Do you ever look at your lunch and think, I wish this had arrived in-front of me in the same way my luggage arrives at an airport?
I basically do all the time.
It’s probably because i’m lazy af.
Anyway, conveyor-belt restaurants are quite popular. Yo! Sushi are obviously the kings of the conveyor-belt concept, with fresh sushi gently sliding past you as you sit in one of their many restaurants, and there are a few other sushi restaurants in London (and indeed, around the world!) that showcase their dishes this way too.
It is a concept that works well with sushi because it’s food that doesn’t need to be kept hot (I hate it when Yo! put hot dishes on the belt, you select one and it’s already gone cold – stop it please, Yo!) and it’s even one that is coming to a new Soho restaurant that will be serving up potato crisps in a variety of flavours, as well as sauces for dipping – all served on a conveyor-belt system, so this sort of thing seems to be having its moment right now.
And Shuang Shuang on Shaftsbury Avenue, right on the edge of China Town, is demonstrating that this moment works exceptionally well for personalised Chinese Hot Pots known as Bun Bo Hue!
Hot Pot is a social way of eating that the Chinese have enjoyed for over a thousand years. Shuang Shuang welcomes everyone to enjoy this most satisfying and communal of meals, with broths inspired by the regions of China and over 40 authentic ingredients to choose from.
There are a few initial stages of enjoying your counter-top dining experience at Shuang Shuang. Firstly, you must choose your broth, followed by your dipping sauce… and then look to the belt for your ingredients!
I went with the Tom Yum broth and the Hot & Sour sauce. The pricing structure works the same way as the others, with colour coded plates that you stack up and are counted at the end. Much of it is very well priced, with most of your standard vegetables and all the noodles being priced at £1 a plate. If you wanted to add marbled beef (with elements of wagyu) you’d be looking at £10, but many of the other meats were around the £2-4 mark. I selected the noodles I liked the look of best as they made their way past me – the flat noodles. Then it was onto the variety of meats, vegetables and other accompaniments that took my fancy.
I chose the pak choi, some delicious looking mushrooms and pork belly slices, as well as several splashes of my hot and sour sauce, soy sauce and chilli oil.
This then cooked in front of us on a hidden hob which you could adjust the temperature of once your broth had cooked everything in the bowl. Then it’s time to serve up and devour!
The pork belly slices cooked beautifully within the broth, like a soft, tender bacon. The mushrooms softened while the pak choi took up the full heat of the broth and scalded my mouth – advice: don’t shove an entire piece of pak choi into your mouth with chop sticks. It looks stupid and you will burn your tongue.
I loved the addition of my hot and sour sauce. The oyster sauce within it gave it a salty, tangy edge, while the siracha provided the heat. Mixed into the broth, or even used as a dip for my ingredients worked really well, and soon my nose was streaming from the heat which continued to build as I scooped more and more into my bowl. The perfect cure for winter sniffles.
However, if you’re a fan of nut butters and enjoy a creamier, more mellow flavour, the house sauce is beautiful, made with sesame butter and beancurd paste. I dripped that into my remaining ingredients-free broth that was left at the end and it was beautiful – a lot kinder to my dripping nose!
I really enjoyed my lunch at Shuang Shuang. They’ve reinvented the carousel dining system and offered up something quite unique, and certainly very fun. The big windows looking out onto Shaftsbury Avenue allow for intrigued passers by to gaze at the colourful array of plates and ingredients, and for many their intrigue was peaked and they came in to try it for themselves. It’s great for people watching, but as we learned, gazing out the window whilst spooning yourself large portions of steaming hot broth is not a wise move so best to avoid distraction if you can.
Our bill came to £30 for the two of us, which for an interactive lunch with wonderful flavours is incredibly reasonable. I like being able to customise my meal to my own budget and tastes. You could easily find yourself paying more if you let your eyes become bigger than your belly, and truth be told, you are given so much broth that you could make two completely different servings should the mood strike. It didn’t for us, but if you’re looking for a fun place to feast with your friends, this is a superb option.