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Londons Chinatown sits between Leicester Square and Soho in the heart of central London – it’s quite hard to miss, being filled with pagodas, lanterns, street martial artists, a multitude of Oriental supermarkets, delis and restaurants, and street signs in Mandarin.
Centred around Gerrard Street, this Chinatowns actually fairly new – historically, most sailors from the Far East settled around the Limehouse district which had a fully thriving Chinese community as far back as 1880.
When bombed in WWII, many businesses moved lock, stock to this corner of Soho, and with soldiers returning from Far Eastern climes with a taste for Chinese food, the restaurant business really began to take off.
Modern Chinatown is a sensory experience, at its best during Chinese New Year celebrations with firecrackers and dragons illuminating the lavishly decorated streets.
There’s a dizzying choice of eateries serving everything from budget buffets to dim sum all-afternoon banquets: look for the locals is the best tip, though the Golden Dragon (28 Gerrard Street, 020 7734 2763), Luxuriance Peking Cuisine (40 Gerrard Street, 020 7734 0262) and bargainous Wong Kei (41-43 Gerrard Street, 020 7437 3071) come recommended.
There’s also a number of Japanese restaurants and Cantonese snack bars vying for your attention. It’s not just a culinary overload: the huge supermarkets offer unbeatably authentic Chinese ingredients for budding chefs, and there’s a number of stores for Manga DVDs, oriental gifts, clothing and video games.
In the midst of all this is Waxy O’Connor’s (14-16 Rupert Street, 020 7287 0255, www.waxyoconnors.co.uk), a buzzing, multi-levelled Irish bar beloved of travellers with a quieter Little Sister over the road. Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club originated in Gerrard street in the basement of number 39. Samuel Johnson and Joshua Reynolds met at the Turks Head Tavern to conceive The Club dining club in 1764. The site is commemorated by a plaque at number 9 Gerrard Street. A basement in Gerrard Street was the location of th e first ever rehearsal of Led Zeppelin in 1968.
Leicester Square and Piccadilly Underground stations are close to Chinatown – enter through the traditional gate connecting Dean Street to Gerrard Street for the full atmospheric experience.
|Leicester Square Station||1||Piccadilly - Northern||0.21 miles|
|Piccadilly Circus Station||1||Bakerloo - Piccadilly||0.26 miles|
|Tottenham Court Road Station||1||Central - Northern||0.49 miles|
|Covent Garden Station||1||Piccadilly||0.53 miles|
|Charing Cross Station||1||Bakerloo - Northern||0.60 miles|
|Charing Cross London Station||0.64 miles|
|London Waterloo International Station||1.52 miles|
|London Waterloo Station||1.63 miles|
|London Waterloo East Station||1.72 miles|
|London Euston Station||1.88 miles|