Every time that I’ve written about Hutong at the Shard, I’ve always started off with the amazing views of the London skyline, and actually, that isn’t fair. There are so many restaurants that bank so much on their views that they let their menu quality slip, but Hutong (part of the Aqua group) isn’t like that.
Disclaimer: We were invited guests of Hutong at the Shard,
but my palette and misuse of ancient Chinese proverbs are all very much my own.
I feel like I’ve said it before: breathtaking London views, incredible flavours from Northern China, elegantly arrayed surrounds and a beautiful Wishing Tree – every branch perpetually hung with lucky red wishing cards.
We were celebrating Hutong’s 5th birthday with a tasting menu of signature dishes, covering Northern China with a special emphasis on the Schihuan province – all overlooking the London skyline.
The menu includes a mouthwatering selection of my personal Hutong favourites (it’s like they read my mind); steaming dim sum, freshly carved duck, mouthwatering crab and classic glasses of champagne to enjoy it with.
All under the branches of a traditional wishing tree.
Our feast began with the soft pop of a cork, the gentle splash of bubbles in our glasses and intriguing slivers of Bamboo shoots dressed with homemade chilli oil.
Then, we Dim Sum-ed. (That should definitely become a real verb.)
Dim in English means ” TOUCH”, Sum in English means ” HEART” thus; Dim Sum translates to ” touch the heart”, a dining experience shared by friends, family and good Chinese style delicacies/pastries/sweets/appetizers/finger foods.
We were presented with individual steaming baskets of heaven, each containing a Cuttlefish and shrimp dumpling with squid ink and smelt egg, steamed cod fillet dumpling with Tonburi , an XO sauce crystal prawn dumpling and a braised mushroom dumpling with black truffle – and I can’t actually pick just one favourite.
Vegetarians, avert your eyes.
Hand carved tableside with a skilful flash of knives, their classic roast Peking duck – marinaded for twenty-four hours and then roasted in the restaurant’s special oven – was beautifully tender and counterpointed with mouthwateringly crisp skin.
Delectably pink, and served with steaming pancakes, cucumber slivers, spring onion matchsticks and rich hoisin sauce, we danced a polite two-step, sharing our plates in a communal harmony with a touch of ‘no, no, I insist’ right at the end.
Well, communal until we forced Binny into enjoying the last sliver of duck – what else are friends for?
For our main course, Angie and I switched gear to a lovely New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, which paired gorgeously with everything (I think I grandly even said it went beautifully with sunset) as the rest of our feast appeared. Binny couldn’t resist any longer, and ordered a classic mojito that looked delicious.
We dug eagerly into between the whole dried chillis in search of the Red Lantern crispy soft-shell crab with Sichuan dried chilli (which had the perfect combination of textures and subtle fire), dipped hungrily into the tender beef fillet in a hot and sour broth, nibbled delicately at spoonfuls of seafood fried rice with dried salted fish and ginger and daintily enjoyed the Wok tossed choy sum which provided a gorgeous crunch counterpoint.
^ I’m not sure why that image turned out so orange ^
But, back to that view. I mean it’s not too bad is it?
As the sun dipped, we progressed towards dessert – an amazing chocolate tart (similar to an old favourite I used to get from a French patisserie in Borough Market) with a mandarin sorbet (which I switched out to a coconut ice cream because I personally just don’t get on with mandarin & grapefruit.)
The sky deepened, as did the conversation around the table.
But, if I’m being completely honest, I switched out a little as I watched London come to neon life; watching the boats tootle up the river, the buses pass along the bridges and the current softly shimmering away.
So, to summarise, Confucius said it best when he spoke about music – at the commencement of the piece, all the parts should sound together. As it proceeds, they should be in harmony while severally distinct and flowing without break, and thus on to the conclusion.
It was like he sat at our Hutong table with us. Happy Birthday, Hutong! Cheers to many more.
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