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Like most restaurants and hotels, people form their own opinions to whether they have enjoyed their brief stay and word of mouth will inevitably cast the vote in the deciding factor.
China Town is one of London's top attraction; it is what makes London so diverse in culture and history. However, there are some rules that should be applied when eating in China Town, some are applicable wherever you go in London.
One of the best things about this place is that most of the restaurants will stay open well into the early mornings when clubbers are tripping out of the clubs, indecently exposed and high on energy. You can guarantee that you'll find somewhere to eat after working up a good appetite.
However, the large flashy ones are the ones to stay away from. In general their staff, although not rude, are unwelcoming, slow, unattentive and sometimes non-existent. Their prices are inflated and the food bland.
What you have to realise is that these establishments are catering for the non-oriental market, overseas visitors and VIPs. They regularly host weddings either upstairs or have a large room to the rear for such occasions and the food can be very tasty at times! If you happen to be in one of these establishments during a wedding, the service will diminish as will the quality of your food; so be warned. what you'll also experience is the wait for a table can be more than half an hour in peak times (Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning/lunch for Dim Sum). Furthermore, more often than not, the bill will come before you've requested it. Don't tip unless you think you had very good or exceptional service as there will usually have 10-15% service charge already added on. If you're unhappy, ask them to recalculate the bill without service and state clearly you were unhappy with service, e.g. waiting for table, waiting for drinks, food was cold, waiter was ignorant.
However, for those of you that do like to enjoy your food in good company with the decor and ambiance then look outside China Town. Just Oriental on 19 King Street at St James (down stairs in Just St James) is quite a nice place to eat. Apparently the chefs are from the Orient serving authentic Thai, Cantonese, Korean and Japanese cuisine - and its not that expensive either.
When you do eat in any Oriental restaurants, please try something different. It's what separates the boring from the adventurist. Try having Dim Sum. Most restaurants serve it. Its small (usually steamed) portions ideal for sharing in groups, large or small. Favourites include chicken feet ( Fung Jau) in black bean sauce, minced prawn (Har Kau), minced pork and prawn (Siu Mai) as well as preserved jelly fish, pork ribs in black bean sauce, tripe with spring onions, deep fried squid with chillies, the list goes on. There are so many dishes, you haven't eaten Oriental unless you've tried something entirely different. The usual chicken fried rice, noodles, soup, etc are fine but that's just catering for unimaginative people.
If it is late or early hours of the morning, the New Mayflower on Shaftesbury Avenue is open until 5am. Same opening hours as the Mayflower but less so in decor or ambiance is the Crispy Duck on Gerrard Street. HK Diner is slightly better across the road, in terms of decor but service is about same and food is quite good. However, HK Diner do some amazing ice drinks - Guava, Coconut, fruit mixes etc, try the red bean and coconut, its super cool and tasty!
So next time in China Town, please try something different.