Tuck into Lunar New Year specialities
An appetising access point to Lunar New Year is, of course, the cuisine. London has no shortage of world-class options, with Chinatown the epicentre of authentic, East Asian dining. It can be a minefield to navigate though, if you don't know your char siu bao from your cheung fun, so here are some suggestions.
A whole fish is a symbol of prosperity and typically forms the centrepiece of the Lunar New Year dinner. At Jin Li and Lotus Garden, you can tuck into a whole steamed seabass, seasoned traditionally with ginger and spring onions. Also considered prosperous in East Asian culture is the humble chicken, and diners at Orient London can feast on a whole emperor chicken this festive period.
According to a fondly believed legend, the more dumplings you eat during New Year celebrations, the more money you'll make that lunar year. Jiaozi dumplings, crescent-shaped savoury parcels that can be boiled or steamed, are considered especially lucky. You'll find a decent selection with a range of tasty fillings at both Jen Café and Dumplings Legend.
Further afield, Michelin Guide restaurant MiMi Mei Fair (pictured) has caught our attention again this year, with its feasting menu (13 January – 5 February) and magic tree installation – a collaboration between founder and restauranteur Samyukta Nair and luxury florist Lucy Vail. Doing away with last year's vibrant red, the tree has been decorated in the lucky colours of the Year of the Rabbit, with purple hydrangeas and blue pimpernel. Beneath the tree's hopeful branches, diners can tuck into a refined menu, with highlights including a 'basket of wealth' (in the form of dim sum); a sharing dish of wok-baked lobster; 'fortune' crispy Norfolk pork; and a dessert of 'baiju ba ba' (rum baba), served with Cantonese kumquat and green cardamom.
Cantonese-style steamed bun specialist Bun House is also marking the new year, launching a trio of limited-edition buns plus a traditional rice cake dessert, Nin Gou. The buns look the part, with one resembling a bunny with a fluffy white tail, while the dessert, made with brown sugar and coconut, is believed to bring good luck and fortune for the year ahead.