London Chinatown has some of the best restaurants and places to eat in the city of London, hands down. But with the main street in Chinatown lined with buffet restaurants it can be overwhelming to find authentic or traditional great places to eat for first-time visitors to Chinatown.
But thanks, Minji, the founder of Taste of Chinatown Inside Out who's tour will navigate you through the bustling, vibrant food mecca that is London Chinatown. Guys this is a food tour with a difference!
Plus, she even showed me some of the new Instagram spots that have their own street in Chinatown. Where the eateries are aesthetically designed to help you capture that perfect Instagram photo, all while sipping on your bubble tea.
The taste of Chinatown tour, not only introduces you to delicious Chinese food but also helps you to understand the local Chinese community and how it came to be, and it's also run by a local Londoner.
On the food tour, you’ll learn what the four gates marking the entrance to Chinatown London were initially used for, how the city of Beijing is designed differently from the city of London, that many of the restaurants are family owned and the different architecture that you’ll see in the Chinatown area.
During this 2-hour food tour, you’ll realise that Chinatown is a living museum which keeps on evolving with each generation.
A little background about London Chinatown
London has always had a Chinese community. The first area known for its large Chinese community in London was Limehouse and this was due to the harbours which allowed for trade. But during the Second World War, the area was destroyed in the Blitz, after the Second World War the community settled in its current home south of Soho and London’s Chinatown was born.
Now let’s get to the good stuff! This list is based on some of the places that we stopped at and food I tried during the food tour of Chinatown.
Here are the best places to eat in London Chinatown!
The best street food in Chinatown London
Chinese Tapas House
First on the list is the small counter like shop Chinese Tapas house that’s run by three sisters. This unassuming Chinese takeaway dispenses cheap, delicious traditional Chinese snacks that will have you coming back for more.
This is essentially a grab and go kind of place, where you can get steamed buns with a variety of fillings such as pork, chicken and smashed bean along with bubble tea to wash it all down.
But Minji introduced me to what can only be described as the Chinese breakfast of champions. The Chinese crepe, similar to a normal crepe but savoury. The Chinese crepe is made with egg, Chinese biscuits, spring onions and sausage. The crepe is a normal Chinese street food and is usually made outside the home as it requires special cooking equipment.
This spot is great for grabbing a quick Chinese street food as a snack.
15 Little Newport St, London WC2H 7JJ
Monday to Sunday - 11:30am to 11pm
Baozi Inn London’s Chinatown Takeaway
On the tour we also stop by the tiny hole-in-the-wall non-descriptive Chinatown takeaway Baozi Inn to pick up a box of hotpot skewers. You can also order Baos. You’ll find that in London Chinatown some of the best places to eat are the tiny hole in the walls shops, that you’ll typically walk pass without noticing.
Baozi Inn is one such place and is best known for cooking spicy southeast Asian street food (known as lok lok) or skewers.
You’ll get to choose between a list of different meat and vegetables. We selected tripe intestine (something I grew up eating and love), tofu and spicy noodles. The meat and vegetable we chose were then placed into a boiling pot of spiced Szechuan chilli broth to soak up the fragrant juices for a spicy mouthful. On smelling the pot of boiling broth, I instinctively thought it might be very hot and too spicy. But this was due mostly to the smell of the chilli in the broth and was not an indication of how spicy the skewers would be. I would rate this minimum spicy.
The skewers are then served in a paper box and sprinkled with plenty of coriander.
The skewer (meat and vegetable) are mostly the type of things that soak up the flavour of the broth, so it was mostly things like sausage type meats, such as tripe, octopus, fungus, tofu or mushrooms.
Bazoi Inn is so small that there was only enough room for me and Meijin to enter and once our skewers were ordered, we waited outside and was called once our food was ready.
I liked the skewers at Bazoi Inn so much I when back the next day to try the octopus, so be warned you might get addicted.
26 Newport Court, Chinatown London
The best bakeries in Chinatown London
The three most well-known bakeries of Chinatown are Chinatown Bakery, Bake and Golden Gate. However, only the Chinatown Bakery and Bake have the Taiyaki machines displayed in their shop windows where you can watch in childlike wonder as the machine, pumps out batched of the infamous soft fish-shaped waffles filled with gooey custard pastry creating the Instagram famous Taiyaki Fish.
