How many restaurants have you spent the last few years saying you must visit? How often does a place get mentioned in conversation and you find yourself saying, “I’ve heard it’s great, I’ve been meaning to go!” Well The London Restaurant Festival, now in its fourth year, is here to help you cram all those restaurants you’ve been dying to visit into a one day tour all throughout October. Tapas tours, Chinese tours, Japanese tours, Champagne themed, you name it, they’ve got it covered. The awesome Tiger Beer invited us to Chinatown to check out their tour of 6 restaurants in 6 hours. I’m going to stop here and you’re going to read on because I know you can’t resist the food photography that’s going to follow!
It’s not everyday that you get invited to experience multiple restaurants in just a few hours, if you’re lucky you might get to enjoy a restaurant meal once a week (no that burger in a polystyrene box doesn’t count). We pretty shocked to find that there were no itsy bitsy tasting plates, we got a full plate of food and a cold Tiger Beer everywhere we went; the perfect Asian beverage to our day ahead of tasty Asian food. Fortunately Chinatown is a small area and the four of us only had to roll our bloated selves a couple of hundred metres or so between food stops. As you can imagine, we all started the day with an empty stomach, fuelled only by coffee and excitement at the possibility of gorging ourselves all day. And then it began…
Stop 1 of 6
We began our journey in Leong’s Legend Continues, which transported me back to Japan, despite it being a Chinese restaurant… it was more the design and decor than the food, which consisted of pork belly and rice or stir fried vermicelli and vegetables as a vegetarian option. Despite how good the pork belly was, it was the vermicelli noodles that had us crossing chopsticks and battling it out as we’d only ordered one amongst four of us. Washing the food down with our Tiger beers, we still had plenty of gusto for what was to come, this was looking like an easy challenge.
Stop 2 of 6
Chicken in a black bean sauce is a go to Chinese dish, right? All taste the same, right? Wrong! Plum Valley serves a mean chicken (or vegetables) in black bean and rice that’s a classy upgrade on what you’re probably used to, plus the restaurant itself is really comfortable and a pleasure to enjoy a meal in. Two down but who’s counting, we’ve got this.
Stop 3 of 6
To this day it’s still very strange to walk into a place in London with a very small shop front that turns out to have an enormous space in side, even though it happens all the time. Orient London had this effect on me, it seems never ending in there. Anyway, we got our second pork offering of the day here, sweet and sour pork with rice, it was delicious but we had to admit something. As our bottles met in the middle of the table and we offered each other a “cheers,” we looked up at each other with a look of slight worry, the food was taking its toll.
Stop 4 of 6
While it’s outward appearance may not have got us too excited, the rave press coverage and reviews in the window of Rasa Sayang were far more promising. Despite the early stages of a food baby appearing, we knew we could power through as two sharing platters, one meat and one vegetarian, were served up. Can we tell you what was on the table? No. But we can tell you that we didn’t leave much on the table and we left wanting to add another positive review to the window, we couldn’t really do that so here you go: Highly recommended!
Stop 5 of 6
We could’ve used a Stannah stairlift at this point to get us up to our top floor table in Dumplings Legend, we were struggling. I think we all felt pretty motivated though once we walked through the doors and saw a team of chefs preparing dumplings right in front of us, goodness was almost guaranteed by the hard work we watched them put into each one. Pork or veggie dumplings arrived on our table not long after we arrived, how could we resist the delights that arrived in little steaming wooden baskets. At least we stayed awake though, a group of four a few tables away from us ate themselves into a slumber and with no shame at all fell asleep at the table. I’ve always said that restaurants need napping spaces.
Stop 6 of 6
By now we were frail, we weren’t sure we could even get two minutes up the road to Nusa Dua, let alone eat there. We did what we could, luckily we could share a small dish of fried mash potato, spring rolls and rice, but ultimately we were defeated. Delicious Indonesian food, but the only addition we could’ve wished for as we came to the end of our tour was a comfy bed each to drift off to sleep in, maybe a belly rub too… but that’s asking a lot.
We’ve come to take Chinatown for granted, it’s seconds from the overcrowded tourist traps that are Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus so it’s been deemed guilty by association. However the tour taught me that there really are some great restaurants in Chinatown, they’re not all churning out the MSG soaked gloop your local takeaway is.
The London Restaurant Festival will continue to run throughout October and tickets are still available to a good number of its tours, for foodies this is the perfect day out and for everyone else it’s still going to be a lot of fun. It’s a great excuse to get out in London, enjoy some food and drink, and meet up with some friends without spending an absolute fortune.
Special thanks to Tiger Beer for the experience and being an awesome addition to a fantastic month-long experience in London.