On a drizzly Wednesday evening in London’s China Town it was time for date night to commence. Having already pre-booked a table at Hot Pot, we scurried past the many Chinese restaurants that line the street (some more appealing than others!). Spotting the Hot Pot frontage we quickly escaped the rain into the dry lobby of the restaurant. After being greeted by the friendly staff we were shown to our table and presented with menus. At this point it struck us. We had no idea what Hot Pot was! We peered around at the thankfully oblivious diners and noted the cooking hot plates on the tables as well as a selection of small plates of uncooked meat and vegetables. At this point the waiter approached us after noticing that we may not have a clue what we were doing and kindly explained the concept. And so our fantastic and immersive date night began.
Hot Pot or ‘huo guo’ is thought to have originated in Mongolia and the Jin Dynasty more than 1000 years ago. This communal one pot way of eating, gained vast popularity across Asia for its simplistic way of bringing communities together. As the concept of the Hot Pot began to travel, it took on other influences. Today, there are thousands of exciting regional variations throughout China but also Thailand, Vietnam and Korea. Although not a new concept to Asia, Hot Pot has only recently brought the cooking concept to London having only opened in March 2017.
The idea of cooking together may seem daunting for a date night but actually it provides an abundance of conversation topics and makes it a fun and interesting way to dine. Although David and I have been together for many years it was still a thrill working together to create a tasty dinner. Whether it is your first date or your 100th, Hot Pot is an excellent date night destination.
We perused the menu for a while deciding on what to get and in the meantime ordered cocktails. They offer five varieties of broth, each comprising of over 50 ingredients and made fresh every day. We did consider going for the Mala Sichuan broth made with dried chilli, Sichuan peppercorns, herbs and fermented beans, but thought better of it after the waiter insisted that it was incredibly spicy. We are pretty good with spice but on this occasion we fancied actually being able to taste our food. As it happens one of the broths we chose was rather spicy anyway. We opted to get two broths to share- the Chicken Soup made from black chicken, Chinese rice wine, goji berries and ginseng, giving it a light and soothing taste and the Thai Coconut Green Curry broth. After ordering our broths we then had to decide on the ingredients to cook. You can select from over 60 ingredients to cook so understandably we had a hard time choosing. The waiter told us that some favourites include British rib-eye, marinated chicken, sea bass, king prawns, shrimp wontons, fresh abalone, shitake and golden needle mushrooms, sweet potato, fresh tofu and quail’s eggs. We decided to stay quite safe and opted for chicken breast, rice noodles and a plate of mixed vegetables including pak choi, corn and a variety of mushrooms. Once the broth arrived the waiter placed it on the hot plate and told us to wait until it started boiling before we started cooking our ingredients in it. Thankfully on the table it had a sheet with the cooking times for each ingredient to make it simple, although the staff are on hand if needed. The food cooked in no time at all and we were exciting to tuck in.
But wait! We hadn’t visited the sauce bar. Yes, you read correctly, I did say sauce bar. Hot Pot recognises the importance of creating the perfect sauce in which to dip cooked ingredients, so they offer a huge variety of unlimited options so diners can taste and experiment as much as they wish! We were a little tentative at the sauce bar but we went for the House Special Sauce as well as a chilli sauce. Although the broths are incredibly filling Hot Pot do also offer an a la carte menu including dishes such as duck pancakes and pad Thai. We were quite happy sticking to our order so armed with our chopsticks we dived into our bubbling broth. The flavours were rich and the food was scrumptiously fresh making for an all-round delicious meal- all with the added bonus that we had cooked it ourselves. The perfect date night? We think so.
Hot Pot Restaurant, 17 Wardour Street, London W1D 6PJ
Tel: 020 7287 8881 (Open daily from noon – 12.30am)
For more information please visit www.hotpotrestaurants.co.uk
For other date night restaurant ideas please visit hero-and-leander.com/food-drink