Review of 'Hutong'

Hutong is a northern-Chinese restaurant that occupies the 33rd floor in the newly opened Shard. It is a special location that you pay for…but perhaps not as much as you may have heard. We visited on our anniversary - A very special occasion indeed.

A dedicated ground-floor entrance takes you directly (and quickly) to the 32nd floor where you can visit any of the three restaurants here. Turning to the right you look down above on Aquashard - the bar where you can see through the floor-to-ceiling windows north across the river into the financial district and the construction cranes sprouting up everywhere right now. The interior is cool and modern throughout though the lack of soft furnishings and carpet does mean it can be noisy when busy. We climbed the short flight of steps up to Hutong where we were shown to our table just away from the window looking West towards the London Eye and the Palace of Westminster. There are a couple of enclosed areas on this side of the restaurant that seat larger groups and at the end of the room is where they prepare their signature Peking Duck - complete with wood-fueled fire. The dark wooden seats are a bit uncomfortable and just contribute further to the dark interior.

Having heard of our anniversary, we were given complementary drinks by the maitre'd which was very thoughtful (and appreciated by my wife since I don't drink!). I made do with a rather strong Chinese tea (delicious though very, very strong as the water level dropped in the pot…).

Having a mid-afternoon seating (the only one we could book this time of year) we decided to try an assortment of their specialties. I started with Hot and Sour Soup (£7) - Which was a lot spicier than I would have liked but good. My wife had the Dover Sole and Coriander Soup (£8) that she said was very good indeed - Wonderfully fresh and not fishy. We next had an assortment of dim sum - Wagyu Beef Puff (£7.50) - So sweet that we could not really taste the beef, Xiao Long Bao dumplings (£6.50) - Deliciously juicy that, unfortunately, tore when we tried to remove them from their bamboo steamer, releasing the precious juice inside, and Crab Meat Dumpling (£5.80) - Very firm but tasty.

After the dim sum we had to give the Peking Duck a try but after what we had eaten we kept it to 1/2 a duck (£30) - Plenty for us. It was ceremoniously delivered to our table by a chef who proceeded to shave off the skin and a good selection of the deliciously moist meat to lay it out on a small tray. A few minutes later the pancakes with sliced cucumber and onions as well as Hoi Sin sauce arrived. Amazing - So delicious. Extremely tasty duck with succulent meat and crispy skin that managed to not be overly oily. We got through the initial allocation of pancakes so had to place another order which arrived a few minutes later. The final part of the dish arrived a short while later - Stir-fried duck with vegetables which we dished into fresh lettuce leaves. A nice savory contrast to the sweetness of the sauce used with the skin.

As the sun set and the interior REALLY started getting dark we decided to try a dessert - Black sesame glutinous dumplings (£5.50) which were delicious though, by beloved suggested, slightly TOO glutinous for her.

The maitre'd was very friendly though our server spoke extremely quietly and with her strong accent was difficult to understand. Most of our visit was spent waiting for our server to show up in the room so we could at least flag her down…Often there was no one to be seen for many minutes at a time. But here things are not to be hurried and no one, including ourselves, were unduly worried - We just enjoyed the atmosphere and the food - Getting up to occasionally take pictures out the window.

Our bill was delivered in a nice Chinese box - £97.65 (including service). Much less than the £100 each I had been told to expect! I suppose if you were not careful it could very quickly add up…

I will comment further that on the way out we stopped in toilets where I found the men's urinals looked out over the city - Not for the shy (though anyone outside would need a set of binoculars to see you anyway!).

As we walked around we could see that the interior is very much fashioned on the old Chinese Hutongs - Traditional communal residences in Northern China. Chinese lanterns on the walls, small rooms looking like houses where groups could eat.

An enjoyable meal if a tad expensive. The food is quite good though the service, even though the restaurant was not entirely jammed, was not great but friendly when they were there. If you are looking for a good meal and are not afraid of a bit of money you could do a lot worse…

Rating:

Review Date: 2013-12-20


Cuisine: Chinese

Address: Level 33, The Shard, 31 St. Thomas Street, London SE1 9RY

Public Transport: TUBE London Bridge

Location: London (England) - Southwark

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Telephone: +44 (0) 207 7478 0540

URL: http://www.hutong.co.uk/