The Chinese New Year celebrations held annually in London are the biggest of their kind outside Asia, so what better great excuse to explore the buzzing area of Chinatown just a few steps from your Amba Hotel Charing Cross while having a whole new kind of knees-up?
The 2015 party will get started with a parade down Shaftesbury Avenue, complete with dancing lions, dragons, thousands of people with lucky red envelopes floating about and all manner of unimaginably delicious snacks to try. The festivities will be taking place this year from the 19th of February, with the grand finale on the main stage in Trafalgar Square on the 22nd. Holby City’s Jing Lusi will be hosting what promises to be a colourful, noisy, fanfare. For proper sit-down dining options, it’s wise to book quite well in advance as restaurants will be filling up fast.
As the dancing lions pass through the streets they bestow good luck and fortune on the houses and their inhabitants, with the racket from the drums, gongs and singing intended to scare off evil spirits. London’s Parade will begin in Charing Cross at 10am and end up in Trafalgar Square around 5pm, where local artists as well as performers from China will be providing free entertainment throughout the day.
On Saturday 21st, the National Maritime Museum will also be showcasing British East Asian heritage with a range of workshops, dances and lessons in the historical importance of Chinese New Year and its continuing traditions at home. Visitors can discover the trajectory of maritime trade between China and Great Britain and the ways in which this helped to increase cultural ties between the two nations - including of course the introduction of tea-drinking and consequent change in the course of history. Over at the National Gallery, the action will be focussed on children’s entertainment and bestowing the art of puppetry, stories and Mandarin nursery rhymes on kids of all ages. There will be opportunities to learn how to play traditional instruments, make masks and even take a magic carpet ride!
Food is a major part of the fun, so make sure you reserve a spot at one of Chinatown’s famous eateries, such as the Michelin-starred HKK, which will be putting on a special, extensive New Year Menu. Featuring a 10 course tasting menu, this is not one for the constrained of stomach: “ A Journey Through China” will take inspiration and flavours from all corners of the country, from Szechuan scampi to Wagyu beef and costs £98 per person. For celebratory Dim Sum, you could certainly do worse than the upmarket, avant-garde version dished up at Bo Lang. From truffle shavings to blackberry reductions, this is Chinese comfort food with a Chelsea twist.
Dim Sum Master Kai Wang will keep you gasping with surprise and delight with his creations, and a vast array of unusual teas can be served either hot or iced, as well as some irresistible macaroons, Oriental-style.
Once the feasting has been put on pause and if you need some respite from the frantic fun outside, head over to Cecil's near London Bridge for an exotic, candlelit, full-bodied Chinese cocktail experience. The underground locale often hosts musicians and bands for live acts in addition to the beautifully suited and booted clientele, so this provides an elegant way to round off a day of marvellous mayhem.
Thankfully your super comfy beds and welcoming staff at Amba Hotel Charing Cross will be on hand to welcome you back for a well-earned rest after all the revelry - Gong Hey Fat Choy everyone!