Hotpot isn’t anything new, but Haidilao is taking this popular Chinese dining experience and giving it a contemporary upgrade. The concept still stays the same; ordering plates of raw meat, seafood, vegetables and other goodies to dip into boiling pots of soup on your table and eat with a medley of sauces. The experience has been totally revamped though, making for a fun and unique evening out.
Originating in China, Haidilao is an incredibly popular chain that’s now opening stores globally. The Picadilly Circus location is the only London one so far, and as you can imagine, it’s very busy. If you didn’t book a table there’s no need to stress though. Waiting is all part of the experience, with free snacks, manicures (!!!) and comfy seating right as you walk in.
When it’s time to be seated, you’re guided downstairs and to your private table. The staff are all really helpful and friendly, putting your coats and scarfs in a bag and dressing you in a cute apron so you don’t get your clothes dirty. They even give you little clear bags for your phones, as ‘things can get a little messy!’.
Under the table is a little drawer with everything you need to dive into your hotpot without worrying about the mess. Hair ties, plastic gloves (perfect for the shellfish) and plenty of napkins are all thoughtful additions for guests. There’s even wireless charging panels on the tables, and plugs just under for you to charge your devices with ease.
As Haidilao London is such a modern concept, it comes as no surprise that you order everything through a little tablet. First, you pick one to four broths to have on your table, then you get about ordering all the raw food to cook in it. The menu is quite typically Chinese, meaning you can find everything from tofu and sliced beef to fresh pigs brains and duck tongue.
We went for the laksa soup broth, and then the