Tag Archives: food

A Duck With A View

The first thing everyone mentions about Hutong, the Chinese restaurant in The Shard, is not the view (very good) or the service (very jolly) or the red-lantern and dark wood décor (very sleek) but the prices (very high).


They are as incredible as Renzo Piano’s you’ll-have-someone’s-eye-out-with-that skyscraper – like the building itself, they just keep on climbing, until you are hovering around £60 for a Peking duck. But everything in The Shard is expensive – when the Shangri-la Hotel opens in May, rooms will start at £350 a night. To visit the viewing platform unannounced you’ll be mugged for £29.95pp (you can knock a fiver off for pre-booking). So when my kids said they’d like to go up The Shard for their half-term treat  I knew I was going to drop at least a hundred quid for the four of us for the outing, before food and drink. (To be fair, there was a very useful kids-go-free special h/t offer for the viewing gallery, but both ours being over 16, we were looking at full price). Oddly, though, Hutong came to the rescue.

It had just launched a set lunchtime menu of dim sum, any five dishes (e.g. poached wontons with chilli-garlic sauce, ginger and spring onion lobster buns, baked Wagyu beef puffs) for £28pp. OK, so that’s really no bargain by Chinatown standards, but at The Shard it’s a steal (and certainly comparable to Yauatcha in Soho). And you do get four pieces of each one, they are freshly made every morning and they are pretty damn’ fine. Now, I hear you say, four times £28 comes to… but you don’t need one set lunch each. We did two of them (£56) and half a Peking duck (£30), which is flashily carved at your tableside, and left replete after two hours for £86 (plus drinks and 12.5% service). Still expensive, but I haven’t even factored in the view yet.

Hutong is on the 33rd floor, so only about half way up the this anorexic glass pyramid, but even so it’s worth trying to bag a window seat for the always-mesmerising London birds’-eye view (I particularly like looking down on HMS Belfast for some reason, although we were seated on a different side). And if you don’t get a window, there is always the lavatory, from where you can gaze along the river to Tower Bridge and across South London to Kent. In the men’s, the urinals are positioned in front of plate glass windows, so that you stare down on what looks like a vast Hornby construction, with trains snaking in and out of London Bridge Station, feeling like The Fat Controller. Or perhaps Bob Crow.

* Hutong, Level 33, The Shard, 31 St Thomas Street, London SE19RY (020 3011 1257, http://www.aquahutong.co.uk)

photo 5This is the view from the table, looking over Borough Market and Tate Modern.

Thanks to Gina Ryan for the pics.


I am interviewing chef Jason Atherton for the Sunday Times sometime soon and I recently realised I had a gap in my experience of his rapidly expanding gastro-universe. I had eaten at Maze when he was Gordon Ramsey’s small-plate protégé, had a memorable lunch at the Pollen St Social Club and a decent dinner at the Social Eating House (on the first full day of opening, and the debutante nerves showed a little) and a good-value lunch (£25.50) at Little Social, which for me showed Balthazar the way to do a Manhattan-influenced brasserie in London. But I hadn’t eaten at his latest joint, Berners Tavern, at the new London Edition hotel, just north of Oxford Street. Time to make amends before the meeting.
I used to have my breakfast meetings (a thing of the past, I’m pleased to say) there when it was the Berners Hotel, a low-key, faded five-star that clung to memories of its (distant) heyday. Now, it has been Ian Schragered – spruced and primped and Fabergé-d (look at the chandeliers) to brash, contemporary glory. Shrager’s still got that same quirk from the Royalton of trying to save on the lighting bills (maybe he’s heard about our energy companies), so there are corners of the public areas where flashlights ought to be provided, but it’s a very impressive lobby with, Schrager’s essential ingredient, a busy little bar. Oh, and that other trope of Ian’s – a phalanx of unnervingly attractive staff. You could certainly forget that, under its scrubbed, moisturized and waxed skin, this is a Marriott hotel.
The restaurant is even grander, the walls covered with a Tetris of mis-matched artwork, a soaring illuminated cabinet of spirits centre-stage at the bar and a roof to remember. Nobody could tell me when the triple-height, ornately plastered ceiling dates from (although the marble floor in the foyer is apparently 1830s), but this was once the site of Messrs Marsh, Stacey, Fauntleroy and Graham’s private bank. Like all good banks, this had its share of scandal. Henry Fauntleroy was light-fingered to say the least, helping himself, with a little creative accounting and the Georgian equivalent of dodgy OTC Derivatives, to £250,000 (a very large fortune back then). According to the judge at his trial at the Old Bailey, the banker “squandered it in debauchery”. Some things never change. Well, that’s not quite true – they hanged him for his embezzlement on November 30, 1824, the last man to hang for forgery in the UK.
Still, back to the food. I am not going to list the meal beat by beat in time-honoured fashion (‘We started with the soup..’). We went fishy, apart from a playful “ham, egg and peas” starter (brilliant), with perfectly cooked fish, lime-chilli scallops, baby squid and a watch-the-white-shirt squid-ink risotto. It was all executed and served with admirable precision. Prices are commensurate with the setting, mind. We paid £110 for four courses, water, tea and a reasonable bottle of Torrentes, from the lower rung of a wine list that quickly ascends to the heavens.
One bugbear among the opulence, and Berners Tavern is far from alone in this, is that I don’t like those credit card machines which say, even though you’ve paid 12.5% already, ‘Would You Like To Add A Gratuity?”. It makes you feel Steve Buscemi’s Mr Pink (‘I don’t tip.. I don’t believe in it’) when you press ‘No.’ There should be a “Yes, but I’ll pay it in cash, thanks” option. Better yet, just shut up with the questions.
So, the overall verdict – rolling in the whole experience, ambience and food – is that Berners Tavern provided one of my best meals out this year in what is unlikely to be topped as the most splendid setting (it certainly rivals the Wolseley in that respect). And it’s open all day. Maybe I’ll start doing breakfast meetings again.


