A “Cha Chaan Teng” (茶餐廳) translates into “tea restaurant”, common in post-World War II Hong Kong. With the influx of Westerners and expensive European restaurants popping up to suit the Westerner’s palettes in the city, there was no affordable place for the locals to try out these new cuisines. Cha Chaan Teng’s entered the scene and solved this problem, keeping Hong Kong cooking at the heart of the dishes, but adding a western twist – Hong Kong’s take on Western food.
Cha Chaan Teng restaurant in Holborn, is a recreation of these customary tea restaurants. They’ve revamped the old style and injected it with plenty of character. As you walk in, you’re met by a lonely table, an array of paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling, and a stunning graffiti mural. Walking down the stairs, you enter a breathtaking dining area, influenced by art deco and contemporary Western art, mixed with authentic Eastern flavours. It’s London’s take on Hong Kong’s take on Western food – fusion gone wonderfully mad.
With an extensive menu, you’ll be spoilt for choice. You’ll notice many of the dishes have unusual and intriguing names, but don’t worry if you’re not sure what each dish entails, the staff are incredibly friendly and down to earth. They’ll be happy to explain anything you don’t understand.
Cha Chaan Teng embodies comfort food at it’s quirkiest, with appetisers such as the BBQ hoisin and Coca-Cola Ribs, which had such a deep and rich flavor, with meat so succulent it just fell off the bone. My favourite dish, the curried egg spring rolls, a take on Japanese Okonomiyaki, with sriracha and hoisin sauce drizzled on top, I could eat these all day long, they are delicious – the flavour reminded me of the popular Indian street food, Pani Puri, another favourite of mine, which is probably why I couldn’t stop eating these!
Bao have been trending for a while now so it’s no surprise Cha Chaan Teng have their own bao bar. For those of you that don’t know, bao are a popular Taiwanese street food, similar in concept to sliders, but made of soft, steamed, white buns and usually filled with pork, but other fillings can be used. Cha Chaan Teng offers creatively filled bao burgers, such as the crispy duck bao, sweet and sour chicken and a great vegetarian option the sweet potato rosti bao. These are yummy little snacks, however, if you’re a big fan of bao, you’ll realize that there are better options for a more authentic taste. Nevertheless, it’s still an inspired take on the dish.
Now for the mains, I’d suggest sharing these as they’re pretty hefty. After all the appetisers and bao, you may not be able to tackle a whole crispy sea bream yourself, which is what we had. It’s a very impressive, if not a little daunting plate, with an entire sea bream staring at you! It’s very easy to separate the soft and flakey meat from the bone, mix it with Cha Chaan Teng’s secret sha cha sauce, and eat with their garlic sesame rice, and this makes for a hearty and delicious meal.
We were truly stuffed at this point, but somehow allowed the staff to convince us into trying their Pandan raspberry ripple artic roll, an Asian twist on the classic British artic roll. Lovely and light, this was the perfect way to end our experience at Cha Chaan Teng.
This may not be an authentic Cha Chaan Teng you’ll find in Hong Kong, but it’s a unique and eccentric restaurant serving delicious, comforting food for reasonable prices. Oh and did I mention that students get a 10% discount!
With special thanks to our waitress Destiny and the Assistant Manager Chris who were both so welcoming and friendly!
Cha Chaan Teng, 36-38 Kingsway, London WC2B 6EY
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