The Verta Hotel on Battersea Wharf opened in late 2010, on the river next to the London heliport. When I say next to the heliport, I mean actually adjacent: the helicopters land perhaps 25 metres from the dining room of the hotel. Finding the place is a little adventure in itself, but if coming by car you need to follow the narrow service road that is signposted to the heliport; I mention this as the hotel’s postcode seems invisible to car satellite navigation systems. The hotel entrance is essentially shared with that of the heliport, and there is complimentary valet parking.
Initially there was an Italian restaurant in the hotel, but in March 2013 a Chinese restaurant called Red Pocket replaced this. The name is a reference to the red envelopes containing money that are given as gifts in Chinese culture and symbolise good luck. The restaurant is on the ground floor, one side facing the helicopter landing pad, another looking directly out over the river, and indeed there are a few outside tables. There is some banquette seating and yellow upholstery, a tiled floor and very high ceiling, The overall effect is airy and smart. On this particular evening there was the rather surreal presence of a DJ in one corner arranging the music, which appeared to be from the Hakkasan playlist.
Chef Weng Kong Wong previously worked in restaurants such as New Fook Lam Moon in Chinatown and most recently at Hakkasan. The menu has echoes of the latter, with a few more ambitious offerings than at most Chinese restaurants in London, alongside familiar Cantonese dishes. There is a relatively short wine list starting at £34, with choices such as Spy Valley Pinot Gris 2009 at £48 for a wine that you can find in the high street for £13, Condrieu Les Ravines from Robert Niero 2008 at £98 for a wine that retails at £27, and Chateau Talbot 1995 at £178 for a wine that will set you back £83 in a shop.
Dim sum (mostly £5 a portion) are available in the evening as well as at lunch. Har gau dumplings were delicate and had good quality prawns (14/20) and the same was true of prawn sui mai (13/20) and prawn and chive dumplings (13/20). Black cod and asparagus was wrapped in angel hair pasta and then deep-fried, the cod tender, the texture good (14/20). I was quite impressed by chilli quail, the meat tender, the sauce lively but the spices not overwhelming the flavour of the meat (easily 14/20).
Sea bass (£24) was coated in flour and shallow-fired, topped with dried shrimps and served with small asparagus, resting in a pool of XO sauce. The fish was properly cooked and the topping worked well (13/20). Pi Pa roast duck (£21) is named after a pear-shaped Chinese guitar, the duck notionally displayed in a shape resembling this. This particular version would have required some imagination to make that connection, but although the meat was a fraction overcooked, the skin was quite crispy and the plum sauce with it good, the duck resting on some pleasant julienned vegetables (13/20). Singapore noodles (£7) had quite wispy texture and were subtler than standard Chinatown fare (13/20). Gai lan was not quite of the same standard as at Royal China but was lightly cooked and enjoyable (13/20).
The bill came to £66 a head, with jasmine tea and some beer to drink. Service was very capable and attentive, though this was a quiet evening. Red Pocket is a bit of an enigma. It is in a very isolated location and yet the food was actually quite good, much better than I really expected. It is a little ambitiously priced given this is Battersea rather than Mayfair, but the standard of cooking was high, between 13/20 and 14/20. It remains to be seen how it fares given its low profile and awkward locale, but if you are in Battersea and don’t mind the occasional helicopter landing a few yards from your table then you will be pleasantly surprised by the cooking.