Monday, 8 February 2016

Where to Celebrate Chinese New Year in London

Kung hei fat choi! It's the Year of the Monkey, and for the next two weeks families all over the world will celebrate Chinese New Year. It's a time to get together and eat, to wish each other prosperity and wealth, and to get together and eat. Have I mentioned it's big on eating?

Traditionally foods eaten tend to be noodles, to symbolise longevity (woe betide you if you cut these with scissors during this time). Whole fish, often steamed but also braised are often on tables, as the word for fish can sound like 'surplus'. Dumplings look like ingots of silver and so are eaten for prosperity, and well, who doesn't like a dumpling? You may see a lot of oranges and tangerines in Chinese homes, as well as the colour red, to symbolise luck and success. There are plenty of recipes appropriate for this time of year in Chinatown Kitchen, like Sichuan wontons, steamed sea bream with goji berries, and tomato, preserved vegetable and egg noodles - but what if you don't want to cook? Here are some recommended places in London to go get cooked for, instead.

Gold Mine, Bayswater

Gold Mine has long since been a favourite for Cantonese food. I've taken friends there, I've taken family there, I've taken clients there. Every time it's consistently good. The best thing here is the duck - roasted Cantonese style, so forget the pancakes. The crisp, lacquered skin and tender, juicy meat comes drenched in its own sweet, star anise basting sauce and it's just incredible. You can order it on or off the bone. Other good things to order are char siu, siu yok (crispy pork belly), lobster and spring onion noodles, steamed egg custard, Japanese egg tofu with minced pork, a vegetable dish (we had gai laan, with oyster sauce), salt n' pepper squid and some rice. That should do 6 of you nicely.

102 Bayswater
London W2 3RR

Tel: 020 7792 8331

Silk Road, Camberwell

Anyone who knows me at all would have known this was coming. I'm a huge fan of Silk Road - I've celebrated my last 5 birthdays there, in fact. I love them mainly for their vegetarian dishes, like smacked cucumber, homestyle aubergine & cabbage, and Xinjiang shredded salad. The lamb skewers are not to be missed though, nor are their dumplings. Book to avoid disappointment.

49 Camberwell Church Street
London SE5 8TR

Tel: 020 7703 4832

Little Lamb, Shaftesbury Avenue

Hot pot (or steamboat) is a very traditional celebratory meal, and it doesn't get much more traditional than an evening at Little Lamb, bang smack on Shaftesbury Avenue. A few doors down is the recently opened Shuang Shuang, another hotpot place serviced by a conveyor belt (more on that to follow), and while I really liked it there, Little Lamb gives more of an opportunity for a larger group get together, with a tighter control on spending. For a set price of £23 a head, one can order 5 ingredients each. I've found 4 - 6 is the optimal number for Little Lamb, and a wide variety of ingredients to dunk in the bubbling broth yourself. 

72 Shaftesbury Avenue 

London W1D 6NA 

Tel: 020 7287 8078

Xi'an Impression, Holloway

One of my favourite openings of 2015, I only wish I lived closer. Xi'an Impression is a tiny little place, 
but they're turning out some incredible food. These spicy belt noodles are flappy folds of joy, and their 
'burgers' - stewed meat in toasted flatbreads, are incredible. Influenced by a large Muslim presence, the food
here is characterised by spice and the use of lamb. More words are here

Xian Impression
117 Benwell Street, N7 7BW
Tel: 0203 441 0191

Dragon Castle, Elephant & Castle

Everyone has their favourite dim sum joints, for whatever reason, and mine is Dragon Castle. While they won't win any awards for their dim sum, it is consistent, fresh and reasonable in price. It's near my home and the room is large, so it's not too long a wait for a table (though around Chinese New Year it's better to get there early). 

100 Walworth Rd, 
London SE17 1JL

A. Wong, Victoria

Where Dragon Castle is a casual dim sum restaurant, A Wong is the opposite. Located in Victoria, they serve 
dim sum during lunchtimes only. The dim sum is served per piece, meaning that if you're there as a couple 
you can have very different meals. Often dumplings are served in 3 or 4 which makes dining as 4 often awkward - 
not here. Their food is very much re-imagined classics of Chinese food. On our visit my mother had sesame dumplings
with foie gras, and a crisp char siu bao, topped with a sweet crust. 'Three sauce rice noodle roll' was your classic 
cheung fun filled with Chinese doughnut, the swipes being the sesame, hoisin and soy sauce. The xiao long bao had 
too thick a skin,but otherwise we had a very enjoyable lunch here. As you might imagine, it's easy to rack up a bill, 
though you can make it out at around £20 a head without booze. 

70 Wilton Rd, 
London SW1V 1DE

Tel: 0207 828 8931

HKK London, Shoreditch

If you want to go super-luxe I would head to HKK. I trialled their Chinese New Year menu last year and found 
incredibly well made high-end Cantonese cuisine, featuring a delicacy of flavours and incredible skill in cooking.
All my quibbles from last year - I wasn't enthused about about the poussin and I missed noodles - have now 
been rectified in this year's menu, so I'm imagining a near-perfect experience. 

88 Worship Street
Broadgate Quarter
London EC2A 2BE

Baozi Inn Skewer Stall

If Chinese New Year passed you by completely and you haven't had a chance to arrange a night out with friends
and its not looking likely, just run past Chinatown and grab a couple of snacking skewers from the Baozi Inn
Skewer Stall, next door to the main restaurant. Nothing but a counter with a pot of bubbling broth, they always
manage to cook each ingredient just so, to retain the best of their character. I particularly like the fish tofu, broccoli,
enoki mushroom and 'luncheon meat'. Spam. Mmm. 

Baozi Inn Takeaway, 
27 Newport Court, 

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