Chinatown can be awfully overwhelming the first time you visit. Condensed around six blocks in one of the busiest areas of London, it is packed with people, restaurants, various odours (some pleasant some not), it is very noisy, and could trigger a sensory overload for pretty much anyone. Yet it is home to real foodie gems that you don’t want to miss!
Lucky for me (and you!), my friends love food as much as I do and have great recommendations. When it comes Chinatown my friend Maria is the one you want to ask for advice. With Chinese and Vietnamese heritage she knows her stuff, so when she introduced a group of us to Four Seasons on Gerrard Street we even let her order for all of us.
From the outside you may notice that there are two ‘Four Seasons’ the regular one and ‘little’, both are owned by the same people and the menus are just slightly different. In our case, we went to the regular Four Seasons.
Inside, like for many Chinatown restaurants, the main dining room decor was kept simple. Some may even call it ‘sparse’, but most of the good eateries in Chinatown don’t care about the look or creating a good Instagram moment, here the focus is on the food.
Brace yourself for the service too, there will be no smile or ‘welcome’, at Four Seasons you sit, you order, you eat and you go. In a weird way, it is part of the charm of Chinatown, cultures and etiquettes clash in the most epic and comical ways.
You won’t care about the absence of decor or the brusque service once the food is in front of you anyway. It is tasty, flavoursome and sometimes surprising!
We were a group of 6 the night we visited Four Seasons and following Maria’s advice we decided to order various dishes and to share everything. It is the best way to try something new but also stick to something familiar. Chinese cuisine can be surprising so you want to make sure to have at least one option you know you already like.
We started by ordering half a roasted Peking duck and prawn crackers. The crackers never made it to our table (the service is great I told you) but the duck did and didn’t disappoint.
We all made our little pancakes. It was fun, a bit messy and so so good.
For mains, we ordered the sweet and sour chicken which was our ‘safe’ pick. A classic dish, comforting and filling.
We also shared the stir-fried beef with cashew nuts which again was really nice.
Maria decided to also challenge our taste buds and made us try the ‘Ma Po’ beancurd with minced beef and tofu. The texture was so different from anything else I had tried before but it was very flavoursome.
We paired it all with some egg fried rice (delicious), steam rice and pak choi (1 of our 5 a day).
As soon as we had swallowed the last bite the plates were swept away and a serving of orange slices and mints dropped on the table with the bill. The waiters’ priorities are clear – time is money, money is business, and there is a queue of people waiting outside ready to pay for some delicious Chinese food.
We left very full and so happy to be able to recommend a restaurant in Chinatown to anyone who may ask!