Wong Kei (Chinese: 旺記; pinyin: wàng jì; Jyutping: wong6 gei4) is a Chinese restaurant in London's Chinatown, once famously considered "the rudest restaurant in London". It was one of the largest Chinese restaurants in the UK with seating for around 500 diners.
Wong Kei was once famous for the rudeness of its staff, who would shout "Sit down with them!" or "Go upstairs!" to arriving patrons, insult customers who asked for a knife and fork, and chase diners who failed to leave a sufficient tip. This aspect was seen as a positive and enjoyable feature rather than a criticism of the restaurant. The restaurant intends to change this staff behaviour when it re-opens under new management in March, with new owner Daniel Luc saying "Maybe there was an issue with rude staff 20 to 30 years ago, but I don't think so any more. I don't know whether that's a good thing or not."
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Wong Kei is situated at 41–43 Wardour Street, in a building previously owned by Willy Clarkson (1861–1934), a famous theatrical wig maker and costumier, as attested by the 1966 blue plaque on the façade. The building was designed by the architect H. M. Wakeley, and Sarah Bernhardt laid the foundation stone of the present building in 1904 and Sir Henry Irving the coping stone in 1905. Clarkson's occupied the premises from 1905 until 1940.
"The building contains four storeys and a garret. The front, with a width of three broad windows, is designed in a style combining Baroque and art nouveau forms, realised in brick and green stone with buff stone dressings. The doorway is centred between display windows, and at either end of the ground floor an Ionic pilaster with garlanded capital supports a great bracket-stop upon which stands a large urn with a tall conical top."
"The outer windows of the three floors above are in canted bays faced with green stone and contained in tall recesses, three storeys high, with stone surrounds finished with segmental pediments broken to receive small iron-railed balconies serving a pedimented dormer behind, and beneath each balcony is a large foliated cartouche."
"On either side of the flat-headed central first-floor window is a cartouche, one inscribed 'Estb. 1833', the other 'Rebt. 1904'. From the centre of the second floor is suspended on wrought-iron brackets a double faced clock inscribed 'Costumier Perruquier' on both sides. On either side of the door metal plaques record the visits of Bernhardt and Irving mentioned above."
In 1972, another Chinese restaurant, called Lee Ho Fook occupied the ground floor of the building.
- Williams, Zoe (24 February 2014). "Goodbye to the rudest restaurant in London - Wong Kei is finally ditching the bad attitude". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 February 2014.
- "London's 'rudest restaurant' to get friendly revamp". AOL Travel. 24 February 2014. Retrieved 24 February 2014.
- Hao, Lu (29 September 2011). "Wong Kei - Leicester Square W1D - Restaurant Review - Time Out London". Timeout.com.
- [dead link]
- "Rupert Street Area | Survey of London: volumes 31 and 32 (pp. 111-115)". British-history.ac.uk.