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Hot Pot Restaurant – Culinary Entertainment in Wardour Street.
When I first moved to London I worked in Soho. For those of us of a certain generation that statement might sound dubious, but in fact, I was employed by a hotel and restaurant group headquartered in White Bear Yard, the building that had originally housed the animals in the days when the Hippodrome in Leicester Square was a zoo. Alas, the elephants were long since departed, but our filing cabinets were stored in the old elephant pens, complete with the names of their previous occupants still in place.
It’s still a part of London I love – the pervasive aroma of the spices and sauces of the Chinese restaurants whisk me back in time to when I used to sit looking out over the kitchen of the restaurant next door.
Hot Pot is relatively new to London but, the method of cooking is popular in Asia and dates back over a thousand years, spreading from Mongolia through Southern China to become a popular way of eating throughout Mainland China, in Japan, Cambodia, Taiwan, Vietnam and more. It’s a relaxed way to dine – a group of friends and family around a hot pan of stock, each cooking their own ingredients before enjoying the rich broth which remains at the end of the meal. And, as a concept, it seems perfect for this part of town where so many people meet for an evening of socialising. You can be as highbrow as you like, with wagyu beef and lobster on the menu. Or, stick to the basics and enjoy a very wholesome hotpot of mixed meat, veg or seafood.
Turning up with a couple of other food bloggers, Heidi and Roma, was a good way to ensure a fun evening, albeit one where we might just have ordered a little too much food – in the interests of research of course. We started with some rather fine cocktails and a large bowl of prawn crackers to nibble on while we checked the menu.
It’s a good way to impress, in the melee of options around Soho, the only Asian restaurant to match the cocktails in the area for me is Yauatcha. I particularly enjoyed my classic Margarita at £7.75 and the yuzu sunrise was a delicious take on an old classic.
We ordered a few starters too – delicious pork gyoza and some delicate har gau dumplings.
Meanwhile, we were having a broth challenge. I like spicy food and was keen to try one of the hotter options, while both my companions were not keen on the idea of too much chilli. Hot Pot Soho has the perfect solution in the form of a split pot which I suspect would work for up to four people. As it was, I got the whole Tom Yum Goong hot and sour broth to myself as the others found it too spicy. Full of coriander, lemon grass and chilli, it was a deliciously fiery mixture.
Their option, a rich chicken broth, was very tasty but for me lacked the kick I got from the Tom Yum. But, if you didn’t want to split a pot, there is an alternative way to spice things up – with a whole selection of ingredients to make your own dipping sauce which you can select from the sauce station and mix up yourself while you wait for your broth to boil on the tabletop induction hob.
Our server kindly got things started by adding a whole selection of vegetables to the pot. And, we gingerly picked up bits of meat and fish to add in – in my case with a little trepidation that my lack of chopstick skills might result in starvation! Hot Pot restaurant provides helpful guides so you know roughly how long everything needs to cook.
But, if I am honest, I think we were all far too busy chatting and eating to take much notice. My personal challenge was trying to hold the more unusual items (mussels in their shell for example) with chopsticks. It was fun though, and anything dropped and lost just went to enrich the broth.
We ended up with a whole range of dishes to cook. Mixed seafood selection was a healthy and fresh heaped bowl with squid, salmon, mussels and more. If I was sharing and looking for one dish to pick it would be this – at £16.50 easily enough for two people. We also enjoyed a more delicate platter of Wagyu Beef, which I just let touch the broth in some effort not to spoil the delicate and beautifully marbled meat. It worked remarkably well.
The mixed vegetable selection included a whole range of mushrooms, green leaves and sweetcorn and the marinated pork was deliciously tender and would have worked well with just a few vegetables as an accompaniment.
Not that we needed any more food, but we ordered some ho fun noodles just to pad the whole mixture out a bit.
I’m not entirely sure how we managed to eat it all, but by the end, all that was left was the delicious broth. It may just have been that, as is recommended, we spent most of the evening eating and chatting.
And somehow we managed to share two desserts. When I return I will definitely be saving space for the Pandan Pancakes again – they were deliciously sweet and sticky with a lovely nutty flavour. And, I’ll be gently persuading whoever I am with to order the coconut ice cream. It is VERY good indeed.
Looking for somewhere a bit different in Soho? Hot Pot would be great for a birthday celebration or a get-together of a group of friends so why not pin this post for later!
17 Wardour Street
Disclosure: I was a guest of HotPot Restaurant – all content is editorially given.