On this tour, we visited Chinatown Bakery a neighbour institution in Chinatown. Where both locals and tourists come to get their sugar fit.
Walking into the Chinatown Bakery, you’ll have to work hard not to get distracted by the many pastries on offer from delicious bouncy BBQ pork buns and flaky spring onion chicken floss rolls to the sweet custard buns and pandan swiss rolls.
On the tour, you’ll also learn the story of how the Taiyaki fish puff pastries came to London. Taiyaki fish is originally a Japanese street food. The story goes that someone from Chinatown New York when to Tokyo and saw these fishy delights being made and likes it so much they brought it back to New York Chinatown and then someone from London Chinatown went to New York Chinatown saw it and brought it back to Chinatown London. Yes, guys, this is the story we are sticking with.
To be honest, I’ve always wanted to try the Taiyaki fish, but after seeing them so many times on Instagram. I thought it was all hype and that they would be too sweet and insipid. But how wrong I was.
The custard filling is just right (not too much or too runny) and the pastry surprisingly isn’t as too sweet to the point of tasting sickly.
Warning, do not, I repeat, do not bite into the small fish fresh off the machine, let it cool down a bit. I didn’t do this and bite directly into the Taiyaki fish scorning my tongue.
Minji suggests starting with the small Taiyaki fishes first to see if you will like them and I agree with her. As after trying the small fish (3 for £2.40). I went to Bake to try their Instagram worthy bigger soft-served, matcha tea ice creamed filled Taiyaki Fish shaped waffled cone (£2.80) for one. This was also great, and a lot larger than it looks in photos.
If you like the Taiyaki fish and want to try some of the best desserts in London, that are also insta-worthy from shops in and around the Chinatown and Soho area.
7 Newport Pl, London WC2H 7JR
Monday to Sunday - 9:30am to 9:30pm
Bake (Wardour Street) | Pan-Asian Bakery
9 Wardour St, London W1D 6PF
Sunday to Thursday - 10am to 9:30pm
Friday & Saturday - 10:30am to 10pm
Mango Dessert at Cafe TPT
Our last stop on the tour of Chinatown was Cafe TPT which has a sign on the door declaring “Real street food”. The exterior of the cafe is simple and understated and has a Cantonese and Malaysian menu.
The café serves up Cantonese street food like Tai Pai Tong a hawker’s dishes and Bak Kut Teh a Malaysian meaty broth. There’s also an extensive seafood menu.
But we tried the mango dessert which was like cold mango juice (called Mango Sago) which I loved. It was also very refreshing and cleansed the platelet after tasting so many different dishes.
9 Wardour Street, Chinatown London
These are just a few of the foods you’ll try and spots you’ll visit on this food tour of London Chinatown.
On this food tour, you’ll get to see the more exciting places to eat in Chinatown. The tour around Chinatown is not only fun, but you will be taken around by a knowledgeable local, that loves her community and wants to teach others about it. You’ll also be supporting the small local Chinese business owners in an area of London that has seen an increase in rent prices, that is driving out traditional small businesses from the area to make way for larger chain shops.
I would recommend this tour if you’re visiting London Chinatown and want to learn more about Chinatown’s past and present and try authentic Chinese food other than pecking duck. I discovered so many things I did not know about Chinatown even being a Londoner and wandered through Chinatown a million times. I can now tell anyone who asks for recommendations on what to eat in Chinatown and where the best restaurants in London Chinatown are.
London Chinatown Tips for First-time visitors
If you want to get the best Chinese food in Chinatown, don’t eat on the main street but go to the side streets where you’ll find more authentic and reasonably priced food.
Have cash on you as not all places in Chinatown London accept cards
In the bakery’s you’ll need to pay first for your food before you get it.
Most shops in London Chinatown are small so make sure you know what you are going to get and try to avoid blocking paying customers as this will not go down well for you.
Don’t take offence if the person who is serving you is short or direct with you (no friendly chit-chat), this is usually is due to them serving as many people as quickly as possible in a small area.