The familiar sights of London’s archetypal skyline – the Gherkin, St Paul’s Cathedral and the London Eye – have a new companion. The impressive Shard, which opened in 2013, stands above 300 metres high with 87 floors housing offices, restaurants, bars and a hotel. I dined at Hutong last weekend where I enjoyed a bit of expected gluttony and (slightly unexpected) a delicious Spanish wine.
I started the evening off at the bar Aqua (where I took this picture) on the 31st floor. The bar was buzzing and filled with trendy Londoners enjoying a warm and dry Friday evening. At 8 o’clock it was still light outside (don’t you just love summer?) so I was able to take this picture. Aside from the spectacular view, the bar experience was pretty average – it took far too long to get one beer and one glass of bubbly as the bartenders were all too busy spending five minutes preparing each extremely intricate cocktail. Maybe I should have ordered one to justify the wait (the ‘beetle juice’ looked especially enticing) but I settled for a glass of Veuve.
Anyway, putting my impatience aside, the main part of the evening was dinner. I was ushered to my table a few minutes late (maybe I should stop being so punctual) where I sat down on what can only be described as an extremely uncomfortable but aesthetically pleasing chair. Not good. However, as soon as I flagged this critical comfort roadblock to the manager, my dining companions and I found ourselves seated on a much better chairs equipped with cushions. Phew, crisis averted.
I was then tasked with a series of important decisions: choosing the wine and the food. Yes that’s right, none of my dining companions were in the mood to do any work whatsoever – I am as outraged as you.
In anticipation of the spicy Chinese dishes to come, I was keen to select a crisp and fruit-forward white with plenty of acidity. My eye didn’t have to travel too far down the menu before I spotted a Verdejo from Rueda, Spain. I really do think that Verdejo is an extremely unederrated grape – you don’t find it all too often in restaurants and bars in the UK – many would argue that it is Spain’s finest white grape variety and is certainly behind some of the finest white wines producted in Spain. After trying a sip or two, my dining companions arrived at the relieving conclusion that I had not made a massive blunder by ordering something completely undrinkable. Another crisis averted.
The wine, produced by a small family bodega (winery) in Rueda, is made up 100% of the verdejo grape. It is zesty, fruit-forward, somewhat aromatic whilst maintaining an assuring minerality. Stone fruit (apricot) and citrus dominated the palate. This wine had a balanced level of acidity giving it the refreshing crispness you’d expect from a verdejo. This wine has real character; it is great as both an aperitif as well as paired with plenty of flavourful dishes. It was also reasonable value at £34 per bottle (we did not stop at one).
Moving back to my decision-making bonanza: the food was slightly harder to choose as most dishes on the menu sounded so appetising. I called on the expertise of the waitress who methodically suggested a number of dishes spanning the whole menu. The starters I chose included dim sum (interesting selection and great to snack on while waiting for the rest of the food), scallops (good at the time, but relative to everything else, not worth ordering), and shredded chicken (spicy – a big deal coming from an Indian). The main courses, however, took the cake – please excuse my lame food-related pun. Roasted peking duck (served twice), Ma La chili prawns (my favourite dish of the whole meal, although my dining companions wouldn’t agree), braised beef rib (delicious), Mongolian-style barbecue rack of lamb (a great choice and served beautifully), and spicy minced pork (good without being overwhelming). I had also ordered the monkfish which they forgot to bring – thankfully as we had too much food. Skipping dessert is a cardinal sin so my friend (I outsourced this decision) chose for the table: the blueberry cheesecake and also the black sesame dumplings. Both were good without being great – although I was slightly disgruntled by the lack of chocolate on the dessert menu.
The meal was expensive (not unexpected) however the food in general was very good, the service was attentive and the views were the fantastic. If you do decide to try Hutong, I would recommend that you request a table by the windows – I was unfortunately not given one and spent part of the meal with ‘view fomo’. When I go back for round two (an inevitable occurrence), I’ll make it a point to ask to be seated by the window – why not have the best view in the house?
On a separate note (this is a wine blog after all – although perhaps this post doesn’t make that all too obvious!) I managed to track down the wine. It is sold by just one merchant in the UK – check it out here.
Definitely worth a try – both the wine and the restaurant.
To access a comprehensive overview of food and wine pairings, download Grapeful for free on iPhone and Android – http://www.grapeful.co.uk
What is verdejo? Grapeful explains:
Verdejo wines are typically dry and crisp with notes of citrus, lemongrass, pear and honeysuckle. It has a unique flavour and a refreshing level of acidity. Many would argue that Verdejo is Spain’s finest white grape variety and is certainly behind some of the finest white wines of Spain. Lightly cooked fish and shellfish are both natural partners of Verdejo – either lightly grilled with a splash of lemon, or with a sauce made of tomatoes or olives. Staying true to Spanish cuisine, this wine is also delicious with patatas bravas or serrano ham.