The tallest building in London has just seen the line-up of restaurants on the middle floors (31-33) completed, with the opening of Hutong and Aqua Shard to the public. Both are owned by City lawyer-turned-restaurateur David Yeo as part of his 20 strong Aqua global restaurant brand, but offer very contrasting menus and ambience. Whereas Aqua provides modern British cuisine, Hutong specialises in Northern Chinese dishes, like it’s eponymous sibling in Hong Kong, and provides suitably idiomatic decor.
All of the Shard’s restaurants are accessed through a separate entrance on Joiner Street, where high-speed lifts take you straight to the 32nd floor. There, you will find an entrance for the Oblix restaurant on level 32, and a separate reception desk for the Aqua and Hutong restaurants. Walking through the glass doors past this desk, you enter a spectacular 3 storey atrium/ internal staircase connecting the 2 restaurants, with a large bar at the base of the atrium.
Walking up to Hutong, the restaurant has 2 wings on either side of their reception, offering contrasting rooms and views across London. Turning left takes you past a small, but stylish bar into a modestly-sized open dining area, together with several private dining rooms. Turning right takes you into the main restaurant area, where we were seated on this visit. While I’m no expert on Chinese interior design, the decor throughout the restaurant feels suitably atmospheric, with dark woods, red lanterns and carvings making the British visitor feel that they may have been transported to Hong Kong, especially with the vistas of the City visible from any of the tables. We were given a lovely corner table by the window, and while the restaurant was quiet on arrival, it filled up rapidly, as would be expected in the first week of opening.
Reception staff were friendly and welcoming, and service at our table was very prompt throughout, with 2 different waiters attending as required, and the manager occasionally appearing to ask if we were enjoying the experience (which we were!) I understand that some of the chefs and staff have been brought over from David Yeo’s Hong Kong operations, and they offered interesting insights into the food, how it’s traditionally served etc throughout the meal. In some contexts, over-chatty waiters can be intrusive, but here, the conversations with the waiters added to the pleasant overall experience.
We decided to order from the extensive dim sum menu, starting with 6 plates (but eventually adding another 3 dishes, though 2 would probably have sufficed!) A selection of steamed and fried dim sum gave us a a good spread of dishes to sample their cooking, with each dish arriving when ready (in traditional manner.) The quality of the dim sum was at least on a par with any other dim sum I’ve tasted in London, with particular favourites being the Wagyu beef puffs, lobster buns and wonton dumplings- these were dishes I could happily munch on all day (and night, though probably at the cost of an expanding waistline.) The rest of the dishes we ordered were all excellent too, with no disappointments in our selection (shrimp rolls, duck spring rolls, chicken dumplings, lamb and fennel dumplings.)
Prices are higher than your average Chinatown joint, typically £5-£8 per dish, however not unreasonable, given the overall quality of the experience. For dim sum lovers who fancy luxurious surroundings and great views, Hutong is hard to top, with the charming service being a bonus.