David Yeo of Aqua Restaurant Group brings the fascinating and diverse cuisines of Northern China to London for the first time.
On 26th June 2013, Hutong opened on the 33rd floor of The Shard. The 130 cover restaurant is designed by David Yeo, founder of Hong Kong’s Aqua Restaurant Group and takes its inspiration specifically from the Lu School of cuisine with its roots in the province of Shandong. This school spread throughout the north of China and was served in the Imperial palaces in Peking (old Beijing). The restaurant will have a sumptuous interior design that articulates the blend between old and new as East meets West, as well as boasting panoramic views over the London skyline from Western Europe’s tallest building. Based on the much-loved restaurant of the same name in Hong Kong, regarded as one of the world’s leading Chinese restaurants, London’s Hutong will be the first overseas location for the brand.
Hutong’s menu captures the subtlety and surprises of Lu cuisine inspired by the culinary styles of Peking, Shandong and Sichuan provinces. David Yeo has created the innovative menu alongside the group’s executive head chef Yuan Shihai, who was born in Sichuan Province, an area renowned for its refined balancing of flavours and spicy delicacies. The menu will demonstrate the artful use of chilli that is an integral part of traditional Sichuan flavours, known as “mala” (numb and spicy), “xiangla” (aromatic and hot), “suanla” (sour and hot) and “hula (peppery hot). Focusing on quality ingredients, seasoning and heat control, the distinctive dishes served at Hutong will use spices and chillies which have all been imported directly from Sichuan in order to better maintain authentic flavours.
Amongst some of Hutong’s signature dishes in London will be: poached yellow eel with Chinese vermicelli in chilli broth; ‘Kung Po’ wok fried prawns with cashew nuts and chilli; red lantern crispy soft shell crab with Sichuan dried peppers; ‘Kung Po’ wok fried prawns with cashew nuts and chilli and chilli spiced bamboo clams steeped in Chinese rose wine and chilli sauce. Further delicacies will include crispy deboned Lamb, for which the meat from the ribs are thrice marinated over a 24 hour period and crisped in the wok and Imperial Peking Duck, hand-prepared and roasted in Hutong’s own duck oven located in the restaurant’s semi-private kitchen which guests will be able to view from the dining room.
Hutong is open for lunch and dinner. At lunchtime, an extensive and varied daily dim sum menu will also be served offering meat, fish and vegetarian options such as prawn and pork siu mai, vegetarian Loi han dumplings and courgette Qinxiang dumplings. Perfect for sharing, and as an introduction to the stimulating flavours of Northern China, Hutong will also offer an eight piece dim sum platter (priced at £15) at lunch and dinner time including Rose Champagne shrimp dumplings, scallop and pumpkin dumplings, crystal crab meat dumplings and vegetable and bamboo pith dumplings.
In addition to a broad offering of traditional wines, spirits and classics cocktails, Hutong’s bar will offer a drinks menu from the Far East featuring Chinese wines and authentic Chinese medicinal cocktails. The gin-based Dragon Pearl is a refreshing blend of ginger and lemongrass cordial, agave nectar and lime juice with a dragon fruit, anise basil tip and lime twist garnish. Dragon fruit is an immune-system booster and rich in flavonoids, beneficial against cardio-related disease. The spicy Comfortably Numb features Sichuan pepper honey, a chilli garnish and a Sichuan pepper rim. In addition, a spectacular three-storey high atrium bar, serving quintessential British cocktails with an emphasis on gin and tea will link to aqua shard on level 31 of The Shard.
As creative director of Aqua Restaurant Group, David conceptualised every detail of the dramatic interior of Hutong, which brings together the opulent heritage of China and its modern Western setting. In days gone by, a stroll down one of Beijing’s hutongs (narrow lanes) would reveal the teaming life of the ancient city and the old family houses with their grand courtyards. Hutong takes its design inspiration from these fast disappearing lanes which criss-crossed the city. Billowing silk curtains, traditional Chinese red lanterns and beautiful hand-carved wooden paneled “Moon Gates” adorn the room, whilst a wall of Tea brick tiles (dried Chinese tea compressed into bricks) and vintage tea canisters dating from 1940s celebrates the link between China and London with its old tea warehouses. David’s vision extends to the table itself with a beautiful array of bespoke China plates and tableware all made exclusively for Hutong, while East meets West with the restaurant’s sky-scraping views over London.