Chinese food restaurants are almost as ubiquitous in London as those serving Indian food so it’s a bit of a minefield to find authentic Chinese cuisine. Just as for Indian food, people mistakenly head to Brick Lane thinking they’ll get the real thing, for Chinese food, Chinatown in London’s west end is the obvious place to go. There are some decent spots in Chinatown but according to my Beijing-born dining companion Ying, Chinatown isn’t the best area for quality Chinese food. Here are eleven of the best Chinese food establishments in the capital, from high end chic restaurants to more casual spots.
1.MiMi Mei Fair, Mayfair
One of London’s most beautiful restaurants is MiMi Mei Fair, in a Mayfair townhouse, with its nod to old world China through an intimate series of rooms, each gorgeously decorated. The Hall, on the ground floor, is inspired by the Forbidden Palace of Beijing, imagined through the lens of a Wong Kar Wai film. Timber screened booths with red leather seating, brass wall lights and chinoiserie cabinets are complemented with a bespoke marble floor with a fish scale mosaic. Upstairs, the drawing room and the peacock room feature hand-painted silk chinoiserie wallpaper. The kitchen is led by Chinese-Singaporean Executive Chef Peter Ho, who brings years of experience from the Michelin starred Lei Garden, Singapore, My Humble House, Beijing and Hakkasan, London. The menu reflects authentic and innovative Chinese dishes from Hong Kong, Singapore and the provinces of mainland China, including Guangdong, Sichuan, Fujian and Hunan. The tantalising menu features a selection of dim sum, a whole wok-baked lobster, Chongqing chilli chicken, roasted Cantonese char siu and Norfolk black pork with raw wild flower honey.
Michelin-starred Haakasan launched in 2001 and has been serving crowd-pleasing, modern Cantonese cuisine ever since. Today the brand has 12 restaurant locations worldwide. The opulent interiors in the London location were originally conceived by renowned designer Christian Liaigre. Some of the most popular dishes include the Crispy duck salad, Hakka steamed dim sum platter, jasmine tea smoked short rib, grilled Chilean seabass with Chinese honey and black pepper rib eye beef.
Haakasan’s sister restaurant is described as an all-day dim sum tea house. The menu includes a wide selection of authentic dim sum alongside European patisserie and an extensive range of teas, wine and cocktails. Delicious dumplings range from prawn sui mai with chicken to “crystal wraps” with pumpkin and pine nuts. Spicy soft-shell crab with almond and Wagyu beef puffs are also top menu items as are the pretty macarons for dessert.
4.Imperial Treasure, St James
Imperial Treasure, part of the Imperial Treasure Group of 24 restaurants worldwide, opened its first European site in London’s Mayfair St James in December 2018. The group includes Michelin-starred restaurants in Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong so I had high expectations of their London location. It has quickly established itself as one of the best Chinese restaurants in the capital. The restaurant is in an impressive Grade II listed building on St James’s Waterloo Place with interiors by French designers, Liaigre, who’ve done a good job in combining a contemporary aesthetic with traditional Chinese culture and architecture. The spacious main dining room features high ceilings with plenty of seating including chic leather banquette seating. One of the restaurant’s signature dishes, and a real crowd-pleaser, is Peking duck. My friend Ying claims it’s only possible to have the authentic dish in Beijing. However, she was very satisfied with the dish at Imperial Treasure. Each whole duck is expertly carved table side and is accompanied by homemade pancakes, cucumber, spring onion and duck sauce.
5.Mei Ume, Four Seasons Ten Trinity Square, Tower Bridge
Mei Ume, in the Four Seasons Ten Trinity Square near Tower Bridge, is another opulent dining room. And the menu from Head Chef Tony Truong is excellent. Showcasing two Asian cuisines under one roof, the restaurant presents a colorful selection of sushi, sashimi and Chinese main course dishes. The decadent tasting menu is fairly pricey (£138) but it’s generous and very good indeed. It features dishes such as “Prosperity Toss Salad,” seafood dim sum trio, black truffle dumpling, the signature Peking duck, sauteed dover sole and sweet red bean soup with sesame dumplings to finish.
