Turning the traditional restaurant concept on its head, Shuang Shuang provides all the ingredients for guests to cook their own meals. Invited to fully embrace the DIY dining experience, diners may find themselves at first in unfamiliar and rather uncomfortable territory, but the highly attentive staff are more than happy to offer recommendations, tips on how best to enjoy the hotpot and to educate them further on some hotpot history.
Guests begin by selecting a broth. All Shuang Shuang broths are MSG free and made in house, with the most traditional methodology: the "spicy mala", for example, comprises an impressive 23 ingredients including dried chilli, fermented broad beans and sichuan peppercorn which gave it impressive depth and power of flavour. Selecting the lamb tonic, a subtler affair than the fish pond, we then crafted our own dipping sauce from sesame butter, red beancurd paste, spring onion, chilli and sesame seed.
As we waited for the broth to boil, we ordered crispy pig’s ear with Xinjiang Spice (think sophisticated pork scratchings) and the prawn and scallop fritters with mala oil from the ‘snacks’ section of the menu. These were by far some of our favourite dishes of the evening, the xinjiang spice on the pig’s ear slightly overpowered an otherwise flawless dish, and the fritters were to die for, hearty without suffering from a conventional fritter pitfall of being unpleasantly oily.
Steering clear of more risqué ingredients like offal and blood cube in perhaps too cowardly a fashion, we opted for salmon, fish balls with squid, pak choi, samphire, thick Chinese dough noodles and prawn meat served with a crafting paddle. The self-crafted prawn balls and dough noodles were among the most tasty of the above, reminiscent of the more familiar ramen dish. The hotpot's key downfall was its lack of textural variety, the ingredients were well infused but failed to reach the same level of sophistication of the snacks that preceded them.
Determined to squeeze in dessert, we finished with soy milk ice cream and candied ginger a modern take on the traditional chinese soy milk pudding with ginger syrup dessert. By far the stand out of the night, it was beautifully balanced, the sweet creaminess of the soy ice cream offset by the spice and crunch of the ginger.
Haute cuisine this is not, and if experimenting with DIY dining feels far from your idea of a comfortable restaurant experience, then Shuang Shuang isn't for you, but if you’re excited at the prospect of learning more about a rich cultural history and trying out a new cuisine in London, then this is the place to do it.
|What||Shuang Shuang restaurant review|
|Where||Shuang Shuang, 64 Shaftesbury Ave, London, W1D 6LU | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
04 Jan 16 – 01 Feb 17, 12:00 PM – 11:00 PM
|Price||£1 – £5 plates|
|Website||Click here to go to the Shuang Shuang website.|