Andrew Wong

Andrew Wong

After a tour of the kitchens and restaurants of China, Andrew Wong returned to his parents' restaurant in London and transformed it into a temple of regional Chinese cuisine. He now offers diners exciting new tastes and flavours from the country, brought into a fine dining atmosphere thanks to his classical training.

Growing up, Andrew Wong would have preferred to be anywhere in the world apart from his parents’ kitchen. The majority of his childhood was spent behind the scenes of the family restaurant, Kym’s, which served up the standard Cantonese fare found at the majority of Chinese restaurants across the UK. He ‘escaped’ to Oxford University after school to study chemistry, but was kicked out after a year and a half – he then enrolled at London School of Economics to study social anthropology, planning to leave the world of hospitality behind, but the death of his father meant he returned to help out his mother with the running of the restaurant.

It was while working in the restaurant that Andrew realised there were huge connections between food and culture, and he began to take an interest in the traditional cuisine of China. He decided to enrol at Westminster Kingsway College to gain a grounding in cooking – taking evening classes while helping out in the restaurant and completing his studies at LSE at the same time – and started to think about the direction the restaurant could take. Instead of cooking the same old anglicised Cantonese dishes that could be found in every other Chinese restaurant, Andrew decided to do something different – and spent the next six years working on a concept for a place that would explore, educate and shed light on the regional cuisine of China.

The most important part of the project was Andrew’s six-month journey across China – a country bigger than the whole of Europe – to get a better understanding of just how versatile the food is. The majority of Chinese restaurants in the UK are Cantonese because only those in Hong Kong could emigrate to the UK until relatively recently, and the recent influx of Sichuanese restaurants shows how different the food can be. But what about the cuisine of Hunan, Fujian, Xinjiang, Shandong, Anhui and all the other provinces? Andrew wanted to bring these places to the attention of British diners, and worked with chefs and cooks across China to learn their recipes and techniques (which sometimes required a bribe of cigarettes or cold, hard cash).

Andrew returned to London and reopened his parents’ restaurant as A Wong in 2012. Named after his parents Albert and Annie (rather than himself), it was completely refurbished and instantly set itself apart from all other Chinese restaurants in the UK. In 2017, it was awarded a Michelin star, winning a second star in 2021. With Andrew’s vast knowledge of regional Chinese cooking techniques, he is able to offer dishes ranging from dim sum to Lanzhou’s famous hand-pulled noodles and Peking duck alongside the skills he picked up at Westminster. This means a dish of gong bao chicken might be served on a misty bed of perfumed dry ice, the finest produce is sourced for every dish and plates are presented with beautiful, artistic style.

While Andrew heads up the open kitchen at A Wong, the restaurant’s front of house staff – managed by his wife Nathalie – are just as important as the chefs. There’s a huge focus on educating diners and explaining to them where a particular dish is from, why certain flavours are present and the cooking techniques needed to create it. That’s why many of the dishes on the menu say where they are from and why many are designed to be shared; to give people the chance to taste their way around China.

In October 2018, Andrew doubled the size of his restaurant empire, opening Kym's in London's Bloomberg Arcade. Whilst A Wong is a more general odyssey around China, Kym's focuses on the ancient Chinese art of meat roasting, offering dishes like Cantonese crispy pork belly with honey mustard, slow-poached soy chicken with ginger relish and Iberico pork char sui.