Quirky restaurants in London

Sometimes a restaurant offering a simple meal doesn't quite cut it, and you want something that is fun and a bit quirky. An extra experience to talk about, maybe, decor that's just a bit wacky or something cooky to make you laugh.

Posted on 14 August 2018

Quirky restaurants in London

The search for something different or unusual is something that that hits us all from time to time, and it’s no exception with London restaurants. Check out the best quirky restaurants in London with Squaremeal’s brilliant list of London’s top quirky restaurants. Quirky is big business right now in the capital, with London’s diners looking out for unique restaurants that offer something different to the rest. It could be a quirky style, a quirky menu or an unusual concept.

If you are looking for something completely different in London restaurants take a look through Squaremeal’s list of the top quirky restaurants in London. Featuring interesting concept venues that have got everyone talking to Michelin starred orginals, Squaremeal’s list will ensure you have access to all of London’s most unique dining experiences.

Every one of these quirky restaurants have been tried and tested by food critics and our own customers so check out the reviews and book a table online with Squaremeal today. Each Squaremeal listing features an independent review, as well as reviews from diners, together with unique special offers such as free drinks and discounts.


The Little Blue Door

The Little Blue Door

International

871-873 Fulham Road, London, SW6 5HP

Fulham’s Little Blue Door is a restaurant and bar which imitates a house share, and everyone involved is 100% committed to the project. Reservations are made via WhatsApp, you have to ring the doorbell to be let in and there’s even a ‘utility room’ complete with bras hanging from a washing line and a dog bed. The kitchen acts as a supper-club space, the living room is the restaurant/bar and there’s a terrace for warm weather and post-work chilling.

It could all be a bit much, but Instagram-friendly features like the Prosecco vending machine and a neon ‘let’s get fizzical’ sign prove that The Little Blue Door doesn’t take itself too seriously, and neither do the fun-loving housemates (AKA the staff), who will probably be dancing on the bar come closing time.  

The menu is an international hodgepodge inspired by ‘the flatmates’ travels’. Expect to find crowd-pleasing dishes which boast subtly inventive twists on classic small plates: slithers of prosciutto served with juicy chunks of watermelon, or pimped-up chicken goujons involving intense, house-smoked strips of chicken wrapped in crispy panko breadcrumbs and served with a tarragon and roast garlic aioli.

The drinks, which are named after films, are fun too. We particularly enjoyed the Kill Bill – served in a teacup with an accompanying custard cream, this sip boasts a sour tang from lemon curd, before revealing its punchy depth from Earl Grey-infused gin. Buzzy, cool and lots of fun, this is one house party you’ll want an invite to.

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The Karaoke Hole

The Karaoke Hole

Bars

95 Kingsland High Street, London, E8 2PB

This underground Dalston bolthole (cheekily nicknamed ‘The K Hole’) is a riot for group nights out, featuring late-night karaoke sessions hosted by a fierce drag queen. It differs from your typical karaoke joint by not sectioning off crooners into private rooms or booths; instead, punters are invited to sing on stage in front of the whole crowd. While that might sound terrifying, it does wonders for the venue’s atmosphere, and after some encouragement from the drag-queen hosts (and a lot of Dutch courage), we can confirm that any stage fright quickly disappears faster than you can say I Will Survive.

Drinks-wise, you can order from a selection of ‘Liquid Courage’ sips boasting names which riff off gay culture and karaoke classics. We were particularly taken by the fiery Queen of the Desert Margarita, livened up with a smoked paprika salt rim, or you can enjoy pitchers such as the vodka and peach-based F*ck The Pain Away, shots, beers and glasses of bubbly. Peckish performers can refuel themselves with a giant pizza from Voodoo Ray’s upstairs. LGBTQ-friendly and loads of fun, The Karaoke Hole is a laugh-a-minute affair tailor-made for karaoke lovers... time to tune up your vocal chords. 

