The phrase ‘let’s get dinner in Chinatown!’ is not helpful, at all.
There are literally dozens of restaurants jammed into an area the size of a five-a-side pitch, all offering some of the same food (sweet and sour pork, things in bright orange sauce), while simultaneously offering completely different, and totally wonderful dishes (food from Hunan, Sichuan and the greatest roast duck, ever). We feel you. With so much choice, it can be hard to figure out what’s worthwhile and what isn’t.
Don’t fret. Check out our guide for a lowdown on all the rice, noodles, and roast meat you could ever want to eat.
I’m Burmese, and I can definitely say that this is the best Burmese food in town. At first glance, the menus in the window might make you think that this is a bubble tea shop. But once you’re inside, you’ll realise it’s a full sit-down restaurant with all the Burmese classics, like coconut noodles, tea-leaf salad, and the national dish of mohinga (sort of like a spiced fish broth with noodles). It’s all made perfectly and though it isn’t quite our dad’s home cooking, it does give it a real run for its money. It’s good for small and medium sized groups, and the downstairs dining room is a pretty place to sit.
Roast duck. It’s the whole reason you come to Four Seasons, and while most of the other things on the menu won’t blow you away, the duck is by far one of the best things you can eat in the area, if not all of central London. You’ll want at least a quarter per person, and you’ll want it off the bone. The sauce they pour all over it is incredible, and can allegedly cure everything from cancer to rheumatoid arthritis (though not herpes. We’ve already tried). The stewed pork belly with vegetables is also a good call, and the Chinese broccoli is good too because health. Bring friends. All of them.
There are a few reasons to hit up Leong’s Legend - and there’s often a queue in the evenings - but each time we’ve been, it’s been absolutely worth it. The Taiwanese dishes here are more interesting than your typical Chinatown joint, but there’s something for everyone here - the menu jumps around a lot, but you should definitely get the soup dumplings and stir-fried green beans with pork, and the whole crab that comes smothered in garlic and chilli. The hot pot is an awesome way to spend an evening with friends.
Life is about taking chances, like skydiving or having unprotected sex. We’re afraid of both, so a far wiser chance to take is to try eating at any of the anonymous-looking Chinese cafes close to Charing Cross road. That’s how we stumbled on Baozi Inn, which looks pretty unassuming from the outside but actually does brilliant bowls of spicy dumplings and noodles from Beijing and Sichuan. It makes for a perfect casual dinner with a few friends, especially if you’re down with amping up the spice factor.
We once went to Malaysia, and came back to Bethnal Green with first-degree sunburn, a pet monkey, and a horrible stir-fried noodle habit. We’re happy to report that Bieber, our new pet macaque, has found a good char kway teow (smokey stir-fried flat noodles with pork and prawns) at Malaysian spot Rasa Sayang. It’s probably the best £8 you’ll spend, even in this part of town, and everything else on the menu (like the beef rendang) is good as well. Head there for a casual dinner or catch up. Bieber will also be writing all Malaysian restaurant reviews from now on.
There are lots of restaurants in the area to visit if you just want a plate of roast meat and rice, or some noodles, but TPT is our favourite. Nostalgia for old-school Chinatown aside, we’ve been coming here for over 10 years, and you can get a full meal with friends, have a catch up, or eat solo if you have no friends but still want chow mein. Get the roast pork and char siu pork with rice, or the beef flank curry, which is one of the most underrated dishes in London. We’d eat it every day if we could drag ourselves from our sofa.
Barshu is the consensus number one option around town when you want to eat spicy Sichuan-style food in central London. It’s lively, the food’s good, and it’s slightly upmarket so you can bring your client or OCD friend or whoever and still have an awesome evening. The dan dan noodles and dumplings in chilli oil are very tasty, and the amount of spicy and deep-fried things on the menu means that it’s fantastic if you just want to knock back a few beers and eat with your hands.
This spot looks unpromising from the outside, but actually serves very tasty Taiwanese-style fried chicken. Everything is fried to order, and that it’s delicious and you get a lot of food for your money. Skip the wings and get the popcorn chicken, or the flattened chicken breast if you’re hungry (it’s huge).
Joy King Lau
Joy King Lau is definitely one of the more relaxed restaurants in Chinatown, and one you should head to if you have a meal with your parents or relatives in the diary. Speaking of older folk, they also have a lift installed in case you don’t feel like trekking up the stairs, and it’s a multi-storey place, so there’s a good chance you might need it. The food’s solid, and we like their dim sum and their crab - it’s messy, but worth it.
The food at Ba Shan hails from Hunan province, and it definitely doesn’t resemble the takeaway you ate last week. This kind of Chinese food is spicier and doesn’t shy away from chilli - the spicy softshell crab is excellent, and the red-braised pork is non-negotiable, so long as you’re not afraid of pork belly. The best seats are at the front of the restaurant, where it feels like you’re in a traditional inn in the Chinese countryside. It’s a little pricey, but the food’s worth it if you’re looking for a break from the typical Chinatown fare.