To most Londoners, Chinatown means Gerrard Street and the surrounding area south of Soho, but Chinese sailors first settled in the early 19th Century in Limehouse. It wasn’t until the docklands area was heavily bombed in World War II that the Chinese moved towards Soho, leaving behind road names as the only reminder of their original stomping ground – Canton Street, Mandarin Street, Ming Street and more.
This brings me to Mandarin Street, a new neighbourhood restaurant in Wandsworth Town, so called to remind diners of a Chinese link to East London whilst they share small plates packed with traditional Asian ingredients. The charming décor also points you in the right direction, and puts most restaurant interiors to shame whilst it’s at it.
Chef Ni Han, who also runs the superb La Moka café in Battersea, always had her sights set on opening a restaurant. Before these solo ventures in south west London, she trained at Le Cordon Bleu and worked under Pierre Koffman, clearly to good effect. The locals have already taken to Mandarin Street, and a no reservations policy seems to be working well given their limited covers.
The menu is best approached with a team of friends. You can’t go far wrong, but I’d say that the essential dishes are the Xinjiang pulled lamb fritters (served with a delicious pickled plum sauce), Taiwanese fried chicken with kimchi mayo (because… fried chicken), and the hefty lamb cutlets smothered in dukkah and chilli bean sauce. Chuck in some Chinese broccoli and an aubergine salad and you’re away. Crucially though, you must save space for the superior desserts – deep-fried cornflake-coated vanilla ice cream in chocolate sauce, and spring roll-encased banana fritters with pecans and caramel sauce. Oh yeah.
Mandarin Street a lovely neighbourhood joint, perfect for locals and almost-locals who fancy an affordable meal full of flavours from the Far East in atmospheric surroundings.
Mandarin Street – www.mandarinstreet.co.uk
543 Old York Road, SW18 1TQ
N.B. They aren’t currently open everyday – call ahead for the latest info on 020 8870 6306
Matt The Tips : Head to The Beer Boutique down the road for brilliant beers to takeaway or drink in