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sketch: The Parlour

sketch: The Parlour

£30 - £49
International

9 Conduit Street, London, W1S 2XG

Take your pick of three highly individual, amusingly designed lounges at this Mayfair must-do from Mourad Mazouz (of Momo fame). With its theatrical rococo découpage forest backdrop, The Glade could be a set for South Pacific as choreographed by the Bolshoi Ballet, while The East Bar (a futuristic cocoon) might have been lifted from a Kubrick sci-fi movie. However, we find ourselves repeatedly drawn to The Parlour, a raffishly postmodernist drawing room that wouldn’t look out of place in ex-Sex Pistol John Lydon's LA punk château. Disport and pose while you scrutinise a cast of eccentrics and fashionistas as you knock back dependably good drinks from a constantly evolving list. House wines and sips such as Nolet and the Whale (vodka, Aperol, peach and almond syrup) won't break the bank, although the same can’t be said of the patrician French fizz and pukka comfort food.

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Trader Vic

Trader Vic's London

£50 - £79
Fusion

22 Park Lane, London, W1K 1BE

Mahiki, Trailer Happiness and Kanaloa are testament to London’s appetite for all things tiki, but will they outlast the daddy of them all, Trader Vic's – a hula hideaway still going strong 50 years after it launched? The Beatles were yet to break America when this crazy Californian import first wowed London. Five decades on, Trader Vic’s Polynesian beachcomber kitsch, old-skool presentation and attentive staff dressed like extras from South Pacific make for a pleasingly retro experience. A mainstream US/Asian menu boasts tender, meaty spare ribs lathered with BBQ sauce made to the ‘original 1972 recipe’ alongside crab and grapefruit salad, spicy tuna tartare and moreish ‘maui waui’ (sweet and spicy coconut shrimps with slaw), while mains include lobster with black bean sauce, crispy duck pancakes, and a piquant curry of tender braised lamb. A wine list plays firm second fiddle to Vic's reasonably priced rum cocktails, served in fabulously tacky tiki mugs. Coffee liqueur digestifs are a must; dancing to samba disco hits, performed by wedding reception-style combos, is optional.

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Mr Fogg

Mr Fogg's Tavern

£30 - £49
British

58 St Martin's Lane, London, WC2N 4EA

The second London drinking haunt with this moniker has arrived on the edges of Covent Garden. As with the first Mr Fogg's in Mayfair, the owners have really gone to town with setting the scene, this time with a Jules Vernes theme. There are knick-knacks and souvenirs from around the world, and a real sense of Victorian frippery in the décor. Equipped with a really decent bar where the barmen know what they’re doing and are happy to take customers on a their own mini adventure – the cocktail menu keeps pace with Phileas and his travels and there are plenty of exotic flavours from absinthe to sazerac. Don’t forget to indulge in bar snacks if you want to keep your head above water, however don’t expect to be paying Victorian prices – sadly some things here do move with the times.

 

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Rascals

Rascals

£30 - £49
Modern European

97 Curtain Road, London, EC2A 3BS

With a website spewing cheesy philosophies like “unleash your inner rascal” and a ‘waterproof’ private dining room which comes complete with super-soakers, we were ready for Rascals to be a case of gimmick over substance, but were (for the most part) pleasantly surprised. Next door to adult ball-pit bar Ballie Ballerson, this casual sister restaurant is decked out in hues of millennial pink and rows of house plants, while the kitchen turns out a selection of globally-inspired small plates. Top shouts include the velvety mushroom risotto pepped up with intensely-flavoured truffle and a dollop of creamy parmesan foam, and the deeply smoky duck lightened by a peach purée and shreds of smoked white cabbage. A melting chocolate sphere for pudding was more run-of-the-mill, but Rascals pulls it back with a fun list of cocktails (Shisho Fine, Tonka the Plonka) and a strong selection of wines. Identity struggles aside (Rascals serves stylish, on-trend small plates alongside scratch cards that instruct you to start Mexican waves), this is a worthwhile destination for the Shoreditch crowd – and if you’re really brave, there’s always the ball pit for some after dinner entertainment.

