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London Restaurant Festival – Chinatown Tour

Where
Chinatown London

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What
This month, Chinatown London hosted a special guided food trail for the first time ever as part of the London Restaurant Festival 2014. Six different restaurants in the area were selected especially for the tour route, allowing visitors to sample a wide range of delicious Asian cuisines in the space of an afternoon. The restaurants that took place were C&R Cafe Restaurant, Rasa Sayang, Maotai Kitchen, Baiwei, Plum Valley and Far East Cafe.

The experience
Yesterday was a good day. Why? Because I got to try 6 Chinatown restaurants. Greedy, I know. I was on a tour of Chinatown, the newest addition to the London Restaurant Festival, now in its sixth year. The last time I went to Chinatown was around 8 years ago when I was a student. I was lured in by one of the cheap buffets and after rolling out, belly bloated and gasping for any form of liquid I could get my hands on, I vowed not to visit Chinatown for dinner again. I don’t think I’m alone with this – many people I know have had a similar experience and also never returned. It was only recently that I decided to give it another go – this time on the London Restaurant Festival Chinatown Tour.

I met my friend Jo at midday outside Plum Valley, which is where we started our journey. The tour provided us with a range of food, from Cantonese sweet and sour pork at Plum Valley, to authentic regional cuisine from Guizhou, south-west China, at Maotai kitchen.

The tour was not for the faint hearted, or those with a small stomach. Each restaurant provided us with a main dish, except for Rasa Sayang, where we enjoyed a full on platter of delectable Malaysian and Sinagaporean food.

Rasa Sayang was my favourite – I thoroughly enjoyed the fried silken tofu and the different rices that we were served. I just wished that we had have made that our first stop, rather than our fourth! I also thoroughly enjoyed the Chinese buns we were served for dessert at Far East Cafe and will be heading back there to try the savoury options.

We managed all of the restaurants in five hours and literally rolled out of Chinatown onto Shaftesbury Avenue. The idea behind the tour was to change perceptions about the quality of food available in Chinatown, and although I enjoyed all of the dishes that I ate across the day, I would only return to four of the six. Sadly, I don’t think that Plum Vallet or C&R Cafe showed the best of their menu – possibly a mistake on their part. Rasa Sayang, however, excelled with the tasting menu and it’s a meal I won’t be forgetting in a hurry.

Cost
Restaurant costs vary – visit the Chinatown website for more information

On the Bab, Shoreditch

Where
On the Bab, Shoreditch

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What

On the Bab is a Korean street food restaurant and takeaway. A place for casual dining where typical Korean drinks and popular dishes can be enjoyed together in a Korean tradition known as “anju”.

The experience
On one particularly raininy Sunday evening, I met my friend Joe at On the Bab. We were meant to be doing a tour of Chinatown on that day, but as plans sometimes do, it went a bit squiffy and we ended up having to choose an alternative venue. Enter On the Bab. It was Joe’s suggestion – he fancied Korean and neither of us had tried it, but had passed with intrigue a few times.

“You know a good Korean restaurant when most of the clientele is Korean”, said Joe as I sat down in my seat. I agreed as I looked around and saw a restaurant full of smiling Koreans, all seemingly enjoying their dinner and soju cocktails.

The menu is split into sections – Smalls Plates, On the Bab, Traditional, Korean Anju for Drinks, Special / Comfort – plus a range of sides. I wanted to try one of everything, but realised this might be a bit much. Instead, we ordered a Bibimbab and portions of the bulgogi beef and vegetable fritter buns. We also ordered a small glass of traditional Korean soju each. Soju, for those who don’t know, is a distilled beverage containing ethanol and water – doesn’t sound good, but tastes great.

I think the waitress forgot our order as the table next to us received their food despite sitting down way after we did, but once it arrived, the conversation dried up as we devoured the dishes. The vegetable fritter buns were my favourite – really delicious pillowy steamed bun filled with crispy vegetable fritter and fresh herbs. The food may not have been as memorable as my meal at Gogi (wow, that was good), but for a casual dining experince in Shoreditch, it does what it says on the tin.

Cost
Dishes range from £3.60 – £11.90. Sides from £2. Soju cocktails £7 and glasses start from £3.

Address
305 Old Street
London
EC1V 9LA
0207 683 0361

On The Bab on Urbanspoon