Sadly summer has now officially left us now. As the weather starts to turn chilly, all my mind can think of is hot pot! Hot pot or steamboat, whatever you may call it, is a really popular thing during cold weathers across Asia. This communal one-pot way of eating is a simplistic way of bringing communities together. When everyone all cosy up with one another in front of a steaming hot pot under the cold weather and enjoying food, it’s really the most effective way of bringing people together.
The Hot Pot Restaurant, located at Wardour Street, is a new restaurant addition to Chinatown. It serves, as suggested as its name, hot pot. The interior is pretty chic and elegant, making it a really cool spot to hang out with friends. For smaller and more intimate groups, there are plenty of comfortable booths to sit at as well.
Their menu is pretty unique from other typical hot pot restaurants around town. Not only does it offer an extensive hot pot ingredients menu, it also have a vast drinks menu and other cooked dishes. The impression I get from browsing the menu is that they are aiming for a mixed Asian style. It seems to be a fusion of Chinese and Thai
One of the things the restaurant highlights a lot is their drinks. The drinks menu is fairly extensive. Apart from the usual soft drinks, beers and wines, they have some signature east Asian blends as well as cocktails, mocktails, and juices.
On their specialty menu, I was ecstatic to see Cha Yen on the menu and just had to order it. The Thai Iced Milk Tea is probably one of my most favourite beverages ever. This one here at the Hot Pot Restaurant was quite a delight. The flavour intensity was moderate and was relatively more sweet to the palate. We also order one of their mocktails. Despite the hype, it wasn’t particularly impressive.
Five-Spice Salt & Pepper Squid
Disclaimer: this was a wrongly served dish. Basically we ordered the Crispy Soft Shell Crab to start but they somehow gave us this. The food took a little while to arrive and all the staff seemed to be extremely busy running around so we didn’t bother to complain. We love squid too anyway.
Presentation-wise, we thought it looked visually pleasant. The simple set up using wooden board lined with bamboo mat was such an effective display. The squid was wok-tossed with cloves, chilli, salt, pepper, spring onions, and giner. In terms of flavours, the seasoning was nice to go by, though lacked an extra punch to really bring out that east Asian savoury taste. You couldn’t go wrong with a fried seasoned batter, but I just expected more refinement to it.
- Tom Yum Goong Hot & Sour Broth
- Mala Fiery & Numbing Broth
- Herbal Drunken Chicken Broth
- Vitamin C Sweet Tomato Broth
- Beauty Rich Collagen Broth
- Longevity Mushroom Broth
- Nourishing Thai Coconut Green Curry Broth
You have the choice between have one massive pot with just one flavour or a twin pot to have two different flavours – and of course we went for the twin pot. We decided to go for one spicy broth and one non-spicy to balance it out. The spicy one we picked the Tom Yum Goong, a classic Thai soup that carries a distinct hot & sour flavour. As for the non-spicy one, we ended up choosing the Mushroom Broth.
The Tom Yum Goong is highly recommended from the staff. Cooked with lemongrass, lime, prawns, chilli & coriander, the broth releases an alluring fragrance which plays a crucial role later in the hot pot process. The Mushroom Broth, on the contrary, is much milder in flavour. It is made with a variety of wild mushrooms, cordyceps flowers, and fresh mushrooms. It has this really clean and nourishing touch, which is probably why the name is preceded by the word “Longevity”.
After picking the hot pot broth, step 2 is to get your sauces. The restaurant has a table by the bar full of a variety of classic hot pot sauces. Typically back home, I would go for some chilli soy sauce with a touch of sesame oil and shacha sauce (a Chinese sauce made from soybean oil, garlic, shallots, chillis, brill fish, and dried shrimp). I did that but was also attracted by their House Special Sauce. It was like a tangy chilli sauce which has a really good kick of spice. I topped it up with sesame seeds, parsley, and a squeeze of lime. And then I also took some shacha sauce as well in a separate container.
One of the biggest highlights for hot pot is meats. However, since the meats are not from a halal source, we could only stick with seafood. Luckily they offer such a vast option of seafood to choose from so we definitely still had a blast with it. They have other Steamed Shabu Sets, Meat Platters, even Wagyu Beef Platters as well if you aren’t restricted like us. If the platters don’t appeal, there’s still a huge variety of food to choose from to order independently.
Back to the seafood platter, it consists prawns, scallops, mussels, razor clams, squid, and clams. To my delight they all tasted reasonably fresh. The seafood was particularly matching with the Tom Yum Goong broth. We liked how it was nice presented over a massive bowl of ice as well to keep the seafood fresh. All in all, pretty good stuff!
On top of the seafood platter, we also ordered a couple other dishes. We got some shrimp dumplings, tofu, enoki mushrooms, fish balls, and green noodles.
We also ordered some fish paste but it didn’t came even after chasing them twice. For vegetables, I ordered Shanghai Pak Choi, which is my favourite for hot pot back home. I was expecting raw greens to be put into the hot pot. However it arrived as normal pak choi that’s stir-fried with garlic. Seeing that it’s not the first error of the evening, we really couldn’t be bothered at that point.
A La Carte Menu
We didn’t order anything from this section of the menu but I thought it was worth a mention. Hot Pot Restaurant seems to be more than just hot pot as this section of the menu offers a range of Dim Sums, Chinese Roast Meats, and Noodles Dishes. It was surprising to see such an extensive range of items on the menu. Nevertheless, I’m not sure I like it being so broad. My reason is that it’s called a Hot Pot Restaurant, so people come here for hot pot. It’s good to see a variety of dishes for hot pot but with an almost just-as-extensive menu on cooked Asian dishes – I find it distracting.
In conclusion, I thought the restaurant was decent and certainly well-decorated to be a cool socialising spot. However, it didn’t leave me the best impression especially with all the wrong orders and missing orders. Service-wise it was a bit slow as well, though we do liked a few staff who were really friendly in explaining the menu and checking up on us.
Hot pot is certainly a pretty special experience to those who are not familiar with it. It’s definitely a lot of fun. I used to introduce that to all my friends in university and everyone always loved it. Would this place be the spot to reminisce those good times and be a place to feed me with nostalgia? I’m afraid it is going to take more to really entice me. It was decent meal but also quite a forgettable one. Have you tried hot pot before? Let us know your thoughts!
No halal meats available. Plenty of vegetarian and seafood options.
Tel: 020 7287 8881 | Website: www.hotpotrestaurants.co.uk/
Nearest Underground station: Picadilly Circus / Leicester Square