Lucky Food – Lucky You: Where to celebrate the Lunar New Year 春节 in China Town, Soho!

If you live, work or play in the Soho area, you won’t fail to notice the streets bustling with colour and festivities as China Town prepares to celebrate Chinese New Year (also known as the Lunar New Year) on the 1st of February! But this event is so much more than elaborate, vibrant decorations, Dragon Dances and simply having a good time; almost everything about the Chinese New Year celebrations are about traditional customs to bring you good luck and prosperity for the year ahead – especially the food…

So, with food being at the very heart of the celebrations, Kelly Gavaghan shares her top 5 foodie destinations serving the most scrumptious, symbolic chow this Chinese New Year 2022!

Top 5 Foodie Destinations for #CNY in Soho!

Bun House

With it being the year of the Water Tiger where better place to start than none other than The Tiger Who Came to Tea at Bun House, Lisle Street! Steamed buns are the symbol of reunion and happiness and are also used to pray for good weather (for crops and farming) and of course,prosperity. The Bun House have created a beautiful Cantonese style afternoon tea with a Tiger Bao – with tail – at the heart of it, baos carrying the lucky Chinese character ‘fu’, baos that look like tangerines (anything orange represents gold and therefore prosperity) a sweet white chocolate bun that you can have fun decorating yourself with condensed milk and a sesame Mille Feuille filled with plum jam and clotted cream amongst other delights. There is also an excellent selection of Chinese teas to choose from. Chinese tea rituals also bring prosperity, especially when sweet things (which carry auspicious meaning) such as candied fruit are added to the cup which blend beautifully with black teas, oolongs or puers.

CNY Afternoon Tea is £36 pp, minimum of 2 people Booking only. Not available on Tuesdays or Saturdays

Bun House
26 – 27 Lisle Street

Viet Food

Fried spring rolls are otherwise known as ‘Chun Juan’ in Chinese or ‘Chả Giò’ in Vietnamese (although the name changes from region to region). The gorgeous golden treats represent gold bars and so are believed to bring prosperity and wealth. During Tet (Vietnamese for Chinese New Year) Viet Food is surely THE place to visit during the festivities as their spring rolls were voted the best in London on Foursquare.

With Jeff Tan – one of the best Asian chefs in the UK – at the helm, you can be sure of a modern menu that celebrates Vietnam’s incredible street food culture and features favourites of the highest quality that are so reasonably priced too.

Viet Food
34 – 36 Wardour Street, Soho

T: 020 7494 4555

Ugly Dumpling

The Chinese name for dumplings is ‘jiaozi’ which means ‘changing of the years’ and therefore is very apt for Chinese New Year. Although, like the chicken and the egg, it’s not
clear what came first – the dumpling or the name!

The humble dumpling is shaped like an ancient gold ingot which is a symbol of wealth and at New Year lucky coins are hidden inside them. Whoever finds them is considered to be
extremely fortunate and can expect the very best of luck and great wealth throughout the coming year – and apparently the more you eat the luckier you’ll be so don’t hold back folks!

Ugly Dumpling based just off Carnaby Street is voted the No 1 dumplings eatery in London
on Trip Advisor and it really does what it says on the tin. Focused on only one product –
dumplings – and with Head Chef, Andrew Mead and Brand Ambassador, Ping Wong dedicated to exploring and developing the street food favourite, their fusion of ‘East meets West’ flavours and ingredients have proved a big hit with their customers.

To celebrate and mark the year of the tiger Ugly Dumpling are making their own unique
‘Tiger Stripe’ dumplings with traditional pork and prawn fillings wrapped in black squid ink
dough and drizzled generously with orange sriracha mayonnaise to create effective tiger
stripes. Available from 1 Feb for one week max.

Ugly Dumpling
1 Newburgh Street, Carnaby

T: 020 7287 5336
F: @UglyDumplingUK

Bone Daddies

Noodles are at the very epicentre of most Asian dishes. If you’re not eating noodles, you’re eating rice, so it really is no wonder that noodles too carry symbolic meaning and the longer the noodle the longer the life!

The Chinese favour ‘Longevity Noodles’ (funnily enough) or to use their correct name – Chángshòu Miàn – which can be up to two feet long and are practically inhaled by the eater.
If you manage to do this without breaking the noodle, then you will benefit from a long and happy existence on this mortal coil.

Japanese Ramen also carries the same meaning and while researching this feature I was spoiled for choice with the sheer amount of quality restaurants and noodles bars situated within just a few square miles. However, the one that always stands out for me is Bone Daddies.

Established in 2012 the owners of the lively rock’n’roll noodle bar set out on a mission to break from formality and tradition and change people’s perceptions of Japanese food from something exclusive to making it much more accessible to the masses. Their approach has paid off because in just 10 years they are now the proud owners of no less than 9 thriving noodle bars, two sister restaurants and a busy delivery service too all across London town.
But don’t be fooled by the rowdy image. The team at Bone Daddies take the business of ramen VERY SERIOUSLY and put hours of preparation and love into each and every dish for your enjoyment. Prepare to have your perceptions changed for good when you visit Bone Daddies because everything about this place screams ‘Japanese Subculture’ and is in-your- face-fantastic!

Bone Daddies
31 Peter Street, Soho

T: 020 7287 8581

The Mochi Bar

So, I thought I’d finish on something sweet, to round of the meal and leave you all fully covered in terms of bringing good health, longevity, fortune, prosperity and strong family relations for the year ahead!

There is a Mochi movement enjoying a moment in London right now as The Mochi Bar is the very first dedicated place serving ‘The Food of the Gods’ which launched back in springtime 2021.

The glutinous rice balls hold significant meaning and in Japan, whole families participate in the preparation and ritual of pounding the rice to make the symbolic and revered desserts. Made of pounded, glutinous, chewy rice that is formed into dumpling confections containing an ice cream filling and then boiled or baked, these little treats promise big taste and texture sensations so if you haven’t tried one yet – well, what are you waiting for?

So, with Leicester Square’s Japan Centre being one of the biggest food halls in Europe, where better than to sample this much-loved Japanese dessert?

The Mochi Bar @ The Japan Centre
35b Panton Street, London
T: 020 3405 1246
F: @japancentre
i: @japancentre

How will you be celebrating Chinese New Year? Share your thoughts in the comment box below!

@circusmaguk } Photo credit @meganclarkmedia

Kelly Gavaghan is a professional food writer and restaurant reviewer of 29 years who won an award with the National Newspaper Society for her column ‘Kelly Eats Out!” for Yorkshire Post Newspapers. A champion of the independent food & drink industry, she has helped launch and publicise food festivals as well as writing for numerous publications, including food and drink guides. As well as launching the CIRCUS Independent Food & Drink Awards for Buckinghamshire, she has also been a judge herself many times over for various food awards and in 2015, based on her vast experience, Kelly was invited to become a judge for the prestigious Oxfordshire Restaurant Awards with Raymond Blanc as Patron.

Kelly joins the My Soho Times team as a food and restaurant columnist.

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