Obligatory photo op
Start your trip with a selfie in front of the iconic Chinese gate, marking the impressive entrance to the eponymous district. The design of the gate is from the Qing Dynasty, and features golden dragons on decorative colourful panels. Two white jade plaques on each side of the gate read ‘Peace to China. Prosperity to Britain’.
Located on Wardour Street
A sweet treat from a Chinese Bakery
When you think of Chinese food, cakes and bakes don’t always come to mind, but Chinatown is home to a handful of bakeries including Wonderful Patisserie. What makes it so, well – wonderful – is that they’re not just about the cakes. They also sell imported snacks and nibbles like Taiwanese jackfruit chips, bamboo charcoal peanuts and Hello Panda biscuits. When it comes to their bakes, expect rows and rows of Chinese pastries and desserts, including beautifully hand decorated cakes. There’s also lotus seed buns, sesame seed balls, and egg custard buns with shredded coconut paste.
45 Gerrard St, London W1D 5QQ. 020 7734 7629
Visit a Chinatown supermarket
Work up an appetite by exploring one of the area’s supermarkets. SeeWoo, founded by Stanley, Tony and Issy Tse in 1975, has been importing the weird and wonderful from all across Asia. Indeed, SeeWoo was the first retailer to import pak choi into the UK. Customers can choose from thousands of selected Asian foods and produce, including exotic fruit such as jackfruit and durian, sauces, snacks and frozen goods. See Woo is also known for its fresh (as in still alive) seafood which you can see in aquarium style tanks.
18-20 Lisle St, London WC2H 7BA, 020 7439 8325
Dim Sum at Dumplings’ Legend
Dumplings’ Legend make over 8000 dumplings a day and offer an astounding 47 varieties and flavours, so they clearly know what they’re doing. The dumpling, a key part of dim sum, is typically enjoyed on a Sunday afternoon, and is a real family affair.
DIY Dining at Shuang Shaung
Shaung Shuang is a relative newcomer to Chinatown, and offers a contemporary, informal dining experience that’s interactive as well as great fun. On each table sits a hot pot of warming broth, while a conveyor belt offers an endless procession of additional ingredients for you to plunge into it and cook there and then. Hot pots are a much loved institution in Asian cuisine with many having regional varieties.
64 Shaftesbury Ave, London W1D 6LU 020 7734 5416
An unusual Asian dessert
Chinatown is no stranger to crazy desserts. We’ve all seen the latest Instagram sensation, Bubblewrap, but for a less well known and equally indulgent Asian delicacy, head down Shaftesbury avenue to Shibuya and sample bingsu; a popular Korean dessert featuring flaky shards of ice milk topped up with Oreos, strawberries, mangoes and azuki red beans.
Drink a Zodiac-inspired cocktail at Opium
Situated behind an unassuming jade door on Chinatown’s Gerrard Street, Opium Cocktail & Dim Sum Parlour is an opulent escape from the lively streets below. The team have recently launched a new Zodiac Cocktail Menu, taking inspiration from the 12 animal signs of the Chinese zodiac, with each beverage served in a bespoke vessel in the shape of the respective animal.
Finally, what could be better than a blast of karaoke to finish the day off in hilarious style? Karaoke is such an institution in China – and indeed Asia as a whole – that it even has its own TV channel, KTV. The Jinli restaurants offer a range of private rooms so you and your friends can belt out all the classics as well as Chinese hits.