Chinese New Year in London just happens to be the biggest celebration of the Lunar New Year outside of Asia, so we’re pretty confident in saying this isn’t one to miss if you love all the pomp and majesty that goes along with such a celebration.
As you might know, 2020 is the year of the rat. Despite its slightly ungainly reputation, the rat actually brings with it wishes of fortune and personality, so we’re willing to give it a chance. The tale goes that the rat is the first of all the zodiac animals and represents the beginning of a new day, which feels rather fitting for a new decade. The rat’s personality is demonstrated through a myth that says the Jade Emperor told the animals he would decide in which order they would be celebrated in correlation to when they arrived at his party. The rat tricked the ox into giving him a lift on his back, only to hop off ahead of him and beat the ox to the finish line.
Aside from the fascinating folklore that surrounds Chinese New Year in London, there are also plenty of events, restaurant deals and entertaining acts to seek out. Chinatown will be the focus of the celebrations, with most restaurants marking Chinese New Year on Saturday 25 January itself, paying homage to the beginning of the year of the rat. Chinatown is also a great place to see the parade as it prances by in a colourful blur of snaking bodies under dramatic swathes of fabric. According to the Chinese zodiac, this year’s lucky colours are blue, gold and green, the lucky months are March, September and October, while lucky numbers are two and three. Despite all this, for team SquareMeal, getting lucky comes in the form of all that is happening in London’s restaurants to celebrate the New Year; explore our guide below for what to do and were to eat come Chinese New Year in London.
Chinese New Year parade 2020
Every year vibrant colours adorn Chinatown in a spectacle of such scale that nowhere else outside of Asia can beat it. Expect all the regalia that goes with Chinese New Year in London, from the beautiful red and gold hanging lanterns to the special craft and food stalls that pop up throughout the city’s Chinese quarter. This year, as with every year, hordes of people are set to witness the lion and dragon dances as they make their way through Chinatown, stopping by restaurants to wish the owners good luck. Get in early to bag a good spot, as the streets quickly get busy come procession day. There are regular performances passing by throughout the day, so don’t be disheartened if you only see the tail end (if you’ll pardon the pun) of one as there should be another one along shortly. On Saturday the 25 January 2020 performances will be taking place between 11.00-19.00 in Chinatown.
Chinese New Year Trafalgar Square celebrations 2020
The official Chinese New Year celebrations in London are due to be held on the 26 January 2020 this year, after the first flurry of activity on the holiday itself, the day before. The party that is hosted from Trafalgar Square each year is legendary, with full stages setup for traditional performances. There are additional supporting performances on stages on Shaftsbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road. Expect shows screened on huge televisions, with things to see including a thanksgiving ceremony, firecrackers, speeches and the traditional lions’ eye-dotting ceremony. There will of course be the impressive dragon and lion flying dances alongside performances of Chinese dance, music and martial arts displays that will show off the prowess of artists from both London and China. For those who like a hands-on approach there are also workshops and activities as well as a family zone. The most important aspect though is of course the food, there are stalls and stands aplenty to choose from, or scroll down below to take your pick from our selection of the best Chinese New Year restaurants in London. The events in Trafalgar Square and around the West End take place on the 26 January 2020 and are free, so expect large crowds.
The best Chinese New Year restaurants in London
Okay, the parade is all well and good, but can you eat it? We hope the answer is no. To satisfy the inevitable Chinese food cravings that will hit you come the end of January 2020, we’ve rounded up our favourite Chinese New Year restaurants in London. They’re a mix of high end spots and cheap and cheerful Chinese restaurants, so that there should be something for every occasion, whether you’re looking to impress a special someone or just want a quick bite to eat with the whole family.
Why: RedFarm is already a favourite Chinese restaurant brand with our Big Apple cousins in New York, and the London branch is enjoying similar success with it regularly seeing queues snaking out its doors. The main draw has to be the Instagrammable, colourful Pac-Man dumplings, but the gimmicks don’t get in the way of good food, there's solid cooking going on here. For Chinese New Year this Covent Garden favourite will be serving up specials with a touch of luxury – expect ingredients such as scallops, caviar and shrimps as well as a fun red envelope lucky dip. Guests will be treated to various prizes hidden inside said envelopes – from free tap water to fully complimentary meals.
Where: 9 Russell Street, WC2B 5HZ?
How much: RedFarm is yet to confirm the price of its menu.
Why: Settle into the 1920’s surrounds of Xu this Chinese New Year to enjoy one of the restaurant’s various set menus. For £39 guests will be served a whole array of sharing dishes that begin with 16 spice ribs, spring rolls and dumplings before moving on to the restaurant’s signature Shou Pa chicken dish – which sees the meat poached in ginger, garlic and lemon rind and topped with cooking juices and crispy skin for intense flavour. A pineapple cake comes in for pudding offering a sweet, traditional finish. There’s the option to add a drinks pairing from £15 for teas, £28 for Macallan mixes and £65 for free-flowing Champagne, if you dine on the weekend. Vegetarian menus are also available.
