Sunday, 11 February 2018

Chinese New Year | Where to Eat in London

This Friday, 16 February 2018 is Chinese New Year, an important festival in the Chinese calendar. It marks the start of a new year following the lunar cycle. This year is the Year of the Dog; there are 12 animals all together as such the full cycle completes once every 12 years.

One of the main traditions of Chinese New Year is the family reunion dinner, which is held on the eve of the New Year. It is deemed as the most important family get-together meal of the entire year. It is often held at the house of the most senior family member of the family and all children and grandchildren are expected to be present. Married females will follow the husband for a reunion dinner with his side of the family; a non-negotiable long-standing known tradition. Hence historically, Chinese families are known to favour sons over daughters as sons will carry the family surname and will be home for the annual reunion dinner. 

As Chinese New Year often comes not too far after the Christmas holiday, my friends and I do not have the privilege to return home and celebrate with our families. As a result, friends become our away-from-home family. Every year, we meet up for our Chinese New Year luncheon at a restaurant of choice. So today, I thought I'd share my most frequented restaurants in London to satisfy the Chinese/Oriental food cravings.

For Dim Sum (dumplings), my go-to restaurant is Royal China, which has locations spread out all around London e.g. Baker Street, Queensway, Canary Wharf, and Fulham, to name a few. You may think of Dim Sum like tapas, they are served in small servings and can be either steamed or fried. Just like tapas, the idea is to order many small dishes and shared amongst your friends. My must-have Dim Sum are steamed prawn dumplings, prawn Cheong fun (prawns wrapped in steam rice noodles), fried custard buns and either congee (rice porridge) or beef hor fun (fried flat noodles with beef).

For an upmarket alternative, Yauatcha is another favourite restaurant for Dim Sum. It has a slightly more bar/western vibes to it but the food remains authentically oriental. I like both their Soho and Liverpool Street outlets and their selection of cocktails and desserts are simply to die for.

If I fancy dishes and rice, I would either go to Four Season or the Gold Mine in Queensway. Four Season started off in Queensway but now have two outlets in Chinatown - a sure sign that business is prospering. For this upcoming Chinese New Year, my friends and I will be heading to Gold Mine Restaurant. In terms of dishes, typically we would order, roast duck, steamed eggs, stir-fry green vegetable, steamed fish, and a tofu dish. These dishes are served with a side of steamed rice.

Another restaurant in Queensway which is also a favourite of mine is the Mandarin Kitchen. It is very well-known for its signature lobster noodles. The classic version is cooked with ginger and spring onion sauce. The lobsters are meaty, fresh and the noodles are just perfectly cooked - springy, soft but not too overcooked.

As always, it is good to book in advance and try to make sure everyone arrives on time. Most of these restaurants have a policy of no table until everyone in the party had arrived.

My other tip would be, due to their popularity, these restaurants get very busy so more often than not, you are not encouraged to hang around after your meal and they typically ask for the table back as soon as you finish eating. What my friends and I typically do is, once we finish our meals we'd adjourn to a local cafe for coffee and cake. 

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