What to do for Chinese New Year in London
Boris Johnson has said: “London’s Chinese New Year celebrations will be without doubt an early highlight of 2013. Bringing hundreds of thousands of people into central London.” If you’ve done it before, you’ll know that those crowds can be annoying rather than uplifting. If you’re joining the throng in Chinatown, here are some of the special events – so you can plan a route through the crowd in advance. Kung Hei Fat Choy!
Concealed behind a jade-coloured door in Soho’s Gerrard Street is a surprisingly sophisticated cocktail bar. It’s been open since last November but Dre Masso, one of the owners, is still adding tweaks to the menu and refining the decor. Inside, it evokes a bohemian turn-of-the-century opium den with nice details like apothecary bottles with labels written in Chinese. Cocktails are imaginative and served with plenty of pizzazz by the knowledgeable bartenders. Dry ice, orange blossom spray and colour-changing alchemy all add to the theatre at the bartender’s table. The short dim sum menu has modern twists on the classics. The Har Gau (Xiā jiǎ) is made with king prawns rather than traditional shrimp and the prawn toast, made with thick lumps of lobster, is a big improvement on the usual dry, tasteless crusts. From Thursday 7 to Monday 10 February, it’s hosting a series of special Chinese New Year events, including face-painting, fortune-telling and bespoke cocktails such as “Year of the snakebite and blackcurrant” made with plum, ginseng and lychee wines and a homemade lemon sorbet. Dim sum starts at £6.50 and cocktails are around £12. www.opiumchinatown.com
If you want to push the boat out, on the 9th February, School of Wok are hosting gourmet walking tours of Chinatown. For £188 you can go to a Chinese bakery, supermarket and a cafe for light lunch, then take part in a three hour cookery class and 30 minute wine tasting. www.schoolofwok.co.uk
London’s Chinatown is putting on its annual festival in the biggest celebration outside of Asia, with fireworks, a “flying lion” dance, a firecracker display and musicians including Emmy the Great, Paul Potts and Noah and The Whale. Traditional Chinese arts and crafts and food stands will pack the streets. The celebrations will open with a traditional “eye-dotting” ceremony, not in Chinatown, but in Trafalgar Square at noon on Sunday 10th February. “Dotting the Eye” refers in particular to the Chinese tradition of painting in the eye of the Chinese lion before the start of the lion dance to awaken the spirit of the lion. Get there an hour before to ensure a good view. www.chinatownlondon.orgchinatown, Chinese new year, CNY, cocktails, cooking, crowds, dim sum, dining, Emmy the Great, food, going out, Kung Hei Fat Choy, Year of the snake
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