Aug 2 2013

Hutong

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Hutong is a Chinese restaurant located on the 33rd floor in the Shard, the tallest building in Europe. Hutong serves Northern Chinese food and there is a restaurant with the same name also in Hong Kong. I have been to Hutong twice now and I enjoyed my first meal more than I enjoyed the second, after my first visit I was going to give Hutong 4.5Ms but after the second visit this has dropped to 4Ms. I will describe more my first visit but I have also added commentary and pictures of the dishes I ordered during my second time there.

The first time I went to Hutong was for lunch and I had booked a table for 12.00, and the three of us arrived a few minutes before 12 and I was surprised to see that the Shard was not yet open, and there were many people waiting outside or in the lobby for 12 o’clock when they could finally use the elevator and go upstairs. In my view it is a bit strange to not let people in, into the building if you arrive before 12.

First we took the elevator to the 32nd floor where Oblix and Aqua Shard restaurants are located and then you could either take another elevator one floor up to Hutong, or take the stairs, which is what we did, and the view of London that you can see when you are walking up the stairs is wonderful.

Hutong is beautifully decorated in Old Beijing style with various red accessories and red lanterns scattered around the room. Many people have commented how uncomfortable the chairs are in which you sit, including my lunch buddy Ed, but I actually found them to be ok, but they are not your average chair. The view from our table was of east/ west London, and it was wonderful to have your meal whilst having this view, it makes the dinner that extra bit special.

I had read a few reviews of this place before I went there, and so I knew a few of their signature dishes, but even if you have not read about them before, their signature dishes are clearly marked in the menu. First we decided to order some dim sum, which Ed chose, and the waiter first brought us “rose champagne shrimp dumplings”, which were beautiful and light pink, which I very much enjoyed although I could not really taste the champagne, but which Ed did not think were that great. Afterwards we had fried lamb dumplings and the “Shanghai style xiao long bao” which are the Shanghai pork dumplings with soup inside and you have to be careful not to break them and spill the soup. The soup dumplings were delicious, served with some typical vinegar, even though I was careless and spilt the soup of my one. The lamp dumplings were delicious as well. Overall I very much enjoyed the dim sum and though it was very good.

Next we ordered a Peking duck, which is not cheap and a whole one costs £58 and we ordered half of one for £30. We had seen these ducks hanging in a glass room next to the main dining room, and they looked very tempting. A chef came out and carved it in front of us (just like in the restaurant Min Jiang) and then put the duck on a very natural plate made out of wood and leaves, which I thought was a great traditional touch. The duck was excellent, and served with some pancakes, which were unusual as they were heavier than your average pancake, and definitely felt like they were made in the restaurant, which you can’t fell in restaurants like Royal China. You ate the duck and pancakes with some cucumbers and spring onions and a sauce (it was not hoisin sauce, Ed had mentioned hoisin sauce and the waiter said they never serve hoisin sauce and this is their home made sauce made out of black beans and some other ingredients that I can’t remember). The duck in pancakes was excellent, very delicious, and one of the top ducks in London. It did not have an interesting element to it like the duck in Min Jiang, which is also served with their own modern condiments and a different sauce to make it more authentic to Min Jiang, but it was excellent nevertheless.

Our next order was another one of Hutong’s signature dishes, called Red Lantern, which had crispy soft shell crab with Sichuan dried chilli, and it was impressively served in a huge pot full of red dried chillies, which the waitress explained were very hot, and which I did not taste. The soft shell crab was delicious, spicy but lovely. Next we got the second serving of the duck we had ordered which was minced and served with lettuce (in Min Jiang you can chose from a variety of things you can do with your duck as a second dish, but here you can only have this minced duck dish, so have no choice). I thought it was tasty, but not the best dish we had. We also ordered some spicy fried rice, which was served with fennel seeds and which was incredibly delicious, such a nice interesting take on fried rice. The vegetables that we had with our meal were a dish of kale with ginger, and then a lotus root dish, which both Ed and Simon really liked and thought this was one of the best dishes at Hutong. Simon also wanted to order a lamb dish, but they said they did not have that so he ordered slow cooked beef which was served next to its big bone that it had fallen off, and Simon and Ed did not really like it too much as they thought it was too dry, and I also thought it was not that great and not that tasty. Another slight disappointment was a vegetarian hot and sour soup, which was incredibly spicy, so spicy I almost could not eat it, it was delicious, the vegetables were perfectly cut and the right ones and all the other elements were there, but unfortunate it was so spicy you could not fully enjoy.

During my second visit I also had the Red Lantern dish as well as the duck, but somehow I did not think the duck was as good as it was during my first viist. We also ordered a dim sum platter, which featured the pink champagne dim sum and also had scallop and vegetable dim sum and all of this was great. We also ordered two more of their signature dishes, lamb and Dan Dan noodles and the lamb was tasty, but not too memorable, and the Dan Dan noodles were ok. Another dish that I had during this visit that I had had before were the lotus root, and this time they had made it so spicy it was almost inedible, just like the hot and sour soup had been last time. This makes me think they are just a bit too casual with their chilli and overdo this on some dishes, which is not ok, and a great Chinese restaurant should be consistent in the flavours they produce.

The main reason why I like Hutong though is because it felt different to your average Chinese restaurant in London. Maybe it is the North Chinese influence in the food, but everything felt just a tiny bit more interesting, the view, the furniture, the dishes, like the Red Lantern dish which you have not seen before. There were a few mistakes on both of my visits, and maybe I went there too early after it has opened and they may fix these and the food becomes consistently good, nevertheless, I still very much enjoyed both of my meals.

Date: 02/ 08/ 13
Location: London Bridge
Price for 3 people with alcohol and service charge: £270

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4.00

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Hutong
Level 33 The Shard, 31 St Thomas Street, SE1 9RY
London
United Kingdom
GB
Hutong Reviewed by Hungry Bee Maija on . Rating: 4