwell Church Street, SE5 8TR, 020 7703 4832
Balham’s Red Duck takes everyone’s favourite takeaway recipes, zaps them with good-quality ingredients (the meat comes from River Café supplier HG Walter) and serves them up in gleamingly contemporary surrounds. The Anglo-Chinese classics are updated just enough to highlight their essential pleasures – prawn toast comes as crunchy panko-balls to roll in chilli oil while the spare ribs are tea smoked – the char siu and crispy duck could not be any more succulent nor the salt-and-pepper squid any springier. To drink, it’s a Bordeaux cask-aged Negroni or whisky-and-soda highballs, while the wine list has an eye for the interesting and aromatic.
1 Ramsden Road, SW12 8QX, theredduck.co.uk
London’s railway termini mainline good Chinese dining: Kaki at King’s Cross, Murger Han at Euston, Phoenix Palace at Marylebone, A.Wong at Victoria – and Pearl Liang at Paddington. Or Paddington Basin, to be precise, a piece of Noughties canalside corporate redevelopment where the glassy surrounds are home to glass-fronted Pearl Liang. Water features, cherry-blossom murals and pretty pink interiors go some way to softening the characterless location (and make a lychee martini a must-order in the cocktail bar), though it’s the food rather than the setting that is the main attraction. Seafood is a good shout here – steamed scallops or razor clams, lobster every which way and luxe Dover sole and abalone specialities – while an abbreviated form of the lunchtime dim sum menu is available in the evening, when a round or two of wasabi prawn and pork and radish dumplings would be just the ticket before the train home.
8 Sheldon Square, W2 6EZ, pearlliang.co.uk
With 10th-floor views over Kensington Gardens to the Royal Albert Hall, Hyde Park and the West End beyond, the flagship restaurant of the Royal Garden Hotel is a capital attraction in its own right, but the food is too good to be left to tourists gawping at the view. This was the London restaurant that made carving roast duck an essential piece of tableside theatre and while other upmarket Chinese spots may have equalled the performance, none have bettered the joy that comes from smearing a slice of fatty meat with garlic paste before rolling it up in a floppy pancake, or coating a piece of crisp skin in finely-grained sugar; the rest of the bird appears in a second course on rice, stir fried with noodles, in a vegetable sauce or, if you still want to eat with your fingers, in a lettuce wrap. Dim sum is treated just as respectfully and best experienced on an autumn afternoon when the treetops below are ablaze with glorious colour.
Royal Garden Hotel, 2-24 Kensington High Street, W8 4PT, minjiang.co.uk
There are those days when your palate wants to explore the esoterica of sea cucumber and fish lips. And then there are those mealtimes when all you crave is the reassurance of barbecue spare ribs followed by sweet-and-sour pork with maybe a course of crispy duck pancakes to share in-between. And for those times, there will always be Golden Dragon. This huge two-floor Chinatown restaurant has had queues forming outside on Gerrard Street for as long as anyone cares to remember (it takes bookings, too) and turns out a classic Cantonese repertoire of cooking which is reliable rather than revelatory — and all the better for it. Noodle dishes offer excellent value for money, there are lobster and abalone specialities to push the boat out with while lunchtime dim sum is some of the best in the West End. Staff can be hilariously brusque (being asked to move with a request of “beep-beep” and a prod in the back is not something we shall ever forget) but warm up after repeat visits.
28-29 Gerrard Street, W1D 6JW, gdlondon.co.uk
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From Sichuan to Shaanxi, Hunan to Yunnan, Cantonese and everything in between