Regular readers will know Hutong at the Shard is a firm favourite of mine so I was thrilled to be invited to try the restaurant’s 5th birthday menu along with fellow bloggers and Hutong fans, Binny and Emma.
The interiors at Hutong are seriously stylish and slick, inspired by Northern China with dark bamboo furnishings and red lanterns. The word Hutong actually means narrow street or alley usually associated with northern Chinese cities particularly Beijing. There’s even a Wishing Tree, a homage to the famous Lam Tsuen Wishing Trees in Hong Kong; tradition has it that you write a wish on one of the red cards during Chinese New Year and hang it to the branch.
Interiors aside your eyes will be immediately drawn to the view as Hutong is located on the 33rd floor of The Shard, London’s tallest building. We were lucky enough to have a window seat but the view is panoramic so you can see it from any seat in the house. Even the loos have a great view!
We ordered a glass of champagne each to kick off a much anticipated exciting meal, an experience we’d had in our diaries for a while and something we were very much looking forward to. The 5th birthday menu is a celebration of Hutong’s most well-loved signature dishes which have been inspired by dishes served in the imperial palaces of the former Peking. Created by Head Chef, Fei Wang, the menu includes several dishes I’ve tried before and absolutely loved. Plus the buzzy atmosphere and slick service really enhances the already fabulous food – I think nearly every seat in the house was taken.
The first dish I’d never actually tried before, it was a great starting nibble to whet your appetite though not something I’d necessarily order again. Bamboo shoots dressed with homemade chilli oil had a great flavour but I wasn’t so sure about the texture.
My favourite dish – and something I always order at a Chinese restaurant – the dim sum selection. I must have visited so many dim sum restaurants in London and I firmly believe Hutong serve some of the best. It always reminds me of our trips to Hong Kong, where dim sum was invented and the home of the original Hutong and parent company Aqua Restaurant Group. Hong Kong is actually home to a collection of restaurants owned by the group – including their boat Aqua Luna – while London is home to sister restaurants Aqua Shard, Aqua Kyoto and Aqua Nueva.
For the 5th Anniversary the chef has selected braised mushroom dumpling with black truffle, cuttlefish and shrimp dumpling with squid ink and smelt egg, steamed cod fillet dumpling with tonburi sauce and crystal prawn dumpling.
Next comes Hutong’s much-antcipated famous roast Peking duck served table side. The preparation of the duck is taken very seriously with – it’s marinaded for twenty four hours and then roasted in the restaurant’s special oven. This process ensures the perfectly crisp skin that Hutong’s duck is well -known for.
The chef carved perfect slices for our table and then the duck is served with the traditional accompaniments of homemade pancakes, cucumber and hoisin sauce. On previous visits to the Hutong I found the duck a little too fatty for my taste but this time it was seriously perfect. Funny story – I never really liked duck and pancakes before but that’s because I’d never had the good stuff. I always thought the best I’d tried in London was at Hakkasan’s more formal restaurant HKK which is now sadly closed. The best I’ve ever had was at three-Michelin star restaurant Lung King Heen in Hong Kong which is prepared and served in a similar style to Hutong.
Known as the Red Lantern, the next dish is not for the faint of heart it’s crispy soft-shell crab with Sichuan dried chilli served in this dramatic wooden bowl. Searching through the red chilli peppers is like a lucky dip as you seek out the juicy crab legs. I’ve had this dish on my previous visits to Hutong, trust me it’s one you definitely shouldn’t miss!
Hot and sour broth is one of my favourite Chinese dishes it just has that perfect yin-yang quality found in Chinese cookery – opposite forces are in actually complementary. It’s full of juicy beef fillet and hot chilli peppers make it the ideal warming dish.
The salty flavours of seafood fried rice with dried fish and ginger is the perfect pairing with the crab and beef and the wok tossed choy sum finishes the savoury quartet perfectly.
We’d had an early dinner so the evenings was only just beginning to dim, with the twinkling lights of London sparkling in our view. The fifth birthday menu finishes with the chocolate tart with mandarin sorbet and this time it’s one each as this is clearly something that no one wants to share! It’s a decadent dessert but a delicate portion and it really is just right, especially with the refreshing sorbet on the side.
Once again Hutong was absolutely sensational – it’s the perfect place for a celebratory meal and ticks every possible box. The 5th Birthday menu is available for a limited time only but all the dishes on the menu are staples at the restaurant and available all year round.