Let’s face it you will have noticed the massive tower that looks as if it is from Mordor (fictional evil land from Lord of the Rings) that has risen above us all. Despite your opinion of whether it enhances the sky line or not, a lot of us are desperate to go up it and look over our city. Of course, a good way to do this, without paying a fortune for the viewing gallery, is to go one of the restaurants. Neither Oblix nor Aqua appealed to me hence off to Hutong we went.
Hutong is a restaurant that serves food from ‘Northern China’, it is from the Aqua group and shares an entrance with Aqua Shard (Aqua already has 2 restaurants in London, also with rooftop views, on Regent Street). Hutong has another branch, also with a stunning view, in Kowloon in Hong Kong which I have been to and which I enjoyed very much, although whether it deserves its star is another matter.
In any case, Hutong London has a spectacular view from the 33rd floor of the Shard, unfortunately in our case the heavens opened from the moment we left the tube station and a large mist settled over the city limiting visibly significantly. The décor is very cool in a far eastern way, with a lot of carved wood and lanterns, reminding me slightly of a Hakkasan basement 33 floors in the air. We opted to have a drink at the main bar in Hutong before we sat down- this proved to be very difficult indeed. The bar was packed and neither the waiting staff nor the bartenders were coping very well. By the time our drinks arrived we have been moved to our table and the staff had to go and find them. However, from the point we sat down at our table the service improved dramatically, being both friendly and attentive with no mistakes.
Although the menu is skewed towards spicier “Sichuanese” style cuisine, which I usually am fan of, but on this occasion we decided to get more general items so we could compare the meal with other restaurants. We ordered a dim sum platter (£15), 1/2 a roast duck (£30), Hutong specialty ‘Red Lantern’ (£28) and some fried noodles with vegetables (£10ish).
The dim sum platter was good with decent fillings and the dumplings were nicely thin. There were 8 of these: two each of 4 different types of which one was a vegetarian with mushrooms, a prawn with champagne, a pumpkin dumpling containing scallop and also a crab based one. This was some of the better Dim Sum I have had in London, although definitely not the best.
The duck was served in two portions; the first of these was the traditional setup with pancakes. The duck itself was tasty- the skin could have been slightly better but overall it was very good, again one of the better ones I have had in London. About a third of the sliced duck was served with pancakes and there was quite a lot of meat left with the skin. This was generally fine for me but one piece had too much meat on it. The rest was served pretty much skin only, this differs from, for example, Min Jiang where duck for pancakes is served with the skin and a reasonable amount of meat.
The skin only duck pieces reminded me of my first experience of properly served Peking duck. I was traveling around South East Asia on a gap year after my undergraduate degree, as was stereotypical at the time, when we decided to treat ourselves to a couple of nights in relative luxury in KL and thus stayed in a 4* hotel. We went to the Chinese restaurant in the hotel on the second night which I remember being good. As well as ordering piles of other dishes, as it seemed so relatively cheap to us Brits, we ordered a whole Peking duck. At the time we had only had Peking duck a few times before, instead having mainly been exposed to that strange UK alternative of aromatic crispy duck, so when our duck arrived at the table and the chef skillfully carved it, we started to panic when only the skin was making its way onto the platter. To our horror the rest of the duck, including all that lovely meat, disappeared! Of course we enjoyed our pancakes well enough but we were still wishing for more meat – when it arrived later in a soup with the main courses, I don’t remember being particularly impressed…
The second serving of duck was stir fried with peppers and onions and came with lettuce leaves to wrap the stir fry in. This was not bad – the duck still maintained most of it juiciness and the accompaniments helped add additional flavour. Combining the two servings of duck, both being good, all at £30 on this menu was decent value when many main courses run towards the £30 mark. Our second main course was the Red Lantern, which was soft shell crab served in a large pot with loads of Szechuan chillies in it. The dish was quite hot; however, the crab was good enough that its flavour still came through. The batter was nice and there was a good balance of crab to batter. This is one of the restaurant’s signature dishes and it tasted like it deserved to be. On the other hand, the noodles were disappointing, being quite oily and fairly tasteless. Thankfully, as we were leaving the mist had moved on and we got to fully appreciate the view.
Overall I really liked Hutong, I think it is probably comparable to the original in HK. I feel that it is very similar in many ways to Min Jiang (however, I think the dim sum is slightly better at Min Jiang; but Hutong has the edge with its view and soft shell crab (the view only slightly)). The problem is that Hutong is very expensive! Nevertheless, I will be going back in order to try some more of the spicier dishes.
Also posted to Chowhound: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/908360