From funky bubble tea vendors and hidden speakeasies to trending beauty shops and dim sum parlours, Chinatown London is the West End’s very own haven of exciting East and Southeast Asian (ESEA) culture and cuisine, bustling from morning to night. Need some help? Here is Chinatown London’s guide on how to make the most out of a summer day out at this iconic destination.
We all know Londoners love to take to the streets when summer arrives. Well, Chinatown London, being largely pedestrianised, is the perfect place for that! Before the crowds descend when lunchtime hits, take a morning stroll beneath the sea of red lanterns and under the magnificent Chinese gates, shining in picture-perfect glory for that famous snap. Follow the wafting scent of freshly baked goods floating out of Golden Gate Cakeshop and Chinatown Bakery and pick up a grab-and-go breakfast from one of Chinatown’s much-loved Cantonese bakeries. Here you’ll find an almost limitless selection of sweet and savoury bakes, from creamy custard pastries and signature barbecue pork buns to fluffy pandan chiffon cakes.
When lunchtime calls, many of the restaurants down Chinatown’s main pedestrianised thoroughfares have tables on the streets for diners to feast at. As you dine al fresco, take a moment to look up and snap the two striking gigantic Chinese lanterns that have recently been unveiled in the area for the summer season.
Some of Chinatown London’s top summer picks? Chinese culinary specialists Plum Valley make a delicious whole steamed sea bass with garlic and chilli – true summer bliss when served with simple steamed rice and washed down with a refreshing chrysanthemum tea. Sichuan experts Jinli have a whole section devoted to Chinese cold dishes (liangcai (凉菜)), featuring the likes of shredded chicken in chilli oil and marinated smashed cucumber. Malaysian hotspot Rasa Sayang has a cracking BBQ menu with skewered tiger prawns, classic chicken satay and spicy sambal skate, while Viet Food serves up bowls of delicate and aromatic pho broth – unexpectedly revitalising in the summer heat.
Prefer a quick lunchtime snack? Head to Chinatown’s very own piazza, Newport Place, which is filled with outside seating where visitors can sit and enjoy authentic street food such as Jian Bing from Chinese Tapas House and lava custard buns from Bun House. With the kids? Chinatown London’s famous ‘Dessert Alley’ is heaven for the little ones with a vibrant selection of sweet treats to seek out along Newport Court. Some of the funkiest options you’ll find are Taiyakiya’s dazzling unicorn and mermaid tail waffles, loaded with your choice of soft-serve, and for bubble tea lovers, Cuppacha’s neon glowing Ombre tea series, which come in 5 rainbow-coloured variations. Fan of Matcha? Bubblewrap has truly levelled up their signature egg waffle by filling it sky high with matcha gelato, red bean sauce and chewy mochi balls.
If you’re still peckish post-lunch, Chinatown London recommends moseying along the towering aisles of the area’s specialist supermarkets (such as SeeWoo and New Loon Moon) to pick up some fresh tropical fruits like dragon fruit, lychees and juicy rambutans. Otherwise, for a quick pick-me-up snack visit Oseyo, a Korean goods emporium that retails mix-and-match flavours of mochi balls.
As the sun sets over Chinatown there is a whole hidden world to be discovered nestled deep within the bustling streets. For the late-night enthusiasts, this is where you want to be as Chinatown’s assortment of secret speakeasies and underground bars serve up some of London’s best cocktails in magical escapist settings, such as ZOKU, inspired by Tokyo’s underground roller culture, and 1920s Shanghai themed Opium London.