London has long since held a reputation for diversity. Cultures from across the world converge, creating one of the planet’s most vibrant and exciting cities. This is clearly demonstrated in the capital’s Chinatown. It’s a lively area, where an authentic taste of East Asia is available from a melting pot of the finest Chinese restaurants in London.
A History of Chinatown
London has been home to Chinatown for centuries, though the exact location of the district has changed over time. The original Chinatown emerged due to the high number of Chinese workers employed by the East India Company in the 18th century. A community sprung up in London’s East End to cater for sailors and Limehouse dockland workers. From these origins, the area has transitioned into the vibrant hub of Chinese restaurants and shops we know today.
The Chinatown we see now was established as recently as the 1950s. During this period, more Chinese citizens were beginning to re-locate from Hong Kong. It was the perfect combination with British sailors returning from the Far East, bringing with them a new-found taste for East Asian cuisine. As a result, fine restaurants and supermarkets emerged, along with a whole host of Chinese run businesses from gift shops to reflexology clinics.
By the 1980s, the Chinese population in the area had risen to the tens of thousands. The community was gifted with the iconic Chinese gates you’ll see today, street furniture and even its very own pavilion.
Attractions and entertainment
This vibrant, buzzing community is the perfect place to soak up Chinese culture and heritage. It’s also host to several incredible attractions and frequent entertainment.
Chinese New Year
Every year, Chinatown hosts London’s spectacular Chinese New Year celebrations. The Lunar calendar changes each year, so the exact date is never fixed, though it usually takes place between mid-January and February. The celebrations include a large parade which can span from Chinatown right down to nearby Trafalgar square and onwards throughout the West End. You’re guaranteed to see incredible floats, intricate costumes and Chinese traditions. You’ll also find special Chinese New Year menus at Chinatown’s best restaurants.
The Far East has gained a reputation for its love of karaoke in recent years. There’s no better way to spend an evening than singing your favourite songs with good friends. Chinatown is home to some of the best karaoke bars in London. You’ll find a welcoming atmosphere and patrons of all vocal abilities. Some of the best spots for karaoke include the family-friendly Royal Dragon and the elegantly decorated Plum Valley.
Restaurants and eateries
Chinatown is the number one place to get an authentic taste of the Far East in the heart of England. Here are some of the best Chinese restaurants, eateries, and cafes in the area:
Voted as one of Time Out’s Top 100 Cheap Eats, Baiwei is affordable Chinese cuisine that doesn’t compromise on quality. The restaurant takes traditional Chinese ingredients and mixes them with the spice and fire of Sichuan food. It offers a small menu that allows the chefs to focus on quality. Baiwei is located on Little Newport Street and well worth a visit on your next trip to Chinatown.
When you think of Chinese cuisine, you’ll likely think of savoury main dishes. But, Chinese food also has some delicious desserts on offer and you’ll find them all at the Candy Café. Located on Macclesfield Street, the Candy Café serves sumptuous desserts and over 30 varieties of popular Bubble Tea.
The antithesis to Baiwei, Café TPT offers a huge selection of street-food style dishes. The café serves everything from Malaysian broths to an extensive range of seafood. You’ll be transported to Hong Kong and truly spoilt for choice!
If you’re looking to immerse yourself in a new culture, Chinatown is the ultimate destination. In the heart of London’s West End, you’ll find a window into China’s rich history, fascinating culture, and, of course, the best Chinese restaurants in London.