Course #1: signature soup with minced pork.
I know it’s ironic, but for one of my first posts of the new year I’m looking back on a meal from the year just gone. When we herald in the new year there’s always an influx of over-ambitious new year’s resolutions, a flurry of excitement about things we wish we could do better, stop doing, do more, etc. This year I haven’t made any resolutions because I don’t need to pin my hopes on the romantic adventure of a lifetime; I do need to exercise more, but saying ‘I will go to the gym/Bikram yoga more’ is one that’s going to get broken – it’s inevitable; and all other material things are just resolutions that I figured would fall by the wayside within hours. Instead I have only this: I will take all experiences, good or bad, and I will grow from them, because that’s something I can definitely stick with.
Food-wise, I only hope that I can continue to eat the best food I can get my hands on, and if that’s one of your “resolutions” too then you need to make a trip to visit Hunan which was one of the best, and definitely the most interesting, meals I had during 2010.
Course #2: spicy pork dumpling.
Course #3: prawn dumplings.
Course #4: jellyfish rolls.
Every year we try to find somewhere interesting to dine for our family Christmas meal. Last year we hit up Pied A Terre (which was a fairly average meal, in all honesty, but you should read Catty’s review who had a much better time), and in years gone past we have frequented The Square and Petrus (before Gordon Ramsay took it over), where I famously accidentally threw a bread roll across the restaurant, where it hit another punter. So classy. This year, however, Papa Lee had booked us into Hunan on Pimlico Road. I didn’t know much about it, it’s an upmarket Chinese joint bang-smack in the middle of London with various critical acclaim… oh, and just one little thing: they have no menu.
Course #5: beef rolls.
Course #6: stuffed prawns.
Course #7: tofu wrapped in seaweed.
I read the website, I noted a couple of reviews, and then I shut down my laptop, got dressed and headed out into the cold December evening with Momma Lee & Brother. I wasn’t sure what to expect and I was a little apprehensive, because when it comes to it, I am really not particularly spontaneous. I’m the girl who checks out the menu online beforehand and decides what I want to eat days in advance; I plan, oh boy do I plan; I write copious lists of things ‘to do’ and ‘to finish’; I note (with a certain degree of OCD) what happened when, where and at what time in my Google Calendar (I even update it if plans were changed after the event, because I need to have an accurate record of what happened): “Organised” is my middle name. So to be faced with various dishes with no prior warning or choice in the matter… that’s kinda weird for me. But one can only ponder over how these things will turn out for a certain amount of time, after which you need to just pick up your fork and dig in.
Course #8: pig’s ear & tongue.
Course #9: deep-fried seaweed.
Course #10: chicken stuffed with sticky rice.
My God was I glad I did pick up the fork of opportunity (and the chopsticks of actuality) because what followed were 18 courses of awesomeness. Our waitress simply asked us whether there was anything we could not eat or specifically wanted, and then the feasting began. Arriving two, sometimes three, dishes at a time, we ate until we were bursting at the seams. The dishes are small but packed full of flavour and texture, and there were just so many of them. I was snapping food as fast as it was lain on the table, then shovelling it into my ever-waiting gob, as if I’d been on hunger-strike for a week.
Course #11: cucumber with scallops.
Course #12: tripe.
Course #13: deep-fried frogs’ legs.
The famously lauded deep-fried frogs legs were probably one of the best dishes. Once I’d gotten over the initial squeamishness that I was about to eat a dismembered frog’s leg (I am a bit squeamish like that) I popped the whole thing in my mouth, spat out the bones and thoroughly enjoyed it. It tasted like chicken (doesn’t everything?) but was so incredibly succulent, so tender and completely delicious. No wonder the critics rave over it.
Course #14: spicy beef.
Course #15: bitter melon with prawn.
Course #16: steamed quail’s egg.
Interestingly, the worst dishes (and I’m not saying that they were bad, just that they weren’t as mind-blowing as the rest of the meal) were the ones that we had requested, ourselves. And by ‘requested’ I mean we had said, “he likes beef and she likes lobster”, which resulted in a stir-fried spicy beef dish and lobster with crispy noodles. Having said that, the steamed quail’s egg dish was bizarre, both in flavour and texture (somewhat rubbery), so it was definitely up there with the least favourites of the night.
Course #17: lobster with crispy noodles.
We finished things up with red bean pancake with almond jelly which was nice, though not spectacular, but had it been anything else we would’ve definitely exploded. I’m not sure whether it was the pace with which everything was brought from the kitchen, or the fact that 18 different dishes is a heck of a lot of food, but we were stuffed by the time it came to go home.
Course #18: red bean pancake with almond jelly.
Overall a thoroughly enjoyable meal, though. I waddled to the car and promptly fell into a food coma. It’s not cheap, at about £30/head (not including wine) but it’s definitely an indulgence worth its weight in, er, frogs’ legs.
51 Pimlico Rd
London SW1W 8NE
0207 730 5712
Mon-Sat: 12.30-2pm, 6.30-11pm
What a way to end 2010, and what promise for 2011! I’m looking forward to meals this year that’ll top last’s: time to step-up restaurants cuz I’m coming to nom. Until next time, friends, peace and love.