Chinese New Year is here – but London’s superior Chinese culinary offering is worth celebrating all year.
London plays host to the biggest Chinese New Year celebrations outside of Asia. On Saturday 25 January, the Lunar New Year welcomes 2020 by paying homage to the Year of the Rat and its wishes of fortune and personality. The first animal in the Chinese zodiac, the Year of the Rat is said to represent a new beginning — rather fitting for a new decade.
From traditional hot pot recipes to delectable dumplings, we’ve selected the top London restaurants worth their weight in Wagyu beef this Lunar New Year.
Both the owner and head chef of Kai Mayfair are Malaysian – but their imaginative Chinese-cuisine restaurant has maintained its one Michelin star since 2009. Head chef Alex Chow’s forward-thinking dishes teamed with the restaurant’s plush interiors and exuberant furnishings push the boundaries of what we expect from a Chinese restaurant in the UK.
Yee sang (or yusheng) salad, the traditional New Year dish that literally translates as ‘raw fish’, features on a specially created Chinese New Year menu at Kai. The 18-ingredient ‘Traditional’ salad with salmon sashimi represents life-long prosperity, while a ‘Heritage’ seabass sashimi alternative symbolises stamina, luck and wealth.
Toss the ingredients into the air, and allow them to them fall back onto the plate; the higher the toss, the more likely your new year’s wishes will come true.
65 South Audley Street, Mayfair, London W1K, kaimayfair.co.uk
Kick-start the Year of the Rat with a menu that celebrates good fortune and contemporary Chinese cuisine at Hakkasan in Mayfair. Interiors will be decorated with red wishing ribbons featuring the lucky Chinese knot, which signifies good luck and a prosperous life. Each dish in Hakkasan’s three-course signature menu (£88, available until 9 February) will be a colourful representation of different elements of the Chinese lunar calendar.
Highlights include golden treasure pockets with abalone and wild mushrooms, presented as a money bag and topped with gold leaf to reflect wealth and wok-fried Scottish scallops, with taro mousseline and brown butter black bean sauce, which symbolise new opportunities. Executive chef Andrew Yeo’s eye-catching Lucky Jie dessert (a salted caramel ganache with mandarin, chilli and cocoa) comes presented as a Chinese knot, to signify good fortune for the year ahead. For a New Year toast, try the signature cocktail, Cheng Zi (£18) made with Diplomático Mantuano rum, chilli-infused Velvet Falernum, mandarin and chocolate.
17 Bruton Street, Mayfair, London W1J and 8 Hanway Place, Mayfair, London W1T, hakkasan.com
China Tang at The Dorchester
China Tang, the subterranean Chinese restaurant at The Dorchester Hotel founded by sir David Tang, is celebrating Chinese New Year in its signature exuberant style. On 24th and 25th January, the art-deco interiors of the restaurant that turns 15 this year will be festooned with Chinese lanterns and spring blossoms by The Dorchester’s in-house florist, Phillip Hammond.
Decor aside, the eight-course new-year menu (£128) is a sight to behold, packed with Chef Fong’s classic and signature dishes and specials, including such stir-fried lobster tails with xo sauce and Kagoshima wagyu beef. Celebrate the Year of the Rat with a tea-infused cocktail at the bar. The signature Tang Tea Punch with Bombay Gin, Canton Ginger, Osmanthus Oolong Tea, citrus hibiscus and jasmine bitters, served in a bijou glass teapot (£16) is not one to be missed.
53 Park Lane, Mayfair, London, W1K, chinatanglondon.co.uk
Andrew Wong’s Bloomberg Arcade restaurant, Kym’s, celebrates regional Chinese cookery, reinventing classics such as crispy duck and pancakes and roasted pork belly. Named after his parents’ Cantonese restaurant (which took its name from Wong’s maternal grandmother), Kym’s serves as a follow-up to the chef’s Michelin-starred Pimlico restaurant, A Wong. For its Chinese New Celebrations, Kym’s Instagramable interiors will be decorated with a dramatic installation of traditional red lanterns, which symbolise harmony, happiness, vitality and wealth.
On the limited-edition celebration menu (£45, until 9 February), traditional Cantonese dishes with a twist shine through: Chinese dumplings, salted duck egg emulsion and fermented olives are real crowd pleasers. Try Kym’s signature Three Treasures (crispy pork belly, Iberico char siu, slow poached soy chicken) for the full experience this Lunar New Year.
19 Bloomberg Arcade, The City, EC4N, kymsrestaurant.com
Hot May Pot Pot
Knightsbridge restaurant Hot May Pot Pot puts a high-end spin on a traditional, hearty hot pot experience – offering a sophisticated take on the convivial dish which sees diners cooking raw ingredients in a long-simmered broth of chicken, oxtail or vegetables. The individual Northern Chinese-style hot pots sitting atop each table are custom-made. Expect to dip only superior ingredients, from wagyu beef to langoustines and abalone.
To celebrate Chinese New Year in Knightsbridge, head to Hot May and try the Masterclass tasting menu (£55) – under the supervision of your own chef. The tasting menu offers a selection of the freshest ingredients to test your palate, from scallops and squid balls to sheaths of paper-thin marbled Wagyu beef and locally sourced mushrooms and cabbage.
30 Beauchamp Place, Knightsbridge, London SW3, hotmay.co.uk
Xu Teahouse & Restaurant
Launched by the team behind Soho bun sensation Bao in 2017, Xu looks to offer a sophisticated take on traditional Taiwanese food. Positioned in the heart of Chinatown, its intimate, dark-wood interiors reminiscent of a 1930s Taipei social club offer a discreet escape from the West End outside.
A Chinese New Year menu from head chef Kimberley Hernandez offers a dedicated whisky or drinks pairing for its five-course special, from a dry German Riesling accompanying the chilli whole lemon sole and signature shou pa chicken, to a 12-year-old Macallan and jasmine tea pairing for the delectable pineapple cake dessert. Elsewhere on the à la carte menu, sausage dumplings made with taro root (£8) and served with kow choi chive oil can’t be missed, while the Char Siu Iberico pork neck served with cucumber and sesame (£19.50) is one of the most succulent incarnations of the cut in the capital.
30 Rupert Street, Chinatown, London W1D, xulondon.com
With sites in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore holding either one or two Michelin stars apiece, Imperial Treasure’s London outpost is a stalwart of decadent Asian dining. Add a layer of luxury to your Luna New Year celebrations by ordering Imperial Treasure’s signature Peking duck (which comes in at £100).
While the lofty marbled space just off of London’s Pall Mall doesn’t offer the warmest of welcomes, you can guarantee a party feeling come Chinese New Year. The menu champions high-end authentic Chinese specialties, including barbecued meats, grilled silver cod, baked crab and exceptional dim sum.
9-10 Waterloo Place, St James’s, London SW1Y, imperialtreasure.com
It’s hard to ignore the 1930s art-deco spirit of luxe-Shanghai at Park Chinois. The Mayfair restaurant is also at the forefront of London’s cabaret scene, so while they’re dab hands at putting on a performance, it’s their showstopping menu that attracts loyal crowds year after year.
The mahogany-glazed Duck de Chine is a customer favourite and it’s not hard to see why. Chef Lee Che Liang and his 65-strong kitchen crew make it one of the most sumptuous iterations of the bird in the capital. Japanese wagyu beef (which features in no fewer than six dishes on the menu) is served tender with seasonal vegetables (£120) and the potted rice with summer black truffle (£37) is a delectable dish in its own right.
17 Berkeley Street, Mayfair, London W1J, parkchinois.com