To kick of a whole 9 days off from work (okay, from politics work. While I'm currently in France without a working phone or internet, I won't be able to help myself shooting images for upcoming posts!) I took my Dad to London (somewhere he is practically allergic to) for lunch and a turn around Selfridges (useful in real life browsing for an avid online shopper). While usually it is impossible to entice him into the city, when he heard the words 'lunch', 'Chinese food' and 'The Shard' he volunteered to accompany me in an instant.
Bookatable emailed me last week to see if I wanted to try one of their Star Deals, which they have listed as specials across many of London's top restaurants. There were loads of different venues on their website I wanted to go to, but I still had not been up The Shard. And Hutong, with a £35 per head, 4 course menu on the 32nd floor of one of Europe's tallest buildings seemed like the sort of thing I should sample.
We were shown our our very attentive server (the service at Hutong was flawless throughout) to a nice table for two set in front of what has to be the best view of London I've ever seen. The other side of the two halved restaurant had views of Tower Bridge, but where we were sitting St. Paul's sat at the jewel in the middle of modern London. Following the Thames around the corner, we could spy the London Eye, City Hall and the top of Big Ben poking out of the top of the Palace of Westminster.
Obviously I needed a cocktail to sip while we were admiring the view, so I ordered 'No Smoke Without Fire': a lovely and very attractive blend of white tequila, Chambord, lemon juice, passion fruit, pineapple juice mint, raspberries and Peychand's bitters. One for you if you like fruity, drinkable and only just very slightly tropical drinks where you can taste the flavours of your spirits without the whole thing being overwhelming.
To start, we had Monkfish and Enoki Mushroom Soup. It was slightly jellied and glutinous, as well as full of delicate flavour. One for congee fans like me, it perfectly set me up for the meal. My Dad hated it though, so it is not for everyone. Our server did offer to bring him a Tom Yum soup instead, though.
The absolute star of the show for us both were the Dim Sum. Starting at the top and working clockwise we had (each) a vegetable and bamboo pith dumpling, a XO sauce crystal prawn dumpling, a cod and seaweed dumpling with tobiko and a wasabi shrimp dumpling, all brought to the table in a steamer and with good soy and chilli oil for dipping on the side. They were all little pockets bursting with their own unique flavour and character, just what you want from your dumplings. The crystal prawn had to be my favourite.
For my second cocktail I chose the Nuwang which I liked much better than my first drink: vodka, cucumber chilli (though you could not taste any heat at all), lychee liqueur, lychee juice, lime, sugar syrup and soda. A note on the cocktails at Hutong: at £16 each, I can list many places in London that produce better cocktails much cheaper. You're paying for the people who head up for a drink or two to take in the view rather than paying to visit the viewing platform at the top of The Shard, which starts at £30+ per person.
For our main course we were brought a series of Northern Chinese dishes to share. I liked the pickled chilli kick to this prawn, cuttlefish and braised celery dish, which went perfectly with their great house egg fried rice. The braised beef shanks in ginger and onion sauce had a good flavour, but the beef had been dried out a little too much. The seasonal wok fried garlic veggies had a great flavour, but there was one glaring problem with every single dish which meant we did not enjoy our main course more than a passing 'this is okay food with an incredible view': all of the serving plates were cold, which meant that, pretty quickly, all of the food was too. Probably a bit of a theme for Hutong in spite of the wonderful wait staff: while it was complimentary, our bottled water was served at room temperature, too.
Once our bill had come in a pretty box, we reflected. Hutong is a really great dining experience, let down by sky high prices for good starters and average mains. I really recommend Hutong for the view, but perhaps not for all of the food. For a really great experience (if you're visiting the city, or for an impressive date idea) book a table in the bar for a late lunch or in the afternoon when their Shanghi Bar Dim Sum bar menu is available (1pm-5pm every day) and settle in for a cocktail or two, or something from their impressive wine list, and as many dumplings and spring rolls as you could possibly consume.
Are there any other restaurants in London with an incredible view that I simply have to visit? Obviously it is an absolute travesty that I still have not been to Duck & Waffle. Also, are there any Los Angeles rooftop spots I need to add to my list for next time I'm stateside? Aside from The High Rooftop Lounge at Hotel Erwin of course, which I already love!