I may call myself The Foodaholic, but it’s still surprising the things I haven’t eaten. Most notably two things in particular too, though don’t tell anyone! Ramen (I know) and a Hot Pot. Two things that have and are still taking London by storm and I’m way behind with keeping up with trends. It’s almost now got to the point where I thought I’d given up trying both, until I ended up experiencing my first hot-pot in Soho.
The brand Hot Pot is already huge in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia – with this being their first venture into London. The philosophy behind it is all about bringing together people of all ages, over a fun meal that allows family and friends to gather around a pot and create, celebrate and socialise with food and drink in mind. Before we got into any cooking we started with a cheeky margarita – for research proposes of course (and it was pretty good).
While the new Hot Pot Restaurant in Soho focuses on that giant pot in the centre of the table, their menu is still rather extensive, filled with appetizers galore and even grilled main courses. We ordered a few to get a real sense of the restaurant, but also the quality. By far my favourite was a good old classic, salt & pepper squid. Crunchy, salty and really well cooked with loads of flavour. BBQ lamb on sticks were also good. Succulent and rich in flavour, falling off the skewers with ease.
Prawn and chive dim sum dumplings were nice too. Perhaps not the best I’ve ever tried, but suitably good enough to accompany a meal. They just needed to be a little more plum is all.
And then the hot-pot arrived! We realised then we’d got a little enthusiastic on the small plates as the dishes for the pot seemed to consistently arrive so word of warning – don’t order everything at once. Instead do it bit by bit and take it slowly as there’s absolutely no need to rush. Before you start you still have to decide on your broth, or split it down the middle like we did. A rich and earthy longevity mushroom broth and the newest addition the menu – nourishing Thai coconut green curry. Both delicious.
If I had to pick my favourite ingredients for the hot-pot it would have to be the seafood. Fresh tiger prawns and a generous helping of scallops in particular. Seafood just seems to really soak up much more flavour and you can cook it to the perfect juiciness. Providing you don’t lose the scallops in the bottom of the broth like we did! Don’t forget to visit the sauce and dip station and get a little carried away because some of the dips are outstanding.
One dish I found very unusual were these beef balls pictured above, though apparently they’re a staple in hot-pot cooking. Essentially they’re not too dissimilar to a meatball, but for me I couldn’t quite get much from them apart from being very filling.
On the flip side, the chunks of meat are what really make Hot Pot Restaurant stand out. From regular cuts of beef tenderloin, right through to succulent and marbled slices of wagyu. We loved everything meaty we tried, but discovered you need an almost trial run to get the cooking times right. My advice is to pop a couple of small cuts in first and realise how long it needs. We cut the recommended cooking time almost in half and got our meat perfectly tender, still taking all the flavour from the hot-pot. The marinated pork was pretty good too.
A dish I really loved came from the restaurants a la carte set combo menu selection. A small plate full of juicy roasted duck and honey barbecue pork. Presentation wise it could have had a little more care, but it was so succulent and crispy we didn’t care.
We finished up on a very calorific, but delicious Japanese style pancake, packed with warm banana, sesame, drizzled with syrup and served with a side of ice cream. A lovely way to end our lovely long lunch.
I had a lovely time at Hot Pot and really felt like I’d ticked this convivial way of dining finally off my list. I’m not entirely sure if it’s actually the sort of type of dining I’d always choose myself for a romantic dinner with the other half, but with friends and a few too many cocktails – it’s the perfect excuse because I know we’ll have lots of fun.
NB: My meal was complimentary. All views are as always, my own. My views are not influenced by anyone other than my own palate and slightly poor eyesight.