“What happens when you take something that imitated the West but was born in the East and then bring it back to the West to imitate the East?”
A question that was posed to us prior to our visit to this much hyped new London venue. Sitting in our private booth overlooking the restaurant our waiter described the concept of Cha Chaan Teng. A meeting of East and West mixed in London and given the capital’s unique style. The décor is super cool with deep blue velvet banquettes and chequered floor tiles. The walls are adorned with edgy urban street art that brings Hong Kong’s style straight to this basement diner.
Hong Kong is famous for its cha chaan teengs; fast paced diners that emerged in the city throughout the 50s and 60s. They were designed to feed lower classes whatever dishes they wanted to sample from western influences. Menus typically consisted of hundreds of dishes that were both enigmatic and mysterious with a degree of uniqueness. Yet that is most likely where the link through to Cha Chaan Teng stops, for they have taken this concept and created a location that serves its guests a menu that is wide ranging yet succinct and both unique. The fast pace has perhaps been removed but been replaced with focus and delicate crafting of each dish.
We were told to order a selection of dishes to share and enjoy together, with a big recommendation towards the starter – peanut butter French toast, a twist on the famous prawn toast that frequents so many of London’s Chinese restaurants. Served alongside prawn crackers, lobster prawn toast and lemongrass chicken skewers, it was certainly an impressive start to our evening.
Sipping on our delicious and again unique cocktails whilst waiting for the mains to arrive. The South China Sea Bourbon Coffee and Lychee Cobbler was more than enough to keep us occupied whilst watching the goings on across the restaurant floor. The venue also serves up Bao buns at the Bao Bar, what the owners call the beating heart of Cha Chaan Teng and these small bundles of fluffiness certainly don’t disappoint the taste buds. We’d ordered the Crispy Duck bao and the spicy beef short rib bao, both satisfying us with their delicious tender meats overflowing the fluffy buns. You can order these as an in-meal taster course or just pop in for a quick snack, sampling a few of your favourites. We love Cha Chaan Teng’s informal approach to dining, selecting either a quick snack to go or a breakfast, alongside a long dinner with friends and family in a booth table the options are many and this all adds to the fun of the venue.
When our main arrived it certainly looked the part. A crispy duck leg French toast served alongside vegetable chow mein and steamed chilli aubergine. The aubergine packed a serious punch so be warned if you’re not a fan of chilli. The duck itself looked great and was served on top of the French toast. Cha Chaan Teng serve their mains as dishes that are more suitable for 2 or 3 people to share. In fact we were so full that we asked for the leftovers to be put in a box and to go. Well we didn’t want to waste what was a delicious dinner.
Cha Chaan Teng certainly serves up a menu that is unexpected, delightful, and intriguing all at the same time. It is the sort of menu where you want to try everything purely to see its presentation and sometimes wacky ingredient combinations. All too often, this approach fails however, Cha Chaan Teng have hit the nail on the head and congratulations to Jeremy Pang the head chef for successfully creating such an exciting menu. Jeremy has drawn from his heritage of three generations of Chinese chefs and learnings at Cordon Bleu to present some exciting and delicious concepts.
Cha Chaan Teng
36 – 38 Kingsway,
T: 020 3876 4001