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Hunan Pimlico, an epic meal

A little corner of SW1 is a very smart little square that in recent years have transformed into a bit of a gourmet’s dream. Pimlico square is transformed into a swanky farmers market which has a really good butcher and some speciality sausage makers, among other traders. Daylesford Organic set up their cafe deli shop in this square, a favourite spot for brunch (though quite expensive).

Along Pimlico Road, you will find Hunan, a Chinese restaurant that is unlike any other in London. (Although I heard that some relative of theirs have opened a competing place in West Kensington but doesn’t have the same cache.) It may be called Hunan but the cuisine is a Chinese fusion with influences from a lot of different regions. The owner Mr Peng is from Taiwan of Hakka origin and he is the one who created a lot of the dishes that they serve here. When he is not around, the food is pretty pedestrian. When he is around, you will be astounded. Recently, his son Michael has taken over running the place but the night we were there, Mr Peng was around showing off his lovely granddaughter.

We went with a Taiwanese friend who know them well and we managed to get ourselves a table for the 1st seating at short notice. They have 2 seatings, 6.30 and 8.30, so book the later one if you want the full works.

Hunan reminds me of a Shanghainese Restaurant I went to in San Francisco called JaiYun where you just name a price and just wait to see what gets served. We had about 20 courses there and  a friend with us that night almost had a seizure after the 10th course. Chef Nei’s place is where the off duty chefs in San Francisco go on their nights off.

This restaurant doesn’t have a menu and you have to let them know of any allergies or dislikes and they will just bring the food until you tell them to stop. Some of the dishes can be quite spicy so do let them know if you don’t like it too hot, but only one of the dishes was hot with the added bird’s eye chilli.  I quite like the idea of not knowing what we were going to eat but if you are squeamish about offal and other bits you might not like the surprise element too much.

If you are used to the regular Cantonese fair in Chinatown or around London, this will be a nice change. The style is similar to a banquet style menu where you are served multiple bite size course and finish off with the soup at the end and a filler or either a rice dish or noodle.  It is not exactly like Chinese banquet meals that I have had before in both presentations and types of dishes served but is as close as you will get in London. (Unless you have experienced a Chinese wedding in London). (Tim Hayward, you might want to try this.)

Within minutes our starter arrived,  the famous chicken and minced pork soup served in a bamboo like receptacle, topped with a little egg blanket and served alongside a nice little dumpling

Chicken and mince pork soup

Chicken and mince pork soup with prawn dumpling

The dishes flowed swiftly after this. Quite a few of the earlier dishes were just small portions.

Steamed Duck

Steamed Duck with arabica root

Octopus salad with spicy dressing

Octopus salad with spicy dressing

Seaweed wrapped tofu in black bean sauce

Seaweed wrapped tofu in black bean sauce

Tempura green beans

Tempura green beans

This was so good, we had 2 plates and the 4 year old on our table managed to finish one all by herself.

Spicy frogs legs

Spicy frogs legs

Stuffed bitter melon with prawns

Stuffed bitter melon with prawns

Braised pigs ear and tongue

Braised pigs ear and tongue

Chicken stuffed with sticky rice

Chicken stuffed with sticky rice

Spicy chilli beef

Spicy chilli beef

Sesame spinach and waterchestnut rolls

Sesame spinach and waterchestnut rolls

Chilli squid

Chilli squid

Dried beef boiled in wine 5 spice with hidden bird's eye chilli

Dried beef boiled in wine 5 spice with hidden bird's eye chilli

Crispy intestines with plum sauce

Crispy intestines with plum sauce

This dish is done in the style of Peking duck, the version where you eat the skin only.

Crab soup noodles

Fabulous crab soup noodles

The crab is lightly battered and fried before being added to the soup base.

Braised belly pork with man tou buns

Braised belly pork with man tou buns

Meltingly soft belly pork in a sweet sticky sauce wrapped up in the steamed  man tou, delicious.

Fried pak choy

Fried pak choy

Braised pork in lotus leaf

Braised pork in lotus leaf (Dong Puo Rou)

This might sound similar to the other braised pork dish above but is actually quite different. It could be quite frustrating to not being able to get better descriptions of the dishes but we had our own guide on the table who did a great job of both describing each dish.

Lotus fried rice

Lotus fried rice

This fried rice was spectacular. It uses a combination of short and long grain rices, steamed in chicken stock. The rice is then fried with a bit of garlic and chopped lotus seeds with some spring onions thrown in to finish.

Red bean pancake with almond jelly

Red bean pancake with almond jelly

The red bean pancake is one of the common desserts served at banquets but this was different. The pancake was not made of the usual flour based batter but had a glutinous consistency which was then pan fried. It is served with the almond jelly which is to be eaten together to give a contrast of hot and cold and chewy and soft. I don’t like almond jelly but in this dish it works really well.

We were almost defeated by the belly pork dish but eventually surrendered after the fried rice.  There were a few more dishes but I didn’t manage to get all the pics for them, including a steamed sea bass and some other dumplings. Some of the dishes went down better than the others and I am going back soon for more of that spectacular Lotus fried rice.

We noticed that the other tables had different dishes than us like a lettuce wrap something or other which we assumed were for the non Chinese clientele. Ask if you want the authentic experience.

Hunan does some other Taiwanese specialities on special order and we shall be back when they next call us to let us know. While we were there, a table of Taiwanese businessmen were tucking into some special soups and dishes. Michael said to call before the next visit to make sure that we get a completely different menu. We’ll be back.

The nitty gritty: It cost £50 per head and they didn’t charge us for drinks.

Hunan Restaurant

51 Pimlico Road London

SW1W 8NE

020 7730 5712

Open Mon-Sat 12:30pm-2pm, 6:30pm-11pm

Hunan on Urbanspoon

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Comments

  1. Hunan is one of my favourite restaurants in London, and I have been there many times prior to blogging. You really made me want to go back there again. Great write up and I am surprised you managed to get a very accurate description of all dishes despite the lack of a printed menu. The tempura green beans look fantastic.

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

  2. Oh man, some of that looks good. I *love* JaiYun in SF (my hometown) – this has me itching to get back there again.

  3. LondonFoodie says:

    @ Luiz My Taiwanese friend was very helpful with the descriptions and recipes. All the staff were rushing around too much to be much help.

  4. I have a friend who lives right near that Plimlico farmers market so I will have to take her to Hunan by the sounds of it. How to get the authentic experience I wonder? May have to take a Chinese friend!

  5. Great descriptive post. Used to frequent it about 10 years ago – couldn’t believe that somewhere so amazing was in the side streets of Pimlico. Old Mr Peng was in the kitchen and the food was fab – and different each time.

    It’s a while since I’ve been and I am so glad it is still so extraordinary. Made me want to go again for sure!

    • LondonFoodie says:

      @Bron You must go back, I am sure that you will get a whole new experience as there are new recipes with the change of guard.

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