Hot pot as a dining experience originated from Mongolia more than a thousand years ago and has been readily available in Chinatown for decades. However, there has been a certain sense of secrecy and lack of information about this healthy form of communal dining. The recent opening of Hot Pot on Wardour Street is potentially the groundbreaking development that will make hot pot dining as popular as other oriental delights such as dim sum and ramen.
The traditional hot pot offerings are typically a buffet selection with a mystifying list of ingredients and a poor explanation of how this method of dining works. Here, the methodology is simple: you decide on one or two broths for cooking your ingredients, pick a selection of your favourite raw ingredients and then choose from the fifteen complimentary condiments and sauces for dipping your final cooked product.
It is a spacious 4,500 square-foot restaurant with elegant, discreet gold tones, dark panels and antique mirrors. The induction hob for the hot pot is easy to operate. You can handily divide the pot into two sections for separate broths, ideal for visiting with guests who are vegetarian and/or have allergies.
The broths I would recommend ordering are the spicy tom yum with fiery hot and sour flavours from the lemongrass, lime, chilli, coriander and prawns and the surprisingly flavoursome vegetarian broth, which has shiitake, bamboo mushroom and spring onion.
With over sixty ingredients to choose from, there is something for everyone from well-marbled rump steak to giant tiger prawns to six different types of exotic mushrooms: eryngii and shimeji anyone? There are dishes for every budget from those who enjoy luncheon meat to the Chinese delicacy that is fresh abalone, which is charged at seasonal prices along with items like fresh lobster and fresh crabs.
They have an unlimited supply of sauces and condiments, so there are always new combinations to try. The most popular choices were the house special, sesame sauce, chilli paste, she cha (soy and shrimp) and condiments like fresh coriander, chives, chopped garlic and chilli.
The highlight of the experience is sipping on the divine soup along with noodles at the end of your meal. By that time, the broth would have absorbed even more flavours from the ingredients you have cooked throughout the evening.
They have an extensive allergens menu, which lists gluten-friendly options––the presence of molluscs, nuts and dairy and the whole experience is easy to understand and transparent.