London is perfect for a taste of China, all over the city.
By Emma Wallis
Do you love Chinese food? We do too, and that's why we dedicate ourselves to finding the best places to enjoy Chinese cuisine in London. We've diligently scouted out the top eateries, and we've listened to our readers and their reviews of London restaurants. We share the places that get great buzz, like Hakkasan, and we showcase the ones that have proven themselves over time, like Royal China. We also point out good neighborhoods for Chinese restaurants in London - Bayswater, for instance or Soho. London used to be predominantly cantonese influenced cuisine from the South of China, but now Sichuan food has become popular, with the excellent food writer and chef, Fuchsia Dunlop consulting on new restaurant Barshu, and several other Sichuan hot and spicz places opening up, you can start upping the heat, and taste factors. But it's not just these two regions, Hunan likes to cook Taiwan style, and the Royal China and Yi-ban are great for dim sum and a little light afternoon refreshment, as well as full dinner menus. Lots of the bigger restaurants will also cater for big parties and even weddings as well as intimate candlelit tete-a-tetes. And now there are two restaurants Hakkasan Mayfair and Kai Mayfair with a Michelin star, so there's something to suit every budget and taste. When the craving hits, we'll make sure you get your fix!
10 Mao Tai
This unusually decorated Chinese restaurant is dimly lit and romantic, with fresh flowers on the tables, curvy modern chairs, and collages on the walls made from unique odds and ends like skewers and drink umbrellas. The dishes are eclectic and interestingly named, such as Ants Climbing a Tree and Firecracker Dumplings. Impressive, flavorful plates of salt and pepper squid, crispy Szechuan duck and flavorful chicken with mango puree will not disappoint. It's in trendy fulham and Chelsea and states on its website that it doesn't use Monosodium Glutemate, blue fin tuna or artificial flavours or food colouring. What's not to like. TUBE: Parsons Green (20-7731-2520)
9 Four Seasons Chinese
This restaurant is known for its crispy roast duck, which is light, flavorful, and not at all fatty. On trip advisor, some clients have even returned to London to eat this duck they missed it so much. The most popular method of presentation is barbecue, with its sensationally crispy skin. The set dinner allows folks to sample delicate spring rolls, sweet corn-and-crab soup, and sweet-and-sour pork. Filet of Dover sole with scrambled eggs is also delicious. They have several branches across London now, and many say it is exactly what a Chinese restaurant in London should be, quick, easy, tasty and reliably basic. TUBE: Bayswater or Queensway and Soho (20-7229-4320)
8 Kai Mayfair
Kai is another Michelin star Chinese restaurant in London, which has won best Chinese restaurant and many other awards several years running. a top pick for first-class Chinese cuisine in an elegant environment. The Mayfair restaurant, with its muted colors, offers a number of regional cuisines but specializes in Szechwan delicacies. The descriptive menu includes exotic dishes like black pepper ostrich and the popular "Parcels of Prosperity," flaky, deep-fried pastries filled with shrimp. The luxurious room features a giant fish tank, gilt-trimmed walls and thickly upholstered, gold-striped seating. The restaurant puts deserts first on its A La Carte menue, and six shades of peanut and chocolate make you want to race to the end just to get there and dive in. TUBE: Bond Street or Marble Arch (20-7493-8988)
While other restaurants focus on milder styles of Chinese cooking, Hunan stands out by offering hot, spicy, authentic Western Chinese cuisine, focused on the food of Taiwan. If you can stand the heat, you'll be delighted by lettuce-wrapped chili chicken or stir-fried lamb with lotus root. Although they're hot, there's substance behind the spice, along with complex flavors. The menu is large, but the chef's special is always sublime, and you're guaranteed a unique dining experience. Their website itself tells you that this is not your typical Chinese restaurant. Plus, the maitre d' goes out of his way to secure your enjoyment. Try crispy frogs legs with bamboo shoots and chili. TUBE: Sloane Square (20-7730-5712)
