Despite being Chinese I’m not a big fan of hotpot but Shuang Shuang’s novel concept of giving each diner their “personal” hotpot, which opened earlier on in the year, caught my interest. That interest was also partly to do with its location, at the corner of Chinatown, because Chinatown never has a “novel” restaurant – Chinese don’t do novel!
Let me elaborate as to why I wasn’t a fan of hotpot. I think I’ve only had hotpot in a restaurant once, when I was a kid, every other time it has been at home and generally in large gatherings. Maybe because of the number of people the stock at home was normally water or a quickly hatched up broth, with maybe some soy sauce and a little chili oil as dips. Hence I always found hotpots bland and a hassle. I was never subjected to hotpots with strong stocks and an abundance of sauces but they are the essence of hotpot, more so than the ingredients!
Shuang Shuang has 5 stocks to choose from in a range of spice levels and flavours. I went for the Lamb Tonic whilst my companion went for the Temple Brew. The Lamb Tonic had a mild gamy taste with a hint of heat for a warming broth. The Temple Brew, made with soy milk, sounded a little odd to me but was well received. You then get the choice of a number of sauces, either a pre-mixed combination or a free for all. The choice comes down to personal preference but if you’re not sure what to do then going for a pre-mixed combo is sure to give you a better taste.
True to conveyor belt conduct ingredients come in a range of different coloured dishes, corresponding to their price, and diners are free to take as much as they like from the conveyor belt. There are also four snack dishes you can order off the menu.
The concept has its market and being on the busy Shaftesbury Avenue with wall to ceiling windows definitely drew interest from passersby. But I think Shuang Shuang needs to constantly add and update their menu to keep things interesting. I felt that there were a lot of similar ingredients and some of them, such as the beef rump, weren’t as high quality as I’d have hoped. After a while I felt that choices had slowly run out and I couldn’t really find things I wanted to eat.
A flaw to the concept is that the broth dries up quite quickly because of the small pot. Thus the broth never really builds in flavour. The oils, fats, juices etc. from all the ingredients builds up the complexity of the broth so refilling the pot with broth too much will wash away those flavours.
I think conveyor belt hot pot is a great idea for small groups who might have different tastes or dietary requirements. It does however break the social event that hotpot normally is but the novelty of it should definitely keep punters coming since it’s also on a busy tourist street. But to gain a loyal following I think rotation of dishes need to be quicker and there needs to be a greater variety.
Address: 64 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 6LU
Telephone: 0207 734 5416
Mind The Gap:
Sun – Thu: 12pm – 11pm
Fri – Sat: 12pm – 11.30pm
Panda ate, shot and left.