The Mid-Autumn Festival is one the most important dates in the Chinese calendar. Also known as the Moon Festival, it is a time when the moon is said to be at its brightest and fullest, and family and friends come together to celebrate and give thanks to the moon for a successful crop harvest. This year, it fell on Saturday, September 10, and to celebrate, Hutong – the northern Chinese restaurant located on the 33rd floor of The Shard – have created a special menu, which you can try all week long. Although not easy on the purse strings, it is most definitely easy on the eye, and the stomach…
Between September 10–17, Hutong are serving up a traditional four-course tasting menu, with optional drinks pairings per course, alongside their regular offerings and their show-stopping views of the capital. If you’ve never been inside The Shard, the view as you exit the lift and turn the corner into the Aqua Shard restaurant space will stop you in your tracks. The views from the floor-to-ceiling glass walls high above the city are breathtaking, and as you make your way up the glass staircase to the 33rd-floor Hutong, you’ll feel as though you’re walking in the clouds.
The Mid Autumn Festival menu at Hutong starts with poached chicken breast, served atop Pi Xian soba noodles, and Sensi cod rolls. If you opt for drinks pairings, you’ll receive a glass of Pommery Brut Royal champagne. Eaten on their own, the cold noodles are sweet with a spicy kick; however, the chicken breast cools down the peppery flavours. Interestingly, the flavours in this starter distinctive change the dry champagne, transforming it from tart to a softer taste. The Sensi cod rolls – one of my favourite dishes on this Mid Autumn Festival menu – are presented beautifully. Warm, soft, flavoursome cod wrapped in crispy noodles, each mouthful boasts subtle flavour, rather than an overpowering taste.
Your next course solely champions fish: deep fried seabass, with a homemade sweet and sour sauce. Now, this sweet and sour sauce is nothing like you’ve tasted down at your local Chinese takeaway (and I have a very good local Chinese takeaway, I must say); at Hutong, the dip is exceptional. Hints of ginger elevate the sweet and sour flavours, and the sauce is main source of flavour in this course. The drinks pairing is a white Cabernet, made with a red grape; it is smooth, slightly sweet, and one of the best wines I’ve tasted in a long time.
From light fish to heavier red meat. Your third course starts with a spicy pan-fried beef tenderloin – and boy, is it tender! I would even go as far as to say the texture of the meat is almost creamy, in a satisfying spicy sauce. It also goes very well with the red wine pairing: a classic red wine and red meat pair, though this red Cabernet wine is poured in a very unique way, using gas through a very small opening in the cork to push the wine out into your glass. Other dishes in this course include chilled tofu in salted egg yolk sauce – an acquired taste but traditional dish – a smokey Sichuan-style aubergine tempura, which is absolutely divine, and a staple egg rice, that despite being a well known side, seems to possess something a little more special here at Hutong.
If all these dishes weren’t enough, the whole experience is rounded off with dessert: festival mooncake. Mooncakes are a traditional cake (hey, it’s in the name, right) served during the Mid-Autumn Festival. There are different variations among Chinese communities, but each boasts a rich, thick filling. At Hutong, the mooncake is delightfully sweet, yet not overpoweringly so, and has a mochi-style outer layer. The final drinks pairing is a mango wine. The smell of mango is super distinctive, but the taste is not as sweet as you’d expect from a dessert wine – it is very enjoyable.
The Mid Autumn Festival menu at Hutong comes in at £98pp, and it is an additional £47pp for the drinks pairings. If you’d prefer to skip the drinks pairings and opt to choose your own drinks from Hutong’s main menu, that is absolutely fine. I highly recommend the Yellow Dragon. Not only is it very pretty, but is balances the sweetness of the fruit juice with the tartness of the tequila very well.
While this menu is more on the spenny side, you’re not just paying for the (exquisite) food: the view from the Shard is second to none (as well as the panoramic city views of London that surround you, the ambience inside is also exceptional); the attention to detail in every aspect of your experience is faultless; and the service is out of this world – not only are courses well timed, but conversely, a lot of time is taken to explain what you’re eating and drinking as it is served. If you’re looking to celebrate the Mid Autumn Festival this week in London, there’s arguably no better place than Hutong. Book your table via the Hutong website.