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Greenwood

Greenwood

£30 - £49
Bars
International

170 Victoria Street, London, SW1E 5LB

Aiming to cover as many bases as possible, newcomer Greenwood has instantly become one of the best sports bars in London, as well as a popular choice for post-work drinks. The sprawling, boisterously buzzing ground floor incorporates a huge central bar, around which all manner of seating options, and even a brow bar radiate. Above, you'll find another bar, five screens for sports as well as an American 8-Ball pool table and two shuffleboard tables. The starring roles on the beer lineup go to Long Arm Brewing Co ales, while G&T aficionados will be in heaven thanks to a lengthy, curated list. As a restaurant, Greenwood’s easily bettered by several of its neighbours and during rowdy evenings, we'd recommend its globe-spanning menu for a convenient refuel or casual business meal, rather than a destination dinner. Approach Greenwood as a supercharged city pub with extra-attentive service and you won't be disappointed. 

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London Shell Co

London Shell Co

£30 - £49
Fish

The Prince Regent, Sheldon Square, W2 6EP

If you love both seafood and dining with a difference, we suggest a trip with London Shell Co. Following several pop ups, the seafood specialist now resides aboard The Prince Regent, moored next to Paddington Station. Have a set lunch (in every sense), or wait until dinner for a return cruise to Camden on Regent’s Canal. The miniscule kitchen serves up sparkling, sea-conjuring Carlingford oysters and the seasonal likes of butter-poached hake or vegetable ratatouille. On our visit, hit-and-miss dishes ranged from a delicious mussel, cockle and cuttlefish salad imbued with the sweet tang of red onion, to a creamy combination of smoked cods’ roe and leeks with a chemical aftertaste. Tight tables and terrible acoustics are drawbacks but overall, the boat has a charming atmosphere buoyed along by its small crew. Drinks celebrate Britain via Somerset cider and sparkling Hampshire wine, alongside interesting European bottles to dilute your sea legs.

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Bel Canto at the Corus Hotel

Bel Canto at the Corus Hotel

£50 - £79
French

The Corus Hotel, 1 Lancaster Gate, London, W2 3LG

Opera buffs & novices alike are charmed by this concept restaurant, which sees staff belting out popular arias as the evening progresses. One minute, the smiling waitress is delivering your gravadlax, the next she’s performing a duet from The Magic Flute with her companion. Meanwhile, the European menu might run from tomato terrine with a mascarpone & basil quenelle to sea trout steamed with aromatic lemongrass. The well-balanced wine list also gets in on the act with categories such as ‘sopranos’ (lighter, aromatic whites) and ‘basses’ (big-hitting reds). While the food may not win any prizes, it does at least keep punters seated & sated between musical interludes, & even the most reserved diners will find themselves trilling along to the toast from La Traviata by the end of the evening.

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Dans le Noir

Dans le Noir

£50 - £79
International

30-31 Clerkenwell Green, EC1R 0DU

Although it’s part sensory experience and part social experiment, there seems to be no shortage of volunteers willing to eat in complete darkness at Dans Le Noir. Diners assemble in a noisy bar with a ‘surprise cocktail’ before stuffing their belongings into swimming pool-like lockers and stumbling into the pitch-black dining room, aided by waiters with walkie-talkies. In keeping with the mystery of the exercise, gastronomic guinea pigs can choose between four different ‘surprise’ menus (including a vegetarian version), but are left to guess exactly what’s on the plate in front of them. The cooking style is described as ‘global with influences from French cuisine’, and darkness is intended to heighten the sense of taste – although you can’t help feeling that too much emphasis is put on the novelty of the whole shebang, at the expense of attention to detail in the kitchen.

