By: S. McManus
Quite probably one of my favorite places in any city would be Chinatown. There are the red oriental-styles lamps, the bustling people and street performers, markets at every corner, that you just seem to find everywhere in the world, no matter how far you actually are from Asia. However, I can say for certain, that what really has me coming back is the food. It might just be my childhood talking, but Chinese comfort food tastes like home (a warm bowl of ramen). London has, arguably, the best Chinatown in the world which so happens to be one I am quite familiar with. That said, let me present my top 5 food stops in London’s Chinatown:
Food specialty: Japanese American fusion (udon, sushi and burgers)
Highlight: vintage manga brought to life interior decoration
Address: 22 Wardour St, London W1D 6QQ, UK
Even from the outdoors, this place really stands out in a burst of color, modernity, and the inside does not disappoint. This restaurant has people queuing every weekend to catch a bite of their signature, unique blends of American and Japanese cuisine. At affordable prices and throwing in an amazing ambience and décor, this is definitely a place to pass by with friends for a night out.
Food specialty: dim sum and pastry deserts
Highlight: sleek and elegant food presentation and ambience
Address: 15-17 Broadwick Street London W1F ODL
A global high-end chain of restaurants from the creator of Wagamama serves you the perfect opportunity to enjoy dim sum and Cantonese cuisine as fine-dining. This is a restaurant for those who don’t mind spending a bit extra to taste the care and quality they put into each individual piece. The atmosphere is one for smart-casual meetings but personally, I find that the pastry display also included in the restaurant is its best part, and their cakes are definitely a must-try.
3: Shuang Shuang
Food specialty: hot pot
Highlight: ingredients neatly lined on a conveyor belt that somehow makes everything more fun
Address: 64 Shaftesbury Ave London W1D 6LU
My buddying-love for hot pot has found its home in this restaurant, that turns the ancient tradition of family hot pot into something modern and fun. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, hot pot is essential cooking your own raw ingredients in a bowl of boiling soup placed atop an individual stove. Shaung Shuang goes about this in a creative way by having a built-in conveyor belts showcasing all of its various ingredients in a blessedly organized, color-coded manner. The restaurant has large windows and almost all of its seats are on the counter (for easier access to the conveyor belt) which serves for a very open, friendly environment. Hot pot is about bonding and I think Shaung Shaung couldn’t have captured that better.
2: Shoryu Ramen
Food specialty: you guessed it - ramen
Highlight: quick service and banging drum- chanting ritual the staff partake in with each new customer
Address: 3 Denman St, Soho, London W1D 7HA, UK
I am an absolute goner for ramen and I’ve tried many versions from restaurants all over, and Shoryu does it well. Well as in, it might just serve the best bowl of ramen I’ve had in my entire life. The chain of restaurants has a Michelin recommendation and its own special way of greeting guests by banging the reception drum (yes that’s a thing) and calling out “Irasshaimase” (いらっしゃいませ)(welcome) to customers, of which the cooking staff stop to call back as well. Its dishes are essentially comfort food but cooked with quality and the general ambience is great for a casual meal with friends. My recommendation would also be to book in advance to avoid the piling queues on the weekend but, either way, trust me when I say it’s worth the wait.
1: Joy King Lau
Food specialty: dim sum and traditional Cantonese cuisine
Highlight: fulfills all aspects of a traditional Cantonese restaurant and gives off immediate homely vibes
Address: 3 Leicester Street, London WC2H 7BL, UK
This is literally my favorite restaurant in the world and there’s never been a time I’ve gone to London without lunching here one or five times. But I’ll try to keep it simple: the décor isn’t anywhere close to outstanding nor is it the best establishment, but the food is straight up amazing. My favorite dish (in the world) is their glutinous rice with assorted meat wrapped in lotus leaf (lovingly-called sticky rice) and the restaurant truly nails bringing an authentic traditional Cantonese menu to London. The staff are more of an extended family at this point and its food quality has always been consistent throughout all the years I’ve gone there (i.e. my whole life). The dishes are affordable and though I prefer their dim sum menu, the normal cuisine menu is just as good for those who visit at night (dim sum is traditionally only served up to 5PM for lunch). It’s always fun to bring friends and family to eat here and I strongly encourage anyone who’s is London to try out the Joy King Lau for themselves.