HUŎ showcases a menu of clean, fresh and healthy Asian food encompassing carefully selected dishes from around China and Southeast Asia, all prepared from scratch using traditional Chinese, Thai, Malay and Singaporean disciplines. Driftwood colors and a light and soothing design with bleached timber banquettes provide an airy, beach club like atmosphere. Must-have dishes on an imaginative and eclectic menu include wok-fried daikon cakes with bean sprouts, Pacific five spice pork ribs, soft shell crab, peppercorn salted prawns and Szechuan chilli prawns.
Hunan isn’t your typical Chinese restaurant. Founded in 1982 by Chef Y.S. Peng, this is a family-run restaurant beloved for its chilled vibe and for not having a menu. Unable to afford the higher rents in Soho, where London’s modern-day Chinatown was being established, Chef Peng opened the restaurant on Pimlico Road. Today, this popular restaurant is run by Chef Peng’s son Michael. Diners don’t choose from a menu, they simply say what they don’t eat and how spicy they like their food. The surprise meal is a delight, with a series of small tapas-size portions of food including dishes like reinvented sesame prawn toast, lamb and almost raw baby celery, their signature tempura green beans with chilli, hand dived scallop and blackened cod.
8.Ting, Shangri-la, The Shard
TĪNG in the Shangri La hotel on level 35 of the Shard, offers breathtaking views across London and a dining experience inspired by various Asian cultures. Menu favorites include Shanghai noodles, Hainanese chicken rice and wok stir fried shredded beef fillet.
9.Park Chinois, Mayfair
Supperclubs of 1930s Shanghai are brought to life at Park Chinois for diners, through the elegant interiors by renowned French designer, Jacques Garcia and flamboyant entertainment. The cuisine is Chinese and South East Asian. Executive Chef Lee Che Liang has created a menu that showcases flavors and unique influences from his travels across the world. The restaurant offers two distinctive dining experiences in Salon de Chine and Club Chinois. Salon de Chine offers intimate dining with top level Chinese food served in a plush dining room with sultry live jazz. Club Chinois transports you to the golden age of Shanghai supper clubs and cabaret. Menu highlights include stir-fried Australian Wagyu beef with taro, steamed wild sea bass with bottarga and XO sauce and braised Australian Abalone. And for an extra special treat, a whole suckling pig stuffed with glutinous rice, shrimp, chestnut, salted egg and red date is available to order 48 hours in advance.
10.Din Tai Fung, Covent Garden and Selfridges
The late, great Anthony Bourdain described dining at Din Tai Fung as “a deeply religious experience” and my friend Ying used to eat at her Beijing branch of this restaurant once a week. Din Tai Fung, founded in Taiwan in 1958, has grown from an alley snack bar to a global catering brand. Din Tai Fung’s focus on “natural ingredients, handmade noodles, and solid fillings” contribute to its phenomenal popularity. Every dumpling is delicately rolled out and meticulously folded with exactly 18 delicate folds (no more, no less). Diners can watch the army of chefs make each dumpling fresh, steam it for three minutes and serve it to your table in seconds. The dumplings are all fantastic but be sure to order Truffle Xiao Long Bao where a whole piece of black truffle is wrapped in the Xiao Long Bao.
11.Rice Brother, Old Spitalfields Market, Liverpool Street
For more a more casual Chinese meal, head to Spitalfields Market near Liverpool Street station and dine at a shared wooden table at Taiwanese food stall, Rice Brother. Rice Brother was inspired by a traditional Chinese street food, originating from Eastern China. The Chinese style stuﬀed sticky rice roll is hand made by tightly wrapping a piece of fried dough stick and pork ﬂoss with glutinous rice. Fillings include crispy pork or chicken. It’s clearly a popular spot as Three Uncles Brixton Village will open later this month.