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Shaka Zulu

Shaka Zulu

£30 - £49
South African

The Stables, Chalk Farm Road, London, NW1 8AH

You have to admire this huge South African-themed pile for its pluck. To the sound of drumbeats, we navigate our way to the lounge bar at this gastroplex, which must be seen to be believed (once will do). With wall-to-wall tribal carvings, ethnic prints and images of statuesque warriors à go-go, this overwrought subterranean kingdom feels more Sun City than Camden. For £9.50, you can sample the Shaka shakers’ finest efforts. The pick of the ‘Zulu cocktails’ are angel face (African Mishale brandy, fig, lemon and apple juice), Ketel dawa from Nairobi, and a vodka and kumquat thirst-quencher called sufrica. Ten wines by the glass include Kloovenburg Merlot at £7.50. In similarly ‘classy’ bars in Cape Town, £10 will get you three Bellinis. What’s Zulu for ‘taxi to Heathrow’?

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The Yacht London

The Yacht London

£30 - £49
British

Temple Pier, Victoria Embankment, London, WC2R 2PN

This navy yacht-turned-restaurant permanently moored near Temple tube dates back to 1927, and its history is obvious as soon as you step on board, with several of the original features all still looking shipshape. While seafood might have been the obvious course for the menu to follow, veg-centric dishes are instead to the fore. Delicately assembled roasted aubergine is fashioned into something like a mille-feuille, mixing layers of crumbly rye bread with velvety aubergine and a smear of butternut squash purée. Elsewhere veg is used to equally good effect in the earthy mushrooms, steamed kale and shreds of parsnip crisps accompanying succulent chicken stuffed with melted red Cheddar, while pretty desserts include a fluffy cheesecake mousse. The bar serves up a great selection of G&Ts alongside wines and Champagne, and on-the-ball staff are attentive. With creaks from the hull coming from the rising and falling of the tide, there’s no escaping the fact you’re on a boat, but bring your sea legs and The Yacht is a relaxed and romantic setting. 

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Bunga Bunga Battersea

Bunga Bunga Battersea

£30 - £49
Pizza
Italian

37 Battersea Bridge Road, London, SW11 3BA

Fun, flamboyant and fabulous, Bunga Bunga gets the party started – and knows how to keep it going. Named after the notorious romps organised by Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, it mixes all the clichés of Italian holidays with a sprinkling of euro trash to create a glorious tongue-in-cheek homage to the land that invented pizza. And seriously good pizza it is too: proper crispy bases loaded with quality toppings, such as the Julius Cheeser (gorgonzola, taleggio, mozzarella and goat’s cheese) or Po-pa-polla with sticky chicken, pancetta and barbecue sauce. Elsewhere, the menu runs to loaded antipasti boards, crisp zucchini fritti and creamy arancini balls, followed by gelato and classic tiramisu. To drink there’s Prosecco, Peroni and Aperol Spritzes, plus crowd-pleasing cocktails such as fruity, vodka-laced sharer The Vespa. Bunga Bunga is perfect for big groups, who can carry on the celebrations in Il Club upstairs at weekends, when there’s also a Saturday party brunch with karaoke. Private parties meanwhile can book L’Osservatorio or the top-floor Martini Prosecco Beach Bar, complete with parasols and its own photo-booth.

 

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Beast

Beast

Over £80
Steak
International
Fish

3 Chapel Place, W1G 0BG

A basement revellers’ hall with gleaming candelabra and endless wooden tables channelling medieval feasting (especially during bonus season for City boys), Beast is Goodman’s tribute to high-rolling surf ’n’ turf. It was all change in 2016, though, with the fixed-price option of nibbles, king crab and steak jettisoned in favour of a steakhouse-style, all-day menu that’s priced no less ruinously. Still, you get what you pay for; witness the free glass of vintage fizz on arrival, the blue-tinged tanks of gargantuan, prehistoric-looking king crabs and an aging room of long-shrivelled Nebraskan beef. It’s all top-end stuff, but unimpressed visitors (ourselves included) feel the place is “nothing special” and “overpriced for what it is”, with ancillary items such as Wagyu tataki, shrimp tempura, and crab and foie gras gyozas eliciting little praise. Wines (from £40 a bottle) are no less punishing, while service strikes us as directionless.

