Things have been quiet around here as I spent the first half of September travelling abroad. This month alone, I have been to Jersey in the Channel Islands, to Rioja and San Sebastián in Spain, to Wroclaw in Poland and to Zurich in Switzerland. I will slowly but surely write about all my travels, but first I want to tell you about a restaurant in London I had the pleasure to review last month: Hutong at The Shard.
I booked a table for dinner on a weekday evening in August, which also happened to be my husband’s birthday. The weather Gods looked out for us and provided a sunny day with and a clear sky to enjoy the stunning views from The Shard.
Hutong Shard is beautifully decorated with hand-carved wooden tables and chairs and Chinese red lanterns. The main dining room is located on the northwest corner of the building, overlooking London Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral and the City of London. In the centre of the room there is a bar and a large tree with traditional wishing cards hanging from its branches.
The restaurant recently welcomed a new Head Chef, Fei Wang, hailing from Chengdu in the Sichuan province. Wang has introduced new dishes to the A La Carte menu at Hutong, which take inspiration from the northern regions of China.
I am not an expert of Chinese cuisine, but during dinner at Hutong I learnt that the northern provinces of China (such as Sichuan, Beijing and Shandong) prefer spicier, punchier and more complex flavours. The typical dishes from Northern China are very different from the Cantonese-inspired sweet and sour dishes.
I could certainly taste the fiery spices of Sichuan in the Chinese asparagus heart with Hula dressing (a mix of chilli, peppercorn and hot oil). I tasted a tiny bit of this starter dish, but my husband ate most of it. He loves spicy food, while sadly I never quite built up my tolerance to it.
We also ordered the Dim Sum Platter to share. Served in a bamboo steamer, the 8 dumplings are filled with cod & seaweed with tobiko, XO sauce crystal prawn dumplings, rosé Champagne shrimp dumplings, seasonal mushroom & cabbage.
Our waiter recommended trying the Roasted Peking Duck, one of the signature dishes at Hutong. I had tasted this dish only once before (at Min Jiang last year) and I was curious to eat it again.
The duck is glazed and roasted so that the skin is sweet and crispy. The thinly sliced and tender meat is served with traditional pancakes, leeks, celery and a sweet thick sauce. The remaining meat is taken back to the kitchen and then served in a stir-fry dish.
Since my husband couldn’t eat the roasted duck, we ordered a pescatarian dish for him. Hutong’s Spicy Fried Rice is cooked with prawns, chilli oil and fennel seeds. It was really good and I admit I ate some of it myself, despite being rather spicy as the name suggests.
The highlight of our dinner was the Sichuan-style Deep Fried Lobster, with fresh red and green chillies, salted crispy black beans and dried garlic. The lobster meat was delicious, surprisingly light despite the deep-frying. The seasoning was flavourful without being overpowering.
Together with the lobster, another new dish introduced by chef Fei Wang is Red Star Noodles. This dish packs a punch of flavours and it is mighty hot, so be prepared for it.
Steamed halibut, red pepper and gong vegetables are cooked with rice noodles in a Sichuan broth. The fish was not too spicy, while the soup and noodles numbed my tongue and lips pretty much instantly. I have no hope with spicy food, but luckily my husband was on hand to eat everything on the table.
I would have liked to see a bigger selection of desserts on the menu. A dessert caught my attention, the Golden Sesame Dumplings with Apple & Cinnamon paste, but after our rich meal I didn’t fancy a heavy dessert. So instead we ordered the Chocolate Tart and the Mango Pudding with Mandarin sorbet. I didn’t love the tart, but the mango mousse was tasty and refreshing.
I was not familiar with Northern Chinese cuisine before my dinner at Hutong and I enjoyed learning about it. I loved the fried lobster and the Sichuan noodle soup.
In addition to delicious food, Hutong provides impeccable service and a gorgeous setting to celebrate a special occasion (several birthdays were being celebrated that evening, not just my husband’s). I would definitely recommend it.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of the restaurant. All opinions are my own.