The nameHutong may be familiar to some of you. It’s the name of the Michelin Starred restaurant in Hong Kong, a much followed and well renowned staple of how times have changed and modern Chinese cooking has really become its own. With so many accolades and awards it’s no surprise they have decided to open here in the UK, in Europe’s tallest building – The Shard. Situated on level 33 this really is a fantastic view, especially during the early evening, just as the sun is setting.
We arrived a little early to take in the view and sip on some of the cocktails at the bar. If you ever find you’re not hungry and simply want just drinks, I highly recommend it – they really are some of the finest cocktails I’ve had in London. The Comfortably Numb concoction was by far my favourite.Stolichnaya vanilla vodka, fresh chilli, Szechuan pepper honey, lychee liquor and fresh lime juice. The numbing part (Szechuan pepper) was just enough to lose a little sensation from your lips and the sourness was perfectly balanced against the sweet honey. A true triumph in cocktail making.
After a couple more cocktails we made our way through to the dining room. It’s much bigger inside than I was expecting and the room was decorated beautifully. I was informed that all the furniture and accessories were sourced and brought over from China – the restaurant really does have an authentic feel to it. We didn’t really conform to the separate starters and main course, but instead filled the table to share amongst us. First out and also one of their signature dishes was the chilled spice razor clams. A pile of cold, meaty razor clams, steeped in a pool of Chinese rose wine, topped with a mixture of chopped up vegetables, garlic, onions and not to mention, chilli. The dish was very fresh and incredibly fragrant – I can see why this is one of their signature dishes.
Poached won-ton with a garlic and chilli sauce was a very good example of how a won-ton should be done.Mouth-wateringly juicy, full of taste and the minced prawns were both well-seasoned, and flavoured. The outer casing was also very delicate but held it’s only and didn’t fall apart on me. Chilli sauce was dark, rich, and full of flavour. Perhaps one of the best sauces to compliment dim sum.
The most exciting and tastiest dish for me personally, was the red lantern. Deep fried soft shell crab with Sichuan dried chillies. My first piece of advice when ordering this would be DO NOT EAT A CHILLI – they are fiercely hot. I could barely feel my mouth for the next thirty minutes – of course everyone around me thought it was hilarious. Using my chopsticks, I dived into the chilli laden basket in search for the soft shell crab. Meaty, crispy, deep-fried pieces which had taken in the intense dried chilli flavour – but none of the heat. I really did enjoy this dish.
The spicy minced pork, fried with string beans and chilli came out next. The dish wasn’t my choice but to my surprise I rather enjoyed it. The minced pork was very coarsely ground and full of flavour with quite a lot of chilli lurking between the crunchy string beans. My only complaint would be I found this dish quite oily and for the price, a little on the small side.
Any type of meat dish that has the word ‘crispy’ in has normally already won my heart. The crispy de-boned lamb ribs, spring onion, a small ball of intense garlic paste and a spring onion based sauce – I think. The lamb ribs are thrice cooked and marinated for 24 hours resulting in a very tender piece of meat, with a very crispy top. For all the effort that’s put into this dish, I was expecting to be blown away – and sadly I wasn’t. There is no doubt that this dish is cooked perfectly, but it lacked in flavour. I didn’t get much of that lovely strong lamb flavour I was hoping for, or much of its 24 hour marinade. For me this dish didn’t live up to its hype.
The shredded chicken with Sichuan, coriander and pepper dressing looked rather simple when it arrived and I felt a bit disheartened. Luckily there was far more to it than that. The chicken (brown parts) was succulent and very moist dosed in a nice, spicy Sichuan pepper dust. The dish was well seasoned and very fresh. Not a meal, but a lovely side (or mouthful).
I was really looking forward to desserts, which ended up being a real mixed bag. Red bean paste pancake – was extremely boring. A tiny, very crisp pancake filled with a less than exciting red bean paste. Oh and a sliced strawberry on the side. I took me all of five minutes to eat it. Desserts are well priced atHutong so at least I couldn’t moan about that as well.
The mango cheesecake with passion fruit cream was definitely the best dessert on our table, and it wasn’t sitting in front of me unfortunately. The flavour in the cheesecake was excellent, it really did taste of fresh mangos and the very large helping of passion fruit cream was just as good. I could have happily eaten a pot of this on its own.
A piece of crispy spaghetti!? I’m not really sure exactly, but whatever it was sat perched on top for garnish – serving absolutely no purpose.
The last of our desserts, steamed egg custard buns were again, only mediocre. It’s not that they weren’t cooked well – they were probably some of the best I have had but for me getting excited about Chinese desserts has never quite had the desired effect. Here in the UK we are just too accustomed to rich, sweet and calorie full desserts – nothing like these healthy custard buns. They were served as a plate of little white mice – very dainty.
Overall I had a lovely evening at Hutong. Good company, great view, attentive service and nice food. I haven’t dined at Hutong in Hong Kong but I know it carries a Michelin Star and unfortunately, I don’t think its little sister here in the UK is at that standard. It’s an expensive night out at Hutong – but the views are the premium. Perhaps the red lantern (soft shell crab), comfortably numb cocktail and view could be enough if you’re really desperate to make it down here (or should I say up) but there are much better Chinese restaurants in London, notably Red Pocket in Battersea.