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Archipelago

Archipelago

£50 - £79
International
Fusion
£30 - £49

53 Cleveland Street, London, W1T 4JJ

It may have upped sticks and moved round the corner from its original premises, but Archipelago is still a must-visit for intrepid gastro-backpackers – especially as the relocation has prompted a new menu with the emphasis on gluten-free dishes and home-curing. Jump in at the deep end by ordering chilli-smoked python carpaccio with green tea and wasabi crackers or crocodile wrapped in vine leaves with honey-poached plums and pickled samphire, teamed with a love-bug salad straight out of I’m a Celebrity. However, if your tastes are more Bridget than Indiana Jones, the menu also obliges with jerk seafood, Malay-spiced confit duck and other safe bets. Meanwhile, busy bees should check out the new express-lunch menu with its roster of zany sliders, mini dogs and sharing platters. The decor is as before – a kooky anthropological riot of global artefacts and bizarre curios that would do Pitt Rivers proud.

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Inamo Soho

Inamo Soho

£30 - £49

134-136 Wardour Street, London, W1F 8ZP

‘Interactive oriental fusion’ is the deal at this futuristic, neon-lit restaurant, which has silenced those naysayers who claimed the “gimmicky” idea of ordering your meal through a table touchpad would soon wear thin. Instead, diners love this “great concept” with its entertaining novelty – you can even order a taxi home from your table. The food is an accessible pan-Asian mixed bag with new dishes such as scallop tartare, Malaysian beef rendang and Japanese tofu salad ‘hiyayakko’ alongside soft-shell crab maki rolls, delicate squid and spring onion dumplings, Peking duck and a “winning version” of the ubiquitous black cod. The basement cocktail bar deals in fusion cocktails (don’t miss the Inamo Martini with mandarin purée and chilli), while bubbly pop music adds to the vibe as young clubbers get the party started. Watch out for the monthly ‘magic nights’. 

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StreetXO

StreetXO

£50 - £79
International

15 Old Burlington Street, London, W1S 2JL

There’s something very noughties about a star-spangled foreign chef opening a black-and-red basement dining room in Mayfair and charging top dollar for cooking influenced by street markets. With a booming house soundtrack, a no-bookings neon counter (recommended) and a theatrical open kitchen to gawp at, this is event dining with a vengeance, although plenty of chef David Muñoz’s dishes certainly merit the hype.

His signature Pekinese dumplings – filled with pig’s ear and presented on greaseproof paper splattered with strawberry hoisin sauce like a crime scene – offers an intriguing combo of sweetness and savoury crunch, while tandoori-grilled pigeon is a sublime take on a classic game dish, completed by miniature papadum’s topped with sticky tamarind chutney.

Sometimes, Street XO’s penchant for spectacle becomes rather jarring, with (delicious) cocktails served in plastic eggs and outlandishly large wine glasses rendered almost impossible to drink from, while the menu’s fondness for daft names and exclamation marks can become tiring. Despite this, we weren’t surprised that the place was packed on our mid-week visit, as there’s clearly a market for this brand of fast-paced, zany dining. There are many ways we could describe a meal at StreetXO, but boring certainly isn’t one of them.

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La Bodega Negra

La Bodega Negra

£30 - £49
Mexican

9 Old Compton Street, London, W1D 5JF

We’re going to call it: this is surely London’s only Mexican restaurant hidden behind the facade of a sex shop. Such exterior bawdiness is increasingly hard to come by in Soho, although Bodega Negra’s Stygian urban-chic interior and “great service” have much in common with current restaurant trends. The kitchen’s proclivity for supreme tacos has never been hotter, with fillings including soft-shell crab accompanied by a slathering of smoky chipotle crema, while tostadas feature a winning combo of Serrano ham and tuna. We suggest ordering a selection, plus salad or a piquant plate of ceviche – although those with bigger appetites should look to wood-grilled pork belly with mezcal and salsa or a whole sea bream, tender from the fire. Bodega’s party vibes and low-lit interior aren’t for everyone, but if Tequilas galore and 50ml shots of mezcal sound like a good time, this basement den from funky restaurateur Will Ricker (E&O et al) is for you.