Where: 30 Rupert Street, Covent Garden, London, W1D 6DL
How much: £39 for nine dishes served over various courses.
Why: Chef Andrew Wong was born in London to Chinese parents who owned a restaurant in Pimlico that was dedicated to his Grandmother, Kym. A few decades later and Andrew has launched Kym’s, a Cantonese restaurant that pays homage to the original eatery. This central city spot is a little out of the limelight of Chinatown come Chinese New Year, but that doesn’t make the offering any less delicious. From the 13 January to the 9 February the interiors at Kym’s will be bedecked with hundreds of traditional red lanterns hung from the ceiling and there will be a five-course feast to enjoy. Guests will tuck into creations like a Prosperity Salad – a raw salmon salad with a plum dressing – and Kym’s signature Three Treasures roast meats. During this time the team will also be handing out over 3000 fortune cookies which contain prizes and offers.
Where: 19 Bloomberg Arcade, EC4N 8AR
How much: Kym's five-course feast costs £45 per person and is avilable for groups between 2-8 who are ordering the menu for the whole table.
Why: Andrew Wong’s original restaurant is A. Wong, which he took over from his parents in 2012 after travelling all over China to learn the subtleties of regional, traditional cooking. The name is dedicated to his mother and father, rather than himself, who are called Albert and Annie. With fine dining dishes that showcases the very best of Chinese cooking, we would find it hard to recommend anything other than the tasting menu. This journey through the provinces of China sees you feast on dim sum, cured scallops, barbecued pork jerky and Yunnan seared beef with mint, chilli, lemongrass and pulled noodle crackers before enjoying poached meringues. The price is punchy, but this is special occasion dining and the food makes really does make it feel worth the splurge.
Where: 70 Wilton Road, SW1V 1DE
How much: The ‘Taste of China’ tasting menu is £100 without service or drinks, and you’ll need three hours to enjoy it.
Why: If you’d prefer to keep out of the hustle and bustle of the city below, plump for this pinnacle of Chinese cooking in the capital. With a sky-high position on the 33rd level of The Shard, dinner views don’t get much better than this. If you book in after dark you might even be treated to some celebratory fireworks crackling in the distance. For Chinese New Year 2020 Hutong are offering a nine-course set menu which starts with a green pepper chicken soup and lobster bao before moving on to tiger prawns with salt and pepper and Sichuan style beef ribs. Dessert comes in the form of a chocolate tart with mandarin sorbet.
Where: 33, The Shard, 31 St Thomas Street, SE1 9RY
How much: £95 for nine courses, not including drinks or service.
The Duck and Rice
Why: The Duck and Rice is a Chinese restaurant housed in a former Soho pub. This lively history results in an equally as lively restaurant, with the brand celebrating every festival and holiday they can get their hands on with gay abandon. Chinese New Year – as might be expected – is the biggest date in the team’s diary. On the 25 and 26 January The Duck and Rice will be hosting their own lion dances at both 13.30 and 18.00 each day. The performers will make their way through the bar downstairs and the restaurant upstairs before spilling out onto the market outside to give the public a slice of the action. Special Chinese New Year dishes include XO sauce stir-fried turnip cakes and drunken lobster, while unique set menus offer various combinations of the restaurant’s classics for between £40-60 per person.
Where: 90 Berwick Street, W1F 0QB
How much: Guests are welcome to choose from the regular menu, while the set menus are available for tables of four or more guests and are priced at £40, £50 and £60 depending on which combination you choose.
China Tang at The Dorchester
Why: This fine-dining Chinese restaurant boasts dramatic, deco-style interiors, sharp service and peerless celeb-spotting opportunities – even supermodel Kate Moss is a fan. Our pick of the menu? The Peking duck is a perennially popular choice for habitués of the restaurant. When it comes to the buzzy vibe, things are dialled up another notch come Chinese New Year, when the restaurant is transformed by its resident florist into a spectacular scene of spring blossoms and red lanterns. Those dining on the 24 and 25 January will be treated to an eight-course menu (although the regular menus are also available if guests prefer) as well as a live lion dance. Guests are required to pre-book, and this special menu is also available in the restaurant’s private dining rooms.
Where: 53 Park Lane, W1K 1QA
How much: The prices for the Chinese New Year banquet menu are yet to be released, but we’d expect them to be top end.
Why: If you’re unable to celebrate Chinese New Year on the evening itself, but don’t want to miss out on all the fun you may be pleased to hear that Park Chinois’ special menus run from 22 January to 2 February. Surrounded by the restaurant’s plush 1930’s style interiors, you’ll be treated to a parade from live lion dancers as well as an atmospheric show of Chinese drummers. The menu features a selection of the brand’s famous dumplings as well as a host of main dishes and specially created cocktails.
Where: 17 Berkeley Street, W1J 8EA
How much: Park Chinois's set menu is £138 per person, without service or drinks.