Located off Tottenham Court Road, this basement eatery offers a modern approach to classic Cantonese dishes, a philosophy also reflected in the place's upscale decor. Decorative screens, sleek black furniture, and a bevy of fashionable regulars make the sophisticated setting all the more attractive. Of course, creative cuisine gets rave reviews as well, thanks to roasted mango duck with lemon sauce and roasted silver cod with champagne and Chinese honey. The dim sum lunch is extremely popular with business folks. Their sister restaurant, Hakkasan Mayfair got its first Michelin star in 2011, with steamed mini lobster, and black truffle duck present on the menu. TUBE: Tottenham Court Road (20-7927-7000, 20-7907-1888)
As you'd expect from its Docklands location, this is a suave, contemporary-to-the-nth degree establishment. As good as the afternoon dim sum is, it's not quite in the exalted league of the dinner menu, which offers such temptations as garlic scallops and ginger squid. Yet this upscale venue knows how to relax: on weekends there's live jazz, and children are made a special fuss of. Definitely worth a visit if you're in the area; in fact, worth going out of your way for. Yi-Ban translates as First Class and that is what this restaurant likes to be. TUBE: Royal Albert Docks (20-7473-6699)
Near to, but not quite in, Chinatown, this much-praised restaurant specializes in food from the northern provinces. It also claims to be the oldest Chinese restaurant in London. There's an emphasis on seafood, which has to be a good thing when it results in the kind of prawn cakes and soft-shell crab you get here. But there's nothing fishy about the most talked about menu item, the Mongolian Lamb. Service is intimate and unhurried, and the wine list is notable for a venue that specializes in food, not booze. The proprietor talks about the balance of yin and yang in a menu, and is happy to help you choose from his varied menu, or just let you have your head. TUBE: Piccadilly Circus (20-7734-2721)
3 Royal China
Royal China is one of the best places in London for Dim Sum. You can choose from flavorful dumplings -- stuffed with everything from vegetables to minced shrimp, pork, or beef and crab -- are delicate and perfectly cooked. The rest of the dishes also impress, from fried seafood favorites to exotic steamed specialties. The vast, subterranean-feeling yet elegant dining room features shiny black and red dinner service with gold accents. Like many places in London, this Chinese restaurant is based largely on Cantonese specialities from the South, but they are executed brilliantly and you won't be disappointed, definitely worth the visit. (20-7221-2535)
2 The Good Earth
The Good Earth group opened their doors 25 years ago, and they now comprise 3 restaurants, 4 fast food outlets, and a food factory. The restaurants offer a range of Chinese food, from the familiar aromatic duck and shredded beef, a staple of most Chinese restaurants in London, to more modern Chinese regional dishes. You can go there in a big group, meet a colleague for business, or have a romantic tete a tete if you so desire. The menu is long and varied, so there is something for everyone, and each restaurant encourages you to try out new specialties. The great thing is that you can even take out or order from their food factory too. (020 7584 3658)
Barshu is an elegant building on Frith Street, done up in the gold and red of the Chinese Emperors. The restaurant stretches over several floors, with different types of public dining rooms and 3 private dining rooms too. Sichuan opera masks hang from the ceiling, a statue of the Buddha presides over the main dining room . Hanging lanterns pretify all the rooms and make the gilt and gold glitter alluringly. The food is mainly Sichuan Chinese, so think spicy and good. Fuchsia Dunlop is a consultant for the restaurant, and she's already the author of two great cookbooks on Sichuan cookery, having studied cooking in the country and speaking Mandarin perfectly. She is the leading authority on that region's cooking in London, and has already attracted the restaurant some great reviews. (02072878822, 02072876688)
About Emma Wallis
London gives Emma a warm fuzzy feeling every time she gets back to her home city. As a writer and broadcaster she travels extensively round Europe and the world, but is always happy to return to London town. All that travel means she knows what she looks for as a visitor to a new city: insider knowledge, tips, and the feeling that she's found something that few travellers get to experience. Emma enjoys keeping her fingers on the capital's pulse, in order to make sure that everyone enjoys her favourite city, as much as she does.
Read more about Emma Wallis here.