The lowdown: Chinese New Year

By Georgia Bronte contact

- Last updated on GMT

The lowdown: Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year kicks off this weekend, and with celebrations lasting as long as 15 days, it’s no surprise that the hospitality industry is getting in on the action.

Chinese New Year? I thought that was in January…
Well, sometimes it is. The annual festival is based on the lunar calendar (which is why it’s sometimes called the Lunar New Year), so it falls on a different date each year.

Erm, yeah- that’s why I forgot. If only I could use the same excuse for Valentine’s Day…
You’d be hard pushed to forget Chinese New Year in London- restaurants have been gearing up towards it for months with special menus, shows and feasts being held throughout February. You might notice that there are a lot of dog-themed activities on, which is because this year is the Chinese zodiac year of the dog. Opium, Soho townhouse-turned-drinking den, is hosting a zodiac themed cocktail menu throughout the month, and the ‘Dog’ drink is made with Scotch whisky, noisette, biscuit syrup and chocolate bitters.

lantern artist 2018.01-2218.full resolution
It's lit: lantern artists have been commissioned to design installations at Yauatcha's London restaurants

Doesn’t sound very Chinese to me…
Maybe not, but other places have got it covered. High end oriental operators, like Michelin-starred Cantonese spot Hakkasan, and relatively new (but already much-revered) XU, are putting on special set menus for the occasion. The former offering a menu of limited edition dishes for £88, that come with Chinese New Year ribbons for diners to write their wishes on after eating, and the latter offering a £45 and a £65 set menu.

Is there anything a bit cheaper? 2017 was a year of bad fortune for a lot of people …
If you’re lucky and you’ve got any Chinese relatives, you might be given a traditional Chinese “red envelope”. And no, we’re not talking about electricity bills. These ones come stuffed with “lucky money”- although nowadays relatives tend to use red envelope apps instead. If not, Masterchef winner and executive chef of Chi Kitchen Ping Coombes is holding a celebration lunch on Sunday to honour the year of the dog. Her three course set menu is priced at £35, and the dishes are designed to bring prosperity and good luck to those who eat them.

What about some more casual options?
Hot dog and bubbles restaurant Bubbledogs has created a Chinese inspired hot dog, topped with Taiwanese minced pork, shiitake mushrooms, pickled radish and coriander, for those who don’t want the full Chinese feast experience. Even more casual still, Soho’s hipster crisps bar Hipchips has come up with a selection of Chinese New Year inspired dips including plum, ginger and spring onion, and lychee pudding. Those guys really do have a dip for every occasion.

Are there any Chinese desserts going?
Well, if you can handle the queue, Hong Kong waffle restaurant Bubblewrap (which almost broke Instagram when it released its black bubble waffle earlier this year) is putting on three special menu items to celebrate the New Year. Black sesame gelato with matcha cream and strawberry mochi not only looks set to repeat its Instagram feat, but is also more Chinese-related than it looks. Black sesame desserts are particularly popular in China during Chinese New Year, the matcha cream is used in honour of China’s tea culture, and the red strawberry mocha represents the Chinese lucky colour of good fortune.

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