The height of Mid-Autumn dining

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Bing Luo, the chef at Chinese restaurant Hutong, does not allow the elevated placement of his restaurant – the 33rd level of The Shard in London – to overshadow the quality and authenticity of his cuisine. We visited on Tuesday to feast on the restaurant’s Mid-Autumn Festival menu, and it was more than just the views that marked it as a special occasion.

When we arrived, the city was still light and we could see across the murky river to the vivid, convoluted curves of The City and, the other way, to the lines and lights of Canary Wharf. An opening cocktail accompanied these vistas – a long, sun-yellow combination of elderflower, sweet chilli and Tsingtao, which sounds like it wouldn’t work, but it did, somehow, so well.

Starters followed shortly afterwards; first, a neat and tightly packed cylinder of spinach, topped with crispy ginger and surrounded by a shallow pool of soft, subtle jus, and second a praise-worthy plate of braised cuttlefish ribbons with strands of fresh red Sichuan pepper. The two dishes were harmonious – the gentle, mouth-numbing zing of the latter offsetting the lightness of the former.

We had become so embroiled in these dishes that we’d hardly noticed the city changing outside – suddenly prettier with the blue sheen of evening and the romance of street lights. A large red lantern of soft-shell crab, almost overflowing with deep crimson chilli peppers, came to punctuate these views. The pieces of crab, like treasure inside, were of the impressively meaty variety.

Despite its size, this was only half of the fish course, and soon a whole turbot – chopped and imbued with flavour, then placed back into its deep-fried exterior – arrived. This was one of the stars of the evening, and we ate almost the entire thing. This was where perhaps the biggest authenticity of the evening began to kick in; we were getting full, but there was still a meat course to arrive.

Having celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival at family homes, we’ve come to consider an overwhelming volume of food part of the occasion, and we were glad to see Hutong – despite its gourmet credentials – honouring this.

Next up, beer-braised short rib covered in the warming, nostalgic five-spice taste that’s so quintessential to Chinese cuisine. There was also a dish of courgette stuffed with minced chicken, and a buttery, garlicky bowl of kai-lan. This course was well-matched to a red wine from Ninxia with a lot of heat and body.

To finish, we were presented with a glass of syrupy Chinese ice wine and a traditional mooncake filled with a salted duck egg yolk. There were also taro balls, spiral-fried and soft, on the side. The two worked equally well together as they did separately. Our only complaint about dessert? We wished there was more of it.

by Becky Zanker

Hutong’s Mid-Autumn Festival menu is available until September 27, 2015

Hutong, Level 33 The Shard, 31 St. Thomas Street, London, SE1 9RY
Reservations tel: 020 3011 1257

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