Wong Kei is one of London’s great time capsules. A reminder that cash can still be king and that great service does not always need a smile. An always-welcome restaurant for the solo diner wanting to slurp on wonton noodle soup, Wong Kei’s downstairs canteen is Chinatown’s great sanctuary. This is a place for everyone: the miserable and the happy, the alone and the raucous, the roast meat and rice lover, the noodle soup and chilli oil worshipper. Nothing really costs over £10 and it’s rare you’ll spend longer than your self-allotted hour or so in there.
Of Wong Kei’s many dishes (and there are, by the way, literally hundreds) a few standout as regulars that we tend to revisit. The wonton soup with noodles plus a healthy spoonful of homemade chilli oil is a longtime regular, as is the mixed roast meat on rice—by no means the best roast meat in Chinatown but, when your head is throbbing and your wallet is wanting it’s always welcome. Beef ho fun with black bean sauce is a similarly welcome head-down-shovel-upwards affair, where pauses only tend to come for a sip of Chinese tea or to valiantly attempt to draw a member of staff's attention. Put it this way: a flare gun wouldn’t be unhelpful in this canteen. We recommend direct communication. Word salads aren't welcome here. But that's part of Wong Kei's charm, it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it has always been—a restaurant that people rely upon—and that’s why it's so loved.
(N.B. If you’re looking for a heroically thorough rundown of Wong Kei’s menu, then let us prod you in the direction of this Wong Kei blog. Hats off to whoever authored the project. We'd love to speak to them and, moreover, eat with them).
Wonton Noodle Soup
Out of all Wong Kei's many one-dish wonders, their pork and prawn wonton noodle soup is probably the most reliable. Ask for crispy pork as well if you're that way inclined and, most importantly, some chilli oil on the side.
Roast Meats On Rice
You will one hundred no, one million, percent, find juicier roast duck, more tender char siu and crispier roast pork in Chinatown. But, to get all three of a very decent quality alongside a slick and savory BBQ sauce on a bed of rice for less than £10 is extremely good. It's why everyone loves Wong Kei.
Prawn-Stuffed Tofu and Aubergine
One of a few black bean sauce hits, this prawn mince-stuffed aubergine and tofu can also be ordered with rice as a one dish number. The engineering involved to packed prawn mince inside slices of aubergine and tofu, or also in the crevices of a bell pepper, is quite ingenious.
Dry-Fried Beef Ho Fun
Slippery and sloppy, the quality of these noodles (as with many dishes at Wong Kei) varies. But when the noodles have caught the wok and given them that caramelised wok hei, they're pretty good.