London's Chinatown may be small in comparison to New York's or San Francisco's but it is an amazing vibrate little place tucked away in London's West End. Many people come to take some photos of Gerrard Street's huge gates but there is much more to do than just that.
Dim sum is a little known Cantonese lunchtime finger food that is difficult to find outside Chinatown. You choose 2 or 3 different dishes per person depending on how hungry you are by placing a tick beside your chosen dishes using the pencil and list given to you. Some must haves are char siu buns, cheng fung, dumplings, glutinous rice or for the more adventurous: chicken feet!
You are normally served a pot of tea without asking and it is either free or nominal money so take some friends and have fun. Don't panic about not knowing what you are doing - staff are more than welcoming to non-Cantonese. Two dim sum restaurants I'd recommend are Lido which is very good quality and Golden Pagoda which is the more basic option but still of a high standard.
There are some amazing supermarkets in Chinatown, my favourite is New Loon Moon supermarket. Its prices are aimed at restaurant owners so don't expect to be overcharged just for being a tourist to the area. The supermarket is huge and has whole floors dedicated to different cuisines like Thai, Korean, Japanese etc. Groceries to look out for are chilli oil, flat rice noodles, tinned chilli clams, sea weed crisp-like snacks, sushi rice, flowering teas. Better yet find something completely new to you.
There are a few bakeries in Chinatown but my favourite is Golden Gate Cake Shop just off Gerrard Street in Macclesfield Street. The beautiful smell will be what draws you in but they don't just make cakes - in fact the reason for visiting is not the cakes at all! Pick up a Char-siu bun, it will cost you around £1.20 or so and it is a puffy bun the size of your hand that looks like a cloud and contains warm Char-siu which is like a sweet barbecued pork. A must try!
The first things you will see as you enter Chinatown are the large ornate gates. They are impressively decorated gates painted red and featuring detailed archway and a tiled top. Definitely a photo opportunity.
Of course there are so many places to eat an evening meal in Chinatown and no prizes for guessing the main cuisine but item you may not have tried before would be Peking duck. It is different from the usual aromatic crispy duck but well worth a try - I have tried this at the Four Seasons restaurant and it is excellent; it is the one with aforementioned ducks hanging in the window.
For some alternative gifts or maybe even treats for yourself you can pick up some nicely packaged foods in Oriental Delight on the corner of Gerrard Street and Macclesfield Street (next to the bun shop). A more tacky gift store can be found down the far end of Gerrard Street in the seemingly unmarked store.
So there is lots to see and do in London's Chinatown rather than just taking the obvious photos so make sure you experience enough to truly say you have been there. Have a look at the data we hold on Chinatown's demographics and statistics such as crime rates and resident age group and other demographics to learn more on the make up of the area.