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    Red Lanterns in the Hutong

“Regarding your order, I think you might have ordered too much,” the waiter said.

“Oh don’t worry we haven’t, we’ve ordered just enough,” replied Dad.

With that the waiter obliged, saying he’d be ‘impressed’ to see us finish the long list of dishes he had just taken down.

We’re sitting in Hutong on the 33rd floor of The Shard. The restaurant is lined with rich, dark wooden panelling and in the centre is a small wishing tree; its branches are filled with dangling red cards, covered with secrets and messages of love and inspiration.

The restaurant’s name, which derives from the ancient, narrow, winding alleyways of Beijing, seems almost ironic against a backdrop of The Shard’s tall, modernist grandeur at the heart of the open spaces of London Bridge as it undergoes a major transformation.

The food prices are overly-extravagant but the compensation is the breathtaking view: just beyond the tables and red lanterns is one of the finest urban skylines in the northern hemisphere; where all of London’s landmarks stand before you, glistening in the dark sky.

The only thing missing from the view is, of course, The Shard itself.

The waiters arrived with our starters; they were smiling and conversational and gave a really pleasant service (which isn’t always said about restaurant staff in the capital).

Sichuan peppered cuttlefish, chilled spiced razor clams and thinly-sliced pork belly with cucumber; delicate portions yet with fresh, complex, tastes that came bursting through.

These flavours, I imagined, tasted just as would the authentic delicacies that might have been cooked up in the imperial palaces in Peking (as Beijing was then known).

For our main dishes, we had roasted duck served in the Chinese traditional two stages: aromatic beef rib braised in lotus leaves and the Red Lantern, which is an ornate basketful of crispy soft-shell crabs on a bed of Sichuan dried chillies.

Dad managed to astonish the waiter as we devoured every dish. After a delicious meal I sipped at the last of my jasmine tea and spent my last moments gazing over that mesmerising skyline before leaving our table, which had the most beautiful view.

As long as you have a substantial amount of cash to spend, Hutong is the perfect place for a really special occasion.

An absolute luxury and an unforgettable dining experience.

Hutong, Level 33, The Shard, 31 Saint Thomas Street, London SE1 9RY

Photos courtesy of: Nick Moulds – Flickr