Hutong London

Level 33, The Shard, 31 St Thomas Street, London, SE1 9RY, United Kingdom

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Hutong London, located on the 33rd floor of The Shard, is the younger sister of the well-established Hutong in Hong Kong. It opened on 26th June 2013, and can be accessed from the base of The Shard via dedicated lift that also serves Oblix and Aqua Shard.

The décor is reminiscent of the Hong Kong original, with plenty of dark wood, though none of the birdcages characteristic of the Hong Kong venue were in evidence here. The restaurant has a magnificent view over London from its perch in Europe’s tallest building. There is a bar on the east side of the building and a separate dining room, seating 130, on the west side of The Shard. It has smart-looking but remarkably uncomfortable chairs, though I gather that cushions are on order, which should help. There is an open kitchen at one end of the dining room, with ducks hanging up. A hutong, incidentally, is one of the original narrow streets in Beijing; you can do tours of surviving hutongs if visiting the city, but they are rapidly disappearing in the frantic redevelopment of that city. The restaurant is part of the large Aqua group, set up in 2000, and which at the time of writing had 23 restaurants.

The cuisine is that of northern China rather than the Cantonese dishes that most London Chinese restaurants serve. Starters ranged from £8 to £15, main courses £24 to £30, with desserts £5.50 to £6.50. Some dishes are in common with the original Hutong, such as “Red Lantern” (£28), a dish of deep-fried soft shell crab served in a basket of red chillies. Others are specific to London, or adapted to perceived local tastes e.g. a Sichuan grouper dish here uses less oil and chillies than the Hong Kong version.

The short (70 bottle) wine list started at £22 and had selections such as Gnarly Head Viognier 2011 at £30 for a wine that you can find in the high street for around £13, Jordan Russian River Chardonnay 2009 at £80 for a wine that retails at £25, and Baron de Ladoucette “L” Pouilly Fume at £149 for a wine that will set you back about £54 in a shop. There are a few prestige wines too, such as Mouton Rothschild 1989 at a steep £1,200 for a wine that retails at £395.

A selection of steamed dim sum was a good start to the meal. Shrimp dumpling was given a luxurious twist by adding rose champagne; scallop and pumpkin, crystal crab meat and vegetable and bamboo pith were the others that I tried. The dumplings were carefully made and the seafood in particular tasted of better quality than at many Chinese restaurants in London (14/20).

Sichuan prawn was spicy but not overwhelmingly so, the prawn itself tender and the chilli sauce lifting the flavour without killing the dish (14/20). Minced pork was served with diced vegetables and lettuce, the pork of reasonable quality and the spices again well controlled (14/20). Less impressive was shredded beef with chilli, the beef shredded sufficiently thin that its flavour was rather lost, though the vegetables with it were fine (13/20). A dessert of mango cheesecake with passion fruit was pleasant but served fridge-cold, though the mango and passion fruit flavours were still discernible (13/20). As well as my lunch here, I also tried some additional dishes at a preview evening. The roast Peking duck and Red Lantern dish were particularly good, the duck served pink rather than overcooked as usually happens at Chinese restaurants in London.

The service was excellent, and I recognised staff from Sketch and HKK, both places that have finely-tuned service operations. The bill, which arrives in a jewellery box, came to £56, with water (£3.50) and jasmine tea (£4) to drink. If you had a starter, main course, dessert, coffee and a modest wine then your bill would probably come to £70, but any extras would soon bump that up that e.g. fried rice was an ambitious £12.

Overall I thought that Hutong was a success, being every bit is good as the original restaurant in Hong Kong. It is easy to be cynical about restaurants with views, and indeed Oblix in the same building seemed to me quite poor value for money. But Hutong, though certainly no bargain, does at least deliver surprisingly good food.   

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