Chinese New Year is here and Londoners everywhere are dusting off their chopsticks and looking for somewhere to celebrate. We here at IDEAL love our Chinese food, from Sichuan to Hunan via Xianping and beyond. Whilst we haven’t been able to travel the length and breadth of China to compile this list, we’ve done our best to eat our way around London. Humble, we know, but someone’s got to do it. So, here are 12 IDEAL Chinese restaurants in London.
A lesson in understated elegance, this chic dim sum and teahouse exudes sensuality and the dim sum is exquisite – perfectly light and refined, and as good as any we’ve eaten anywhere in the world. Although dim sum is the main event, there’s brilliant seafood cooking too, and the crispy duck is miles away from your uber sweet, uber dry, Uber delivered fare.
IDEAL For: Dim sum and tea
Address: 15-17 Broadwick St, Soho, London W1F 0DL, UK
XI’AN IMPRESSION, ISLINGTON
Service is, to put it bluntly, blunt. But it’s all worth it for the hand pulled noodles; the biang biang (onomatopoeic, apparently, from the noise they make when being slapped on a surface), fiery with chilli and a healthy taste of iron from Chinese greens, are simply spectacular.
IDEAL For: Shan Xi street food
Address: 117 Benwell Rd, Islington, London N7 7BW
From the same folk: Xi’an Biang Biang Noodles, 62 Wentworth St, London E1 7AL, UK,
Now with a shiny Michelin star above the door, A.Wong has come a long way since its opening in 2013. This ‘upmarket Chinese eatery’ (their words) is actually refreshingly welcoming, inclusive and reasonably priced, considering the level of cooking going on here. Dim sum takes centre stage at lunch with a dedicated menu. At dinner, the lights dim some, the mood gets a little more sultry and dishes more complex. On our last visit, the sea urchin udon was a particular highlight.
IDEAL For: Modern Chinese food and intricate dim sum
Address: 70 Wilton Rd, Pimlico, London SW1V 1DE
From the same folk: Kym’s, 19 Bloomberg Arcade, London EC4N 8AR, UK
Deep pockets required here, but deeply satisfying dishes too. Cantonese cuisine – a broad term we know – is the name of the game here, with premium protein leading the way; black truffle smoked wagyu beef with Japanese abalone anyone? See past the excess though, and you’ll find stellar cooking and an atmosphere of pure class.
IDEAL For: Michelin starred Cantonese Cuisine
Address: 8 Hanway Place, London, W1T 1HD
BANG BANG FOOD ORIENTAL, COLINDALE
Ok so this one isn’t exactly one restaurant. Bang Bang Oriental is London’s largest Asian Food Court and is home to around 27 different restaurants with a seating capacity of 450. It’s not all Chinese food here, but some of the best stuff you can find is. They’re hosting a huge Chinese New Year event, too. Expect sizzling woks, lanterns and loads of fun.
IDEAL For: Trying Everything
Address: 399 Edgware Rd, London NW9 0FH
Sichuan food has a reputation for incendiary heat and we’re glad that Barshu, in Soho, doesn’t hold back on this promise/warning, depending on which way you look at it. There’s some serious brow mopping happening here, but that’s just fine with us. Their fragrant chicken under a pile of chillies is just that – you have to dig through a mountain of the humming, radioactive red ones to reach any protein. And it’s bloody great.
IDEAL For: Spicy Sichuan specialities
Address: 28 Frith St, Soho, London W1D 5LF
SICHUAN FOLK, THE EAST END
Searingly hot Sichuan cooking isn’t for the faint, but the brave-hearted, and it can get really rewarding when done right. Hotpots haven’t generally taken off in the U.K with the same fervent reception as much else of the Asian repertoire, but the hotpot at Sichuan Folk, with its rip roaring spice levels, could change all that.
IDEAL FOR: Sichuan hotpot
Address: 32 Hanbury St, London E1 6QR
Lauded by London food critics for some time now, Hunan offers a slightly different proposition to other Chinese joints in the capital. There’s no menu, just a selection of (very) small plates sent from the kitchen, tailored to your needs only in the sense you specify allergies and the level of spice you can handle. With the usual paradox of choice so common in Chinese restaurants not present here, all you need to do is sit back, occasionally open your mouth, and enjoy the ride.
IDEAL for: A surprise meal designed for you
Address: 51 Pimlico Rd, Belgravia, London SW1W 8NE
SILK ROAD, CAMBERWELL
Cheap and cheerful, this place, but that description just doesn’t do it justice. A.Wong, the newly anointed king of regional Chinese food in London, is a huge fan of this purveyor of North-Western Chinese fare, and that does say something. There are Muslim influences here, with spices not often seen in other regional cooking of the country (garnered from the Silk Road that ran through the region, hence the name). While the room may not be nearly as exotic as the cuisine, it’s a damn good place to eat, and damn reasonable it is, too.
IDEAL for: Xinjiang food at a fantastic price
Address: 49 Camberwell Church St, Camberwell, London SE5 8TR
ON CAFE (NOW DUMPLINGS & BAOS), CLAPHAM
At On Café they do two things: Chinese dim sum and French patisserie. To have both in the same setting may seem a little odd, but it totally works. Think about it, both dim sum and patisserie chefs are highly trained and masters of their art. The two are hard to perfect and both take dexterity to make.
This charming Asian style cafe in the heart of Clapham Common serves up some of the best salt and pepper squid in the capital. And because this place is BYOB, you’ll be pushed to spend more hat £20 a head.
IDEAL for: For dim sum that will get you hooked
Address: 31 Clapham Park Rd, London SW4 7EE