Why: Praised equally highly for its excellent food and stunning views, this Kensington gem, whose chic, modern decor is shot through with flashes of pillar-box red, is a safe bet for a special evening. The restaurant’s signature dish, Legendary wood-fired Beijing duck, is a real talking point and is available to be proudly presented as part of the Chinese New Year menu (for a supplement). This eight-course menu, which also includes dishes such as four treasure soup, braised five spiced soy and chicken and pan-fried nien gao with sweet coconut glutinous rice, is available at dinnertime on the 24 and 25 of January only.
Where: 2-24 Kensington High Street, W8 4PT
How Much: £108 per person for seven courses, without drinks, service or the additional duck.
Hakkasan Hanway Place
Why: For high end fine dining it doesn’t come much better than a meal at globally renowned restaurant Hakkasan. Conceived by Christian Liaigre, Hakkasan hits the spot every time with its Michelin-starred menu. Clever signature dishes include golden soft-shell crab with punchy red chilli and roasted silver cod with Champagne and honey - the food here is about all out decadence. With just a ten-minute stroll to the heart of Chinatown from the front door, why not dine here before or after taking in the wonders of the parade? To honour the year of the rat you can expect a special celebratory menu designed to reflect good health and fortune, with the lucky Chinese knot at the heart of its design. Treasure pockets will be filled with mushrooms and abalone and be crafted to look like money bags, while scallops are served for mains. The menu is rounded off with a striking salted caramel, mandarin chilli and cocoa Lucky Jie dessert (pictured). Guests will also be invited to write their wishes for the year ahead onto red ribbons, which will be strung up as decorations throughout the restaurant over the festive period.
Where: 8 Hanway Place, W1T 1HD
How much: Hakkasan's special Chinese New Year menu costs £88 per person, for a minimum of two people, not including drinks or service. The dishes are also available a la carte.
What: This strikingly old school Chinese restaurant has become somewhat of an institution over the years. Usually on Chinese New Year Mr Chow will serve its renowned Mr Chow Noodles – noodles traditionally represent long life in Chinese culture – and dumplings, which are said to symbolise wealth (a dumpling's shape is similar to that of ancient gold and silver) alongside classics like crispy beef and sticky glazed prawns. Guests can also typically enjoy a 'noodle pulling' demonstration, but make sure to call ahead if you’re mainly in it for the theatrics, as times and performances are subject to change.
Where: 151 Knightsbridge, SW1X 7PA
How much: This postcode doesn’t come cheap, expect to pay around £50-80 per person for a three-course meal without drinks or service.
Royal China Club
Why: A modern Mecca for fans of Chinese food, this Marylebone stalwart offers classic Chinese dishes and elegantly presented dim sum, plus an admirable selection of fine wines. This January, the restaurant has developed a special feasting menu to showcase all its signature serves, as well as some more unusual dishes. Guests will be treated to lion dances as well as each table receiving a red envelope filled with prizes. On unveiling your red envelope you’ll be in with the chance of winnings things like Champagne, wine and vouchers to spend at the restaurant.
Where: 40-42 Baker Street, W1U 7AJ
How much: Royal China Club are yet to release prices, but an average meal here costs around £50 per person, without drinks or service.
Why: Taking things a little out of the main drag of Chinese New Year Celebrations, why not visit one of South London’s most unpretentious places for good, solid Chinese cooking? We’re talking about Mamalan. With sites in both Brixton and Clapham, these cosy dining rooms offer serenity from the frenetic environs of their neighbourhoods. The kitchen is a dab hand at classic dumplings, but also ventures into more adventurous territory with plates of wasabi prawn bao or wonton noodle soup. While there may not be a lion dance here, you are guaranteed a good time thanks to the laid-back and friendly service. Plus, it won’t put too much of a dent in your pocket when it comes time to pay.
Where: 8 The Pavement, SW4 0HY
How much: You can dine handsomely for under £30 per person at Mama Lan.
Chinese New Year afternoon tea
Let it not be said that a holiday passed without a three-tiered extravaganza of treats prepared in its name. Chinese New Year is no different, with Harrods stepping up to the mark to provide where others have yet to venture. Expect all the usual favourites, with a Chinese twist. We’ll add more to this section if additional places offer up a Chinese New Year afternoon tea before the big day itself; Fortnum’s did last year, so fingers crossed.
Fenjiu afternoon tea at Harrods
Why: Who wouldn’t want to enjoy a tea or two in the luxurious surrounds of Harrods? This genteel pastime will remove you from the chaos of the parades and put scones firmly at the centre of proceedings, a prospect we can only feel a sense of joy at. Harrods’ pastry chefs will present you with layers of sweet delicacies which will include bespoke chocolates and a patisserie selection inspired by Chinese symbols of good luck. Sandwiches will be filled with things like hoisin duck, while scones will come with toppings such as apricot jam flavoured with Feniu, a sweet Chinese liquor. The best thing about the tea is that its available outside of the celebration period, with it being served from the 11 January – 16 February. You know what that means? If you like it, you can go back for second serves.
Where: 87-135 Brompton Road, SW1X 7XL
How much: Afternoon tea is £68 per person and includes cocktails.
Going to the parades? You might need our guide to the best restaurants in Chinatown then…