Top 5: Places to Celebrate Chinese New YearBy Cat Byers
We may be nearly 8,000 km away, but that doesn’t stop London embracing Chinese New Year with a vigour normally reserved for Beijing. The proceedings kick off on Thursday 19th February this year and last around two weeks, with a day-long celebration and parade starting in Trafalgar Square on Sunday 22nd February.
While the jury is out on whether this is the Year of the Goat or the Year of the Sheep (due to Mandarin Chinese character ‘羊’, which means ‘horned creature’), a little spot of translation trouble shouldn’t stop us eating all the dim sum we possibly can.
1. Enjoy a Baijiu cocktail at Opium
Baijiu, a 52% proof distilled white spirit is quite possibly the most popular alcohol you’ve never heard of. As the traditional celebration drink in China, it’s been enjoyed among families, friends and business colleagues for thousands of years and is estimated to have a $23 billion market making it the biggest selling spirit in the world.
Premium Baijiu brand Shui Jing Fang are spreading the word with a Baijiu Cocktail Week running over Chinese New Year. Exclusive cocktails are being served at bars across London but for the full drinks-and-dim-sum experience, head to Opium in Chinatown. Hidden behind an unassuming jade door are three floors of Chinese New Year celebrations including a fortune teller,photo booth, special dim sum menu, red envelopes full of prizes and discounts, and of course Baijiu cocktails such as the Baijiu Baby and Born on the Baijiu. What’s more, Tinie Tempah recently declared the Baiju Baby his ‘new favourite cocktail’. If it’s good enough for Tinie…
Where: Opium Cocktail & Dim Sum Parlour, The Jade Door, 15-16 Gerrard St, London W1D 6JE
2. Get lucky at Chinese Cricket Club
Fine-dining Sichuan restaurant Chinese Cricket Club in Blackfriars are embracing the Year of the Sheep/Goat with a whole month of festivities starting on February 19th. Head Chef Ken Wang has created two exclusive four-course menus including plenty of contemporary lamb dishes to honour the year, fish to symbolise wealth, and a Chinese rice cake for good health.
But that’s not all – after your meal you’ll get the chance to pick a lucky ‘Ang Pow’ red envelope from the mandarin tree of good fortune, with prizes including a £20 voucher to spend on your next visit.
Where: Chinese Cricket Club, 19 New Bridge Street, London EC4V 6DB
3. Mingle with the glitterati at Mr Chow
Fancy Knightsbridge restaurant Mr Chow revolutionised authentic Beijing cuisine in London when it opened in 1968, and has been a firm favourite with the glamourous and glitzy since then.
To celebrate Chinese New Year, the chefs at Mr Chow will be demonstrating the art of creating hand-pulled Beijing noodles (which traditionally represent long life) and serving dishes of Mr Chow noodles, lamb fillet with shimeji mushrooms, and Beijing dumplings, which symbolise wealth.
Where: Mr Chow, 151 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7PA
4. Drink Lychee Sake at Ping Pong
Everyone’s favourite chain restaurant (be honest, you know you love it) and London’s most popular dim sum spot are going all out for Chinese New Year with a special limited-edition menu lasting until April 2015.
They’ve added five new dishes for the occasion including traditional Shangainese soup dumplings, cram shu mai and roast lamb spring rolls. Ping Pong are also getting involved with Baijiu Cocktail Week by serving the ‘London Baijiu Firecracker’, a mix of Baijiu, Grey Goose Vodka, lychee sake, elderflower, rose petal syrup and longans which will surely have you on the floor faster than you can say ‘新年快樂!’. If that’s not enough, lucky loyalty card holders will receive red envelopes full of potential prizes too.
Where: Various locations
5. Be ahead of the crowd at Bó Drake
Soho’s most hotly anticipated new restaurant finally opened its doors last week after months of delays, and conveniently they’re just in time for Chinese New Year. Modern East-Asian BBQ restaurant Bó Drake have brought together influences from Hong Kong, Korea, China and Europe to create a menu full of slow cooked and smoked dishes such as rib tips in bourbon sauce, bo ssam with smoked pulled pork and kimchi quesadillas with roasted poblano cream.
For Chinese New Year they’re also involved with Baijiu Cocktail Week and will be serving a Baijiu Dragon’s Claw, which features Shiu Jing Fang Baijiu, grapefruit bitters, agave nectar, elderflower cordial and lime juices, but thankfully no actual claws.
Where: Bó Drake, 6 Greek St, Soho, London W1D 4DE