Red Pocket Restaurant in Battersea is the new venture that’s just opened up in the Hotel Verta. Sitting right next to the London Helipad, with great views over the Thames, and outside seating, it’s a unique feature to rival other restaurants along the river. Sitting down for a meal and a helicopter landing right next to you, that’s pretty impressive, no? The restaurant itself has been completely revamped, now with a calm, warming atmosphere decorated with modern Chinese paintings and relics. It’s the sort of place that no matter how empty it is, it doesn’t have that cold, sparse feeling.
Head chef, Weng Kong Wong who runs kitchen has an impressive background. He’s been cooking Chinese food for the last twenty years and working for restaurants such as New Fook Lam Moon in Chinatown and the famous Hakkasan. The kitchen area has been well designed, with an army of chefs, each working at their separate stations. From dim sum making, to barbecue, everyone has their own role in ensuring the perfection of the dishes that arrive on the table.
After a warm welcome and an aperitif I sat down and was given a full rundown of what this restaurant wants to be and where it wants to be in the future. They’re not planning to be the next big restaurant in Battersea with a no queues policy or the next flash photography centre for bloggers. But a fine dining institution, with a smart yet casual approach to formal eating, and it worked, I felt very relaxed. The food has that same feeling too. An air of glamour and precision, but it’s still all about the food, nothing pretentious.
Dining from the set menu we started with a very large helping of dim sum (which is the same dish they serve with a high tea). Now I find it hard to describe what I felt about this dish, but pure indulgence would definitely come high up in the sentence. It was some of the finest examples of dim sum I have had. What I did notice, about all the food, is its slight western tendencies and it’s something which really works for all of the dishes here. So much thought has gone into each item. Included in the dim sum platter was har gau, filled with meaty pieces of shrimps and packed lots of flavour. A slight take on shu mai, but here topped with a melt-in-your-mouth sliver of scallop. The well-known chive dumplings were fragrant and juicy, while the shimeji dumpling (shimeji being a type of mushroom) was new to me it was probably my favourite. I had no idea how much food was arriving at my table, so I held back and left two dim sum pieces, something which I now regret. All natural colours have been used in making these which gave them such vibrancy on the plate. The two crispy spring roll sticks were a lovely addition to this dish. I should also note that all the sauces they serve are made from scratch on site and the chilli sauce, I only wish came in bottle form.
I’ve never really taken to Chinese soups. Normally they are thin, bland and constitute of either chicken or sweet corn. I must admit, I have always been curious to the taste of shark fin soup, just to know what all the fuss is about. I was informed that the soup I was about to eat, is the closest I would get to it. Supreme dried seafood soup. Yes I know, it doesn’t sound too appealing, but it was delicious. There was so much flavour and I’m not surprised considering it takes days to prepare. Using the dried seafood instead of fresh in something like this is what gives it the flavour. That and the morel mushroom, scallops and fish maw (I won’t explain, just in case you’re eating).
Wok fried beef fillet in a red wine and onion sauce, pouring out of the plate from a sort of crispy noodle basket was presented beautifully. It tastes surprisingly more Chinese then it sounds, all of the dishes do. The beef was very tender – full of flavour, while the sauce was rich and intense. The pepper wasn’t hot, but it was the main focus of the dish, the slightly sweet red wine sauce worked in perfect harmony with it all. If I had been alone at my table eating this I would have been a bit of an animal and devoured it all.
The accompanying side of Singapore noodles, which are normally extremely yellow form curry powder and full of taste, instead they still had a little translucency and subtle flavour. It was refreshing to have them this way, as instead of being the focus of a meal, they were to only compliment the rest of our meal and I think were my favourite example I’ve had.
The rice was another great item. Not only was it perfectly cooked (friend rice is the best) but it was also filled with soft pieces of scallops, spring onion, egg and caviar, now that’s not your everyday rice! My only comment negative on the rice would be that they arrived a little cold to the table. Other than that, it was very good.
Hopefully I’ll be able to pull this review out in fewer than two A4 pages, but it’s hard, I have so much to say. Now this dish was special. Grilled Chilean sea bass in a honey sauce. I have never had Chilean sea bass, and I can’t quite remember how they told me it was cooked, but it was incredible. Never have I eaten a fish which quite literally melts in your mouth like a perfectly cooked scallop. Even the skin was as soft. It was sweet, juicy, and fragrant with a light crispness to the edges. The deep fried goodness on top, which although went well, didn’t have too much going for it flavour wise. It was more about the textures that worked between the two. If you make it here, please order this dish, you will not be disappointed.
Yet again, another good dish, and I’m getting extremely hungry while writing this and looking at the photos at the same time. Next we had PI PA duck. The name is taken from the Chinese pear shaped pipa lute instrument, which is kind of what the duck looks like once spread out over the Chef’s kitchen table. It’s then dry seasoned and roasted. Something Hakkasan do very well I have heard. Unfortunately I can’t compare it to that but it was fantastic. I preferred it to peeking style, the roasting process just give it that extra dimension. Juicy and soft with a sweet flavoursome skin. The chef has definitely taken a lot of his inspiration from Hakkasan.
The mixed vegetable in Szechuan sauce would normally be a side dish in any other Chinese restaurant – here it comes into its own dish, oozing flavour. The Szechuan pepper is the key to this dish, giving it a strong hit of flavour and a touch of spice. All the vegetables were cooked well, and the strips of slightly crispy, moist tofu were a nice, unexpected addition.
With desserts, Red Pocket has decided to go down the safer route, then down the traditional Chinese one. Instead a large portion (and I had the tasting size) of chocolate mousse. It was perhaps the best chocolate mousse I have ever experienced. Light and airy with a soft, velvety chocolate flavour and a sweet buttery taste. It was lovely, especially paired with a sweet sauternes we drunk.
My overall experience at Red Pocket was definitely an unexpected one. It’s slightly out of the way location and based in a hotel, I wasn’t expecting a lot, but I was blown away. Although the food is very similar to Hakkasan, the chef must be extremely talented to cook food that rivals it. The watching wines throughout the meal were good, and well chosen. But maybe given the clientele, they may want to drop a few more prestigious names in to the wine list. Food this good deserves something special.