Legacy of Taste – the Oscars of the Chinese restaurant scene
While Britain still has more than its fair share of all-you-can-eat buffets and greasy takeaway joints, there's a newer wave of top-quality Chinese restaurants sweeping the nation. Regional specialisation is becoming commonplace and chefs are venturing away from the classic set menus, instead showcasing classic dishes done to perfection (dim sum or Peking duck for instance) or using authentic ingredients in new and wonderful ways.
So good has the Chinese restaurant industry become, it now has its own annual awards, the Legacy of Taste Awards that explore and celebrate the best of Chinese dining up and down the country. Nominations come from the public, with a panel of top judges tasting and scoring every one, awarding between one and three 'pagodas' to the very best – the equivalent of Michelin's stars. This year's awards saw more than 50 restaurants receive or retain those coveted pagodas, and we've selected our personal favourites from among them.
A.Wong, London (three pagodas)
For a thoroughly modern interpretation of Chinese cuisine, without losing sight of traditional flavours, A.Wong near Victoria station in London is hard to beat. The 10-course 'Taste of China' menu includes sublime interpretations of dishes from every corner of the country, from Beijing in the north to Yunnan in the south.
Royal China, Queensway branch, London (two pagodas)
The Baker Street branch has the prestige of three pagodas, but I like the original branch in Queensway best, if only for its gloriously over-the-top décor, which is heavy on black lacquer and gold foil, and feels much like walking into a mirrored jewellery box. Dim sum is what Royal China is most renowned for, with an extensive menu of featherlight dumplings and tasty nibbles (including chicken feet for the brave), but they also do one of the best Peking ducks around.
Yu & You, Blackburn (two pagodas)
This Northern town is home to one of the best Chinese restaurants outside the capital (many would argue one of the best in the country), capitalising on the quality of Lancastrian produce, in particular the celebrated Goosnargh duck, which features extensively on the menu. If the Yu family – present in both the back and front of house -– look familiar, it's because they achieved minor celebrity status back in 2010 when Gordon Ramsay named this his best Chinese restaurant, after they cooked a dish of Wagyu beef stir-fry so good even the infamously acerbic chef couldn't fault it. The good news is that dish is still on the menu today.
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