Hutong, right up our alley | Hutong at The Shard, Level 33,
Not content with one trip dining up the Shard, we were fortunate enough to return for another. Perched above Aqua lays the northern Chinese restaurant Hutong, under the same umbrella group as Aqua Shard. The moment we had a sneak peek we fell in love.
For us it wasn’t just about the view and our beloved location, it was the decor and atmosphere. We absolutely love low lighting and Hutong is cloaked in darkness, with a sprinkling of glowing red lanterns and a fragrant waft of Chinese cooking in the air.
The restaurant is split in half, to the left with views over Tower bridge is the bar (where you can show up without a reservation) and some discreet sectioned off tables, hidden by stunning grand wooden doors and screens. A wall of lanterns flickering with filament bulbs, a nod to London perhaps, guide you to the toilets or the kitchen if you take a wrong turn. Even the loos with a view too have been paid the same level of attention, apart from the ugly black toilets that would look more at home in a festival portaloo.
Dress code is fairly strict here, no flip-flops, sports gear or shorts. Although who in their right mind would turn up wearing such things I don’t know. Seems a few do though, we’ve heard they’ve been lending out shoes. We didn’t go too overdressed (Ade wore a shirt and smart jeans) but we weren’t the most casually dressed there. One thing we didn’t expect to see but were delighted to, were young children dining with their families. I can’t imagine bringing my step-children to Hutong, but it’s always good to see such a high-end restaurant so accepting of kids.
We didn’t take full advantage of our window facing table, instead opting to face in so we could take in the view of the restaurant. The waiter scoffed a bit at our decision as if we were mad. We like views, but we also love decor too, the pretty wishing tree with little red flaps of paper pinned to it was a stunning focal point. The myth is that the higher you pin your wish, the more chance there is of it coming true. They were all out of red paper, we will return with a step-ladder once they’ve re-stocked.
The chairs we’d heard so much bad press about being uncomfortable were not at all, and beautiful too. Shame they can’t spin so you can easily take an occasional look outside. Opting for a night off the booze, Ade had a Lychee Wine £5.50 without the wine. I chose from the ‘healing’ cocktails section with a Chinese Lantern – a mix of fresh mandarin, Aperol, passionfruit and champagne £14. It sounded so much grander than it looked, the description also suggests aphrodisiac qualities and a cure for hiccups. It was a bit of an anti-climax when it appeared, but it tasted good. Ade couldn’t resist the Lucky Beer £5.25 that arrived in bulging green buddha shaped bottle, so cute that he was very temped to take it home. Wine starts from a surprisingly reasonable £4.50 a glass – and slowly creeps up to £1,200 for a bottle of Château Mouton Rothschild from 1989…
Thinly-cut pork belly with cucumber slices marinated in chilli and garlic sauce £9 was a fresh lighter starter, verging on the impossible to eat with chopsticks though. We could probably have done without the Won-ton served with garlic chilli sauce £10, our least favourite dish (we still ate the lot!). Not a patch on the sturdy Green asparagus dressed with white sesame £10, cooked perfectly and half dunked in a sweet chilli sauce and coated with slightly toasted white sesame seeds – delicious.
The star of the show – Red Lantern – crispy soft-shell crab with Sichuan dried chilli £28 arrived in a grand basket, beautiful moist soft shell crab nestled within a horde of chillies (the red beasts purely for decorative purposes, not for eating, unless you have a cast iron mouth.) We chose the wrong side with this, plain old Egg-white fried rice £12. A wetter dish such as Hutong Dan Dan noodles £8 would have made a better partner. Or perhaps a pint of milk – this dish is very spicy.
Despite being stuffed and lethargic, I’d had my eye on the Steamed egg custard buns £8 on the dessert menu. All gone! Waaaahh! I went with my second choice of Mini black sesame glutinous dumplings £5.50 and Ade the Guava sorbet £6, they turned out to be a good match for each other. The dumplings not as heavy going as they may sound – squishy little balls coated in an almost crumble-like dusting, oozing with a jet black sesame centre.
The White peony tea I ordered didn’t show, I would have chased it up but we were full and having been at our table for well over two and a half hours, we thought it was best that we sloped off home to bed. Plus I think I only really wanted it because I’m a sucker for a Chinese teapot.
Hutong is lovely, there’s no doubt about the beautiful romantic setting and food. Service was verging on the haphazard, the main culprit seemed to be the duck. Clusters of waiters scurrying around with the meat, only for it to be meant for a different table or served too soon. But it was friendly, helpful and considering the whopping prices – not at all pretentious. Definitely worth it for a special occasion, the Dim Sum lunch menu may be a more affordable prospect otherwise.
Level 33 The Shard, 31
St Thomas Street, London SE1 9RY
Telephone: 020 7478 0540
Opening hours: Lunch: 12-3pm | Dinner: 6-11pm |
Shanghai bar: 12-3pm & 6-11pm (no reservation necessary)
Nearest station: London Bridge