Sunday, 18 May 2014

Hutong (Shard)

David Yeo (the genius behind Aqua Group) has had his fair share of hostility by the English Media when expanding his Aqua brand in London. The successes of his restaurants which he had experienced in Hong Kong, was definitely the complete opposite of what he experienced when opening Aqua Kyoto, Neuva, Spirit in Regents Street. However, credit to this man whom having been plagued by obstacles when coming to London, has shown his fighting spirit as he is now arguably considered one of the titans amongst the fine dining restauranteurs in London. Hutong in Hong Kong has been quite a success since its opening in 2004, and has recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. It is located in 1 Peking Road and it overlooks the Victoria Harbour and the Island side's skyline.
However, most of London's skyscraper buildings are used for offices rather than bars and restaurants. Until 2011, when the Heron Tower completed its construction the Samba Brands Management closed in and sealed deals that would allow their "Sushi Samba" and "Duck & Waffle" to expand into London having gained extreme success in the US. The Shard's opening in July 2012 allowed the Becker-Waney Group to jump on board the rooftop restaurant bandwagon as they opened up "Oblix". Yeo seized this opportunity to open two restaurants - "Aquashard" and "Hutong".

Hutong's interior is an exact carbon copy of the Hutong in Hong Kong; as soon as you walk up the last staircase, it is made clear that the top floor is occupied by this restaurant. Tables are arranged on both sides, with a two bar areas. The restaurant is quite dimly lit, with red Chinese lanterns arranged  illuminating the place. The predominant material used for the floors and the walls was stone. You can make out carvings on every other tile and the markings on the walls and doors of the bathroom. It made me think that once a upon a time, these carvings were used within the walls of an Ancient Chinese palace. The absolutely gorgeous skyline of London that can be seen as the background of this restaurant made me think that the interior need not be so sophisticated. This is because the view of all the major architectural structures of London can be seen, from The London Eye to the Gherkin.

We went started off at the bar as our table was not yet ready, and it was quite cool to find a cocktail menu where it tells you what Chinese health benefits each cocktail contains. The title of that page was called "Cocktail Cures".

Once we headed to our table, and sat down the first thing I noticed was the really uncomfortable chairs, made out of wood (I think). Our table itself was very small and barely fit 5 people, let alone the dishes that came.
We started off with the dim sum platter, which contained the rose champagne dumpling; this were shrimp dumplings which had no taste whatsoever of any alcohol and were very tender. The "Scallop And Pumpkin Dumpling" was also quite tasty but being a huge fan of crab, I found the "Crystal Crab Meat Dumpling" the best. Crab meat in dim sum is always hard to find in London, as most dim sum places always choose every other meat except this delight. It was too bad that this dish was only served in the dim sum platter and not on its own in the menu as I would have ordered more.

Next was the roasted peking duck, the price of a whole duck was £58 which is quite ridiculous as this in itself allowed the 5 people in our table to have literally two pieces each before it was finished. The quantity of pancake rolls along with the cut celery and cucumber was also quite small. However, the taste of the duck was very soft and succulent. The juices of the fat and the flavouring mixed together very well as I took a bite.

The "Sichuan Peppered Cuttlefish" came under a bed of sliced cucumbers, I have to admit that I do enjoy fish; but I underestimated how "fishy" this fish was in terms of smell and taste. If I am not mistaken it was served raw, and the chilli sauce on the cuttlefish was probably the same chilli sauce we had on our table! I think Hutong could've added a better combination of spice flavouring to this dish. But for those people who don't mind the concentrated "fishiness factor" of raw fish, I this dish would be worth a try, vice-virsa.

For the main course, we ordered the "MonkFish Fillet braised with Chinkiang Vinegar and Homemade Pickled Chilli". This dish was very flavoursome, and had a lot of tumeric and spice. The vegetables on top also added to the multiple flavours. The skin of the fish was deep fried, whereas the meat wasn't.  

The "Fried Prawns with Salted Egg Yolk and Crab Roe Sauce" was absolutely mouth-watering. The egg yolk helped bind together the Crab Roe Sauce and the prawns. This dish was very sticky, but this along with the noodles was a perfect combination for the main course.

 The "Hutong Dan Dan Noodle" was the star dish of the night, I am a huge fan of noodles and the minced pork mixed in the peanut sauce was the perfect flavouring for this dish. It was spiced up with chilli meaning here was no need to add any extra chilli sauce to this dish. The funny thing is, that this dish was the cheapest of the night.

For dessert I ordered the "Blueberry Cheesecake", this dish was a fitting end to a very filling dinner! I liked the way they mixed the blueberry in the actual cheese layer of the cake; usually when I order blueberry cheesecake from a cafe/restaurant, they always put blueberry sauce at the top, then the white cheese layer, then the breadcrumbs, but i've always wondered why they never infuse the cheese layer with the blueberries.

The Verdict

Ambience - 9/10
Food - 6/10
Service - 5/10

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