Gothenburg is, so they told me, much like my home town of Liverpool – a once thriving port, with its own dialect, music scene and quirky sense of humour. I forgot to ask if it had an underperforming football team, too. But I wasn’t there for similarities, I was there for differences. Unlike Liverpool, Gothenburg is somewhere you go for great food, especially seafood and it is perfectly positioned geographically and culturally to take advantage of the current thirst for all things Nordic and locavore. I was here to eat.

If you want to see the legendary Gothenburg bounty from the sea, you visit Feskekörka – the Fish Church, which really does look like a Piscean house of worship  – market on the riverside, where the downturned mouths and black-button eyes of dozens of marine species stare back at you from their marble resting places. Better yet, you climb the stairs to the mezzanine level, where tiny Restaurant Gabriel (00 46 31 139051, restauranggabriel.com, lunch only, approx £30pp) takes the produce from the slabs below and cooks it as simply as possible – if at all.


Chef Johan Malm won the World Oyster Opening Championship in Galway in 2010 (and came a close second in 2012) and he apologises profusely that he has no Swedish bivalves to offer me, blaming ‘lazy divers’ (all Swedish oysters are hand-harvested and, in fact, there have been storms). Instead, he serves up six fat French numbers and a perfectly poached piece of hake. ‘People don’t really believe this, but our menu is just a guide. If you see a fish you want downstairs, tell me how you would like it cooked, I’ll buy it and I’ll do it. It’s as close as you can get to eating straight from the sea.’

The best way to get to Ulf Wagner and Gustav Trägardh’s Sjömagsinet (Adolf Edelsvärds gta 5, 00 46 31 7755920, sjomagsinet.se) is to take a trip on that sea, or at least along the river towards the sea, out past the fish market, the giant Stena ferries and the new waterfront developments to Klippen. Here, in an old East India Co. warehouse, is a very different take on using the local produce.


Sjömagsinet is unashamedly fancy food, not so much in the cooking techniques – there’s no molecular trickery – but in the combination of flavours. So expect baked anglerfish with chipotle jus, ragout of piglet shank and black salsify or saddle of venison with oyster vinaigrette. It was Ulf who told me that Gothenburg has the best seafood on the planet. At Sjömagsinet the meat’s pretty damn’ good too. A set menu is around £65; matching wines doubles that.

It is a long way from hip and heaving Harlem to nature-loving Gothenburg – the nearby archipelago is one of the city’s great attractions – but for Jimmy Lappalainen it is a homecoming. Born in a small village up the coast, as a young cook he went to New York and managed to secure a position with Marcus Samuelsson (Ethiopian born, Swedish-raised in Gothenburg, American culinary star), who opened the ground-breaking Red Rooster up at 125th St, Harlem in 2010, with Jimmy as chef. When Samuelsson was invited to oversee the restaurants at the new Clarion Hotel Post in Gothenburg, he brought Jimmy with him to be Executive Chef in situ (Samulesson pops over from Harlem every other month), although he has since moved up to be overall Food & Beverage manager for the hotel. ‘Obviously I’ve shipped some of New York back with me, too,’ he says. Not least in the scale of the room, which feels like a NYC public building.


The hotel is a new-ish (opened January 2012) conversion of the grand old city post office, and Norda (00  46 31 619060, nordabargrill.se), its restaurant, is located in the former postal hall, all soaring pillars and panelled ceilings, draped with great swathes of deep red curtains, giving it a vast, theatrical feel. The food is Swedish with an American twist – the classic hot dog is still in a bun, but it’s a wild boar sausage in brioche with home cured pickles (£12), or there’s elk carpaccio with maple syrup (£15). And, again, there is very good plain seafood: ‘Some things you just let talk for themselves,’ says Jimmy. And the oysters all say: ‘eat me’.

GETTING THERE: SAS (0871-226 7760, flysas.com) flies to Gothenburg from Heathrow. The Clarion Hotel Post (00 46 31 61 90 00, clarionpost.com) has doubles from £130, room only.

FURTHER INFORMATION: Visit Sweden (www.visitsweden.com) and Gothenburg (www.gothenburg.com).