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Chinese London: A look beyond China Town

Carolynn Look, BA Chinese and Development Studies

Chinese students, and even those SOASians who have spent a year in Beijing, often come back feeling deprived of a variety of joys. This issue’s column aims to help you escape to the Middle Kingdom from time to time and bring you back to your long nights of chuanr and pijiu.


Where to eat?


Chang’s Noodle (老常家面馆)

36-38 New Oxford Street, WC1A 1EP

With a great selection of noodle dishes from Henan, Shaanxi and Xinjiang, this restaurant is sure to inspire nostalgia in anyone who has been to China. The noodles are hand-pulled, of course, and come in huge portions, so bring an empty stomach!


Silk Road (新疆風味)

49 Camberwell Church St, SE5 8TR

Missing your yangrou chuanr and dapanji? This Xinjiang-style restaurant and my personal favorite is definitely worth the lengthy journey into the far south of London. The cheap prices do make up for it, not to mention the mouth-watering tastes of Ottoman-influenced Chinese cuisine.


My Old Place, Gourmet San (老地方)

88-90 Middlesex St, E1 7EZ

or  261 Bethnal Green Road, E2 6AH

Seemingly voted the favorite of the entire SOAS Chinese department, this mansion of great food has two branches – one near Liverpool Street and one at the top of Brick Lane – the latter of which also serves up a variety of (sometimes rather chewy) chuanr. Both have a huge variety of tasty dishes from all over China.

Chinatown Jianbing Cart

Newport Place, in front of the supermarket

When I first saw it, I could not believe it. Everyone’s favorite breakfast food has finally made it to London, and if you have no idea what it is, you are in for a big surprise that will never leave you craving those boring French crepes ever again. The best part is that these delicious jianbing are not only served up in the early morning hours, but all day until 9pm.


What to do?


Chinese Film Festival

The BFI is hosting the two month-long event “A Century of Chinese Cinema” throughout September and October and will be screening some real gems of mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan cinema. Not to miss are Tsai Ming-liang’s Vive L’Amour, Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love, and Jia Zhangke’s Platform.


Sugar Karaoke Club, 11 Wardour Street, W1D 6PG

If KTV is your idea of a night well spent, get out and belt some tunes at what some Chinese sources consider the best venue in London! However, according to these same sources, the food is “unacceptable”, so make sure to match your baijiu with something greasy from next door beforehand.


Learn Kung Fu

Get prepared for the menacing streets of London  and learn to tame your inner fighter at ULU’s Shaolin Kung Fu classes. These take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays just next to SOAS and won’t wipe out your wallet, they might even help you to keep your wallet next time someone tries to mug you.


British Museum

Want to practice your seal script decoding skills? Go here to see some ancient Chinese artifacts and finally figure out what a halberd and a mortar are (those of you studying Chinese radicals, you should know what I mean).



Compared to the British Museum, the V&A prefers to compare ancient artifacts to contemporary trends, with a particular focus on design and fashion. If you want to see the evolution of the qipao throughout the centuries, this is the place to go.


Chinese New Year, Trafalgar Square

It’s a bit early to be thinking about this, but if you’re new to London, impressively organised, and have never witnessed the celebration that takes place every year at Trafalgar Square, mark your calendar now! Secret sources suggest that some of our own SOAS professors are inside those panda costumes dancing across the square…

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