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Barts

Barts

Bars

Chelsea Cloisters, London, SW3 3DW

Few bars have quite such a handle on fun as this surreptitious speakeasy, located a couple of corridor turns into Chelsea Cloisters. Slip the doorman a wink, kick back a heel and dive headlong into a world of 1930s kitsch – from the pulp fiction-inspired entrance to the ruby red wallpaper, bric-a-brac artwork and well-thumbed dressing-up box. All the classic cocktails are present and correct (think a Whiskey Sour with Bulleit Bourbon), but if you really want to let the good times roll, we recommend the tasting selection of house cocktails served in miniature teacups or specials such as Mystic Note (a gramophone filled with lemongrass-infused Tanqueray, apple juice and gomme syrup). ‘Shady associates’ Gaucho, next door, provide a succinct food menu, so if things start getting out of hand, soak up the excess gin with a steak slider or a burger and chimichurri chips.

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sketch: Gallery

sketch: Gallery

£50 - £79
Modern European
Afternoon tea

9 Conduit Street, London, W1S 2XG

Nobody comes to Sketch for half measures, and that includes artist David Shrigley. No fewer than 239 of his new works are currently (but not permanently) displayed in The Gallery, which functions as a restaurant, exhibition space and – thanks to India Mahdavi’s design – the closest thing London has to a bubblegum bubble furnished with pink boudoir biscuits. Shrigley’s work also appears as specially designed tableware, which is artistically overlaid with über-chef Pierre Gagnaire’s riotous and reliably surprising take on brasserie food. A homage to Shrigley comes in the form of albacore tuna cream, rocket, pomegranate, and pulled farm-raised chicken with rosemary, whole roast Challans duck is offered in two elaborate services, and desserts feature an oh-so-British mint yoghurt and white chocolate croquant, green matcha tea meringue with coconut milk mousseline, or a selection of macaroons. The Shrigley/Gagnaire hook-up also makes for an extraordinary afternoon tea, served (of course) by men in boiler suits.

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Café de Paris

Café de Paris

£30 - £49
French

3-4 Coventry Street, London, W1D 6BL

 

This grande dame of the London club scene continues to draw the crowds with unmatchable, Moulin Rouge-style high camp in fabulously opulent surroundings. Having played host to a glittering array of stars from Marlene Dietrich to Blondie over the years, the Grade II-listed building is dominated by an impressive two-tiered ballroom adorned with dramatic chandeliers and sweeping staircases. Above all, Café de Paris is famed for its fabulous cabaret and hedonistic entertainment: Seven Sins steps up every Friday with a line-up of acrobats, fire-eaters, dance troupes and aerial acts, telling a tale of love and temptation via a deviant, wickedly witty host who ties the whole package together; Saturday brings Showtime Cabaret – a riotous mix of magic, comedy, burlesque and chanteuses. If you’re also booked in for dinner, expect a French-tilted menu running from duck liver terrine via ribeye steak to cinnamon and apple tatin.

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Shuang Shuang

Shuang Shuang

£30 - £49
Chinese

64 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 6LU

Chinese-style hotpots have been fast-tracked (via conveyor belt) to hipness thanks to Shuang Shuang, a refreshingly modern addition to Chinatown. Dishes contain no MSG, and hotpots are picked from plates priced by colour, bubbling past on winding belts. The process is ideal for the uninitiated, with the menu helpfully explaining the myriad dining accoutrements. Mala broth arrives fizzing with Szechuan peppercorns: a great match for a plate of plump prawns. Chewy, hearty fish balls stuffed with pork are also unmissable. Vegetarians have plenty of choice too, small parcels of stuffed tofu being another must-grab conveyor-belt plate. A small range of snacks adds to the options, including crispy, fatty pig’s ears fried in strips, or delicately spiced scallop and prawn fritters. Prices soon mount up, but you’ll receive well-trained service and a superb introduction to Chinese hot-pottery.

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