The news headlines might be full of doom, gloom and uncertainty right now, but come the Chinese New Year that could all change. We’re entering the Year of the Pig: the sign synonymous with wealth and prosperity. According to traditional Chinese culture, pigs are positive, energetic and enthusiastic, and their chubby faces and big ears are also signs of good fortune. All things, I think you’ll agree, that we’re in dire need of in 2019. Now’s your chance to give the Year of the Pig the best start possible – after all, we need all the luck we can get. Here are the best things to do for Chinese New Year in London.
Here’s a new year’s resolution for you: get to grips with a less well-known side of London history by booking yourself onto a walking tour of Chinatown. The two-and-a-half-hour tour reveals the hidden past of Chinatown, covering everything from how the area’s red lampposts and gingko trees came into being, to why London’s Chinese community moved from Limehouse to Soho in the 1950s. The tour is accompanied by a family-style Chinese lunch, where you’ll also learn about the history of Chinese food in the UK, as well as how the Chinese traditionally celebrate the new year.
£27, 2, 5 and 19 February, 11.30-2.00pm, 32A Gerrard Street, London W1D 6JA, chinaexchange.uk
In Chinese culture certain foods are imbued with significant meaning, ensuring they always make an appearance at a Chinese New Year feast. Taiwanese teahouse XU has embraced this wholeheartedly with its new year’s set menu, which features shou pa chicken and sea bass with fermented pineapple – traditionally chicken means prosperity, while fish signifies abundance. For extra good luck, stray off XU’s set menu and order as many of its Taiwanese sausage dumplings as possible. Apparently, the more dumplings you eat on Chinese New Year, the more money you’ll make that year. As good a reason as any to get those chopsticks going.
£39, 5-28 February, 30 Rupert Street, London W1D 6DL, xulondon.com
High up in The Shard, Hutong will be celebrating the New Year in style throughout February. It all kicks off on 4 February, the eve of Chinese New Year, with an evening of feasting, traditional lion dances and a calligrapher to write good luck wishes to guests. Head chef Fei Wang has created a menu of for the event including dishes such as Ma-La Sichuan-style suckling pig, and a slow cooked rack of lamb with cumin, Sichuan peppercorns, and seaweed salad. A bespoke Chinese New Year cocktail will be served with Roku gin, ginger syrup, Darjeeling tea, maraschino liqueur, egg white and yuzu juice, and Hutong’s unforgettably delicious Chinese five spice pork crackling will be in abundance. If you can’t make the event, then the menu will be served until 25 February.
4-25 February, 33 The Shard, 31 St Thomas St, London SE1 9RY, hutong.co.uk
Mei Ume at the Four Seasons Ten Trinity
Sleek City outpost Mei Ume is marking the start of a new year with a specially-crafted feast from head chef Tony Truong. The menu includes a suckling pig and jellyfish salad, and golden crispy five spice pigeon, while a dish of braised abalone (an Eastern seafood delicacy) will take centre stage, served with sea cucumber in oyster sauce. Complementing these unique flavours and ingredients will be Mei Ume’s decor of traditional red lanterns and Mandarin trees. If you want to go all out, a bespoke feast can be served in the private dining room inspired by the Manchu Han imperial feast, one of the grandest meals ever documented in Chinese cuisine, which included more than 100 different dishes.
1-16 February, 10 Trinity Square, London EC3N 4AJ, fourseasons.com
Bang Bang Oriental Foodhall
If you’re more food stall than fine dining, head down to Bang Bang Oriental – London’s largest Asian foodhall. As well as a plethora of Chinese dim sum, street food and noodles on offer, kicking off the evening will be traditional performances like lion dancing, hulusi flute playing and a showcase of Mongolian dance. The Money God will also be handing out red envelopes to guests, with one containing return plane tickets to Taipei, Taiwan. The place to go for a reassuringly rowdy – and potentially seriously rewarding – start to the New Year.
Performances from 7-8.30pm, 399 Edgware Rd, London NW9 0FH bangbangoriental.standard
Chinese New Year at the Science Museum’s Lates
With China’s status cemented as a global superpower, the Science Museum’s first ‘Late’ of 2019, themed around the Chinese New Year, promises to be a fascinating evening. Events include Karl Bergquist from the European Space Agency (ESA) presenting a talk on the rise of the Chinese space programme, its ongoing projects and the relationship between the ESA and China, while Brontës in China will investigate China’s long-standing affection for the works of the Brontë sisters, and the growing relationship between British and Chinese film. And, best of all, it’s totally free.
Free admission, 6.45–10pm, 30 January, sciencemuseum.org.uk
Fortnum & Mason Chinese afternoon tea
When the clock strikes 4pm on Monday 4 February – midnight in China – Fortnum & Mason will be welcoming in the Chinese New Year with a champagne cocktail and a specially curated Chinese afternoon tea. This includes a kumquat cheesecake, raspberry, lychee and coconut cake, and a jivara milk chocolate mousse. If you can’t get there for the official countdown, they’ll also be serving this menu until 13 February.
£58 per person, 4-13 February, 181 Piccadilly, St James’s, London W1A 1ER, fortnumandmason.com