London’s newest really tall building, the Shard, best known for the question “wait, that’s what it looks like finished?”, is, more importantly, home to three exciting new restaurants on floors 30-33 (which in case you’re wondering, is nowhere near the top). Hong Kong’s Hutong has been the most critically well received of these – even securing an unexpected gold seal of approval from Jay Rayner, who rarely has a nice word to say about anything.
We each ordered a starter, but it is worth noting that they are big and designed for sharing – if we’d each eaten all of our own we would have been very full and a bit bored. The hero for me was the pork belly – which comes in an unrecognisable form – thinly sliced and layered with cucumber and a delicious sauce. The shredded chicken was also very good, although would be too spicy for some. My acquaintances seemed happy with the scallops and the spiced razor clams. If you go, try the soft shell crab which was attracting looks of awe from all tables that hadn’t ordered it (including ours).
As a main we shared the signature Peking duck which is served in two rounds – the first as expected, with pancakes, cucumber and plum sauce – carved by the chef at the table. The second more ‘traditionally’ chopped up in lettuce parcels. It’s a delicious version of the classic and while the £58 price tag has attracted widespread derision, we shared it as a main for four and on that basis it’s actually not at all bad.
For this kind of establishment, they offer a surprisingly good list of wines by the glass and, while the prices can escalate there are also a number of reasonably priced options. More exciting however is the cocktail list. I was immediately drawn to the page which offers concoctions which apparently help to cure health conditions – as if I needed any additional excuse to drink cocktails during the day. I had the ‘Last Word’ (of course) and it was one of the best cocktails I’ve had in London recently.
We were seated by the window and, while it seems obvious, it has to be noted that the view is truly incredible. I’ve eaten in ‘tall’ restaurants before but there’s something very specific about this location that enables you to see almost the entire city from the perfect angle. If the view of London wasn’t enough, one wall is taken up with a glass window into the dedicated duck roasting kitchen and glistening birds hang there in mouth-watering abundance. The décor is definitely from the school of ‘more is more’ – with copious carved wood, lanterns and bamboo and even a large wishing tree in the centre of the room.
Taste wise, it’s really good, but probably not as good as Hakkasan. The service was incredibly attentive and friendly – they even returned without complaint with a fresh scallop dish when it emerged one of our party may have an allergy to one of the core ingredients. That said, we were well into our starters before any drinks appeared. Admittedly, Jay Rayner points out it is “only affordable if you wear knickers lined in baby panda fur on a daily basis” which I think is almost certainly true if you drink more than we did, have the duck as an extra course rather than a main, and venture anywhere near the side dishes.
You have a group to impress – the private dining booths are ideal.
Don’t go there if
You’re a wanted man – there are at least four separate check points before you’re allowed to make it up the Shard into the restaurant.
The attention to detail extends even into the toilets – which for guys means relieving yourselves with a once in a lifetime view.
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