Think of London’s Hippodrome, and what comes to mind? The high-rolling casino, the super-central Leicester Square location or the home to Magic Mike Live? Soon there’ll be a new association to add to the mix: an under-the-radar yet totally authentic spot for some seriously good Cantonese food.
I went along on a Friday evening to visit the latest opening by the renowned Chinese restaurant group Four Seasons: Chop Chop at The Hippodrome Casino. Located smack bang in the centre of Leicester Square, this hidden gem is on this iconic landmark’s lower ground floor, tucked away from the bright lights of the casino and sports bar. I’d heard good things about the roast duck, ‘the best in the world’ according to the Financial Times – so we entered with huge appetites and high expectations.
The modern decor has a kitsch nod to the ‘60s with its mix of high counter seating and more intimate booths. We were seated at a booth illuminated by some atmospheric koi fish lighting, and sat ready to pore over the menu with a delicious lychee cocktail.
Resisting the urge to say ‘one of everything, please’, we settled on the salt and pepper squid, followed by a selection of dim sum to start. I’m often nervous ordering squid as there’s nothing more disappointing than discovering it’s been overcooked, but my fears dissipated at first bite: it was tender and cooked just soin a light batter and flavoured with garlic, chilli and ginger.
Next came the dim sum served in a traditional bamboo steamer, which looks the part as the lid lifts and the steam billows out. We had pork buns – so sticky and satisfyingly bouncy – and a mix of minced pork, prawn and shiitake mushroom and water chestnut dumplings. These were small yet mighty, and disappeared rather quickly.
We couldn’t visit without sampling the divine roast duck, which we ordered alongside some kai lan, which is a glossy Chinese broccoli cooked al dente and served with oyster sauce. The duck was juicy, tender and incredibly tasty, with an aromatic twang that’s down to the restaurant’s secret marinade recipe. The duck is fired in a specially built roasting furnace that distributes the heat evenly around the duck resulting in that moorish crispy skin.
And because we couldn’t visit without some noodles, we ordered the huge prawns stir-fried in black bean sauce and accompanied by some crispy egg noodles. The prawns were another big hit and again, juicy and masterfully cooked. This was more than enough to share, so we piled our plates high making sure to leave just enough room for dessert.
Chop Chop by name, chop chop by nature: the service here is efficient, friendly and you can take your time over a leisurely few courses or be in-and-out quickly if you’re heading to the theatre afterwards. They even have a musical robot that does laps between the restaurant and kitchen collecting the finished plates and serving dishes. Who knew?
The desserts were all of the ice cream-on-a-stick variety, which is a refreshing and quirky way to end the meal, giving you the option to take them to-go. We had the white rabbit stick and the coconut-based taro stick, which is dairy-free and perfect for ending a great meal on a sweet note.
To drink? I recommend starting with a sweet and aromatic cocktail from the bar’s menu to complement the food, but there’s also wine or a selection of Chinese beers and oolong, jasmine or chrysanthemum tea if you want to keep things truly authentic.
Opening at 6 pm and closing at 4 am, Chop Chop at The Hippodrome Casino is at your service for a quick pre-theatre dinner, an ‘I know this little place’ date night or for later in the evening once the cravings strike. Trust us, just don’t forget to order the duck.
Chop Chop at The Hippodrome
Cranbourn Street, Leicester Square, London WC2H 7JH