Chinese Restaurants have been a major part of the London dining scene the start of the 20th century. They can be divided as eating establishments or simple takeaways where no seating is available. Most of the Chinese Restaurants are of the Cantonese style. The “Chinese Restaurant” was the first to be opened in Piccadilly in 1908 but the rise in them didn’t really start until after the Second World War. The 1950’s and the 1960’s was the time that it really became popularized and it reached its peak at the start of the 21st century but in recent times there has seen a decline in the Restaurants.
There was actually evidence of Chinese eateries in London prior to the start of the 20th century as the first Chinatown started to emerge around Limehouse in the 1880’s and then in 1884 Chinese food was introduced to the British at the International Health Exhibition. The Second World War resulted in much of the old Chinatown being demolished and in the 1950’s an influx of Hong Kong residents kick started Chinatown forming just off Shaftesbury Avenue next to Soho. This is now the centre of London’s greatest Asian cuisine.
In the 1950’s the restaurants were serving up traditional fare such as chips and pies with chopsuey and dumplings. The arrival of the 1960’s brought a new generation who were more than willing to experiment with Asian cuisine. From this time forward the Chinese Cuisine took on an identity that we recognize today. There are many great Chinese eateries and even ones that have earned a Michelin Star. It is hard to believe that Yauatcha in Broadwick Street has a Michelin star due to its laid back atmosphere. But the Alan Yau owned restaurant that was opened in 2004, produces fine food and specialises in its cooking of dim sum.
The Grand Imperial at the Grosvenor hotel used to be the Chez Gerard but is now a rather fine Cantonese Restaurant. Housed in the hotel’s former ballroom the surroundings match the menu with the dishes emerging from traditional frying and steaming. One of Chinatown’s largest restaurants is the Imperial China. Housed on three floors this restaurant specializes in seafood dishes and even has its own carp pond. The kitchen is divided between a dim sum kitchen, a roast kitchen, and the main kitchen.
Another Michelin starred venue is the Hakkasan Hanway Place. The star chef is Tong Chee Hwee and his signatory dish is the crispy duck salad with pomelo, pine nut and shallot. The success of this restaurant has led to different branches springing up all around the world. However, the success started at Hanway Place with its attractive location made up of wooden screens and latticing. It really does give the restaurant an authentic Chinese feel.
One of the restaurants that gives best value is to be found at Baozi Inn. Accepting only cash it serves traditional street food from Northern China. Steamed dumplings and hearty noodle broth all come at affordable prices. Chinese restaurants have now cemented their role into the London dining society. This is sure to continue as Londoners continuously try to satisfy their desire for Asian cuisine.