“Whoa, whoa, whoa. There’s still plenty of meat on that bone. Now- you take this home, throw it in a pot, add some broth, a potato. Baby, you got a stew going!”
Carl Weathers to Dr Tobias Fünke, Arrested Development.
If your idea of going out to eat involves paying someone else to cook you dinner, then Hot Pot Spot may not be for you. But if you are a get-involved type, interested in an unusually gregarious, communal way to eat, then HPS (as the cool kids are calling it) has you covered.
It’s the only dedicated hot pot restaurant in the area. As I’ve not had a hot pot for a few years- since the sadly now defunct Mongolian Barbecue in Clapham- we visit a couple of days after it opens.
I’m always surprised by the number of small businesses within the Globe Centre. It’s reassuring to know that, should I overdo it and the eternal struggle between my waistband and torso rapidly reach that inevitable crisis, that Judith’s Tailoring is at hand for some emergency remedial action.
HPS itself is a minimally decorated space- a bare, painted concrete floor, with little in the way of decoration except for a few murals, but bright and airy. It’s a treat to find Hitachino’s White Ale (£3.95) among a short list of Japanese and Chinese beers. Brad has a ‘mocktail’ which he rates highly but finds expensive at £5.45, though using Korean pear juice has its merits. Chopsticks are your default setting, although forks are available for dolts such as your correspondent, who handles chopsticks with all the effortless ease and grace of a tutued Boris Johnson attempting a grand jeté at La Scala.
You help yourself to condiments: from chilli oil, oyster sauce, ‘satay’ or shacha (don’t expect the thick, peanut satay you know from Malaysian cooking: this is another beast altogether), sesame, sriracha and black vinegar, herbs and the like. Choose your ingredients and your stock base (lamb stock or vegetable) and Sichuan pepper and sit back.
After some slightly confusing menu broth choices, we choose a communal pot, recommended for two or more. The recessed hot plates in your table keep the whole thing bubbling along nicely. The cauldron arrives bubbling evilly, heady with aromatics- there’s garlic and fennel and black peppercorns as well as the whole dried chillies ramping up the heat. (We opt for Szechuan spice level 2 out of 3, because one of us once mistook hot chilli oil for soup in Australia and is still traumatised by memories of the aftereffects.)
The menu is short but well considered. The kitchen preps things for ease of cooking, then you’re left to your own devices. (This being 2018, a mandatory Health and Safety spiel is delivered tableside to enforce plate protocol and avoid cross-contamination of raw and cooked, or to stop you plunging your head into boiling stock). Squid (£5.95), for example, is trimmed and scored so it curls up in the heat: and, just for once, there’s no one else you can blame if it ends up overcooked.
It’s a lovely way to eat, even on a baking evening: light, fresh, flavoursome, and each component just as you want it. Add noddles for something more substantial, or stick with the meat and veg. Ruby Striploin beef (£7.95) is sliced waffer-thin and cooks in seconds (‘it’s like Arnie being lowered into the furnace at the end of Terminator 2’ is the comment), enoki mushrooms even more quickly. It should go without saying that this type of food only appeals if it is spankingly fresh. HPS delivers. It’s all rather relaxing, somehow.
We have made it through our working day sustained only by the promise of bao.
However, here they are not the lusted-after street food gua bao of Taiwan or Korea, pillowy and folded, but the stouter, slightly breadier, filled variety, the sort you see in Cantonese supermarkets. However, it is one of the immutable rules of the universe that it is impossible to have a bad time when there is char-siu pork around; it is never going to disappoint- even though recent reports suggest many are not getting their WHO-recommended five portions a day).
For dessert, another couple of bao: this time, they are sweetened with coconut around a canary-yellow custard which could become voraciously addictive.
We ate, drank, paid the service charge, and were only £20 a head worse off. Hot Pot Spot is a welcome arrival in what is one of the more interesting areas for food. This brings an element of laid-back fun to eating out.This is an interesting new opening with clear potential. The menu’s not faultless- some texturally contrasting toppings would be an improvement- peanuts? fried shallots?- but no two people will have exactly the same meal, and omnivores and the meat-free can happily eat from the same pot while doing their own thing. Oh, and we managed to conclude the meal without scalding our faces off. Result.
Hot Pot Spot
The Globe Centre,
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This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.