My favourite Chinese restaurant, and a place in which I have dined more than 300 times over the past few decades, is to close, a victim of the pandemic and rising rents in Chinatown.
Joy King Lau, just off Leicester Square, will be closing on Monday (4th July). The three-storey Cantonese restaurant was a Chinatown legend and was famous for its top-notch dim sum, char sui, salt and pepper ribs and, best of all, the deep fried soft-shell crab with chilli and spring onions.
That’s a real shame. Another good place gone.
Still, let’s not be downhearted - at least the hipster craft bars (with DJ!) and artisan coffee shops are there to take up the slack.
That’s sad. I’ve had a couple of my favourite restaurants and watering holes close up over the years. And each time it happens I’m like, Jeez, where do I go now? The new places to go do not get better and better.
One of the restaurants my Uncle Duck (family nickname) on my wife’s side helped set up. Could say that for most of the places in the street and area as he worked in many of them and taught many of the chefs how to cook. I have had some excellent and some not so good meals in there.
I always remember eating in the Man fu kung restaurant in Leicester square whenever we was in London, frequented by chinese people and the food was excellent. We even had Alexei Sayle on the adjoining table one lunchtime………then one weekend we were up London to shop, movie, meal and we walked round the corner, and it had closed for good.
I’m still mourning the Lee Ho Fook….
A girlfriend introduced me to the delights of Dim Sum at the Joy King Lau. A great shame to hear it’s closing.
And in a few weeks time we see a Focal powered by Naim brandstore there?
All I can say is some around here obviously had deeper pockets than me many years back, as I was one of the many in the basements with the melamine tables, enjoying the ‘help yourself’ stuff – IIRC, the all you can eat for a fiver brigade. And good it was
It’s sad to see the fabric of some areas change and generally not for the better in most cases IMV. The local shops from yesteryear are increasingly disappearing as the larger landlords (some corporate/some landed estates) manage-up their holdings.
Dining with friends in Chinatown on a lazy Saturday afternoon was a great pleasure , and it is sad to read about the closures .
This is the one I remember from long ago.
On our monthly Saturday nights out we used to meet up at The Sussex, before it got bombed, travel around a few other pubs, Wig and Pen, Punch & Judy etc., before gravitating to the ‘Sol Bar’ beneath Tuttons (first time I ever had some fruit stuffed in my beer). A few Mai Tais around the corner, then the inevitable trip to Wong Kei’s, probably sharing a big table with another group, before finishing up someplace like the Milk Bar (the club night, not the coffee shop) in the early hours. Ocasionally made it to breakfast somewhere round Seven Dials and then home
I have no recollection whatsoever of the food at Wong Kei.
Back in the 1980s Wong Kei was renowned for the cheapness and quality of its food, but also the, er, brusqueness of its service. Wong Kei is still there – the service has improved but the prices have risen and the food is no longer what it was. Chinatown is dying… Lee Ho Fook, Man Fu Kung, the Lido and New World are all gone, and the old stalwarts Wong Kei and Canton are changed beyond recognition.
You’re more likely to find bubble tea, or a Japanese or Korean restaurant in Chinatown these days than a good-value Cantonese or Peking eatery.
Indeed, I do remember one night we were led up to the first floor, then the next and I think another before being led down again and shown the way out without a word of explanation!
I had a date at Wong Kei about some 25 years ago and my lasting memory was of the waiter who approached us at the end of our meal whilst we were chatting over the last of our Jasmine Tea and said “you hurry up, this ain’t no f#*@king coffee shop”. I think the modern day equivalent is probably Karen’s Diner.
One place still going, cheap and cheerful…not Chinese food, but hey…
And not a whiff of artisanal blah in sight.
Govinda’s vegetarian on Soho St
Ah, Wong Kei’s Many evenings there in the 80s. Happy days!
I’ve been in Yorkshire for many years now and hadn’t realised how many of the institutions have gone, I’ve eaten in all of those many times as well as Joy King Lau. Wong Kei had changed even when I was last there a few years back, I didn’t miss the rudeness, but the swap from cheap good food to the exact opposite was a shock.
Probably the same head chef had been working all day everyday for decades to keep it in top notch condition, only to have a heart attack in the middle of service.
Not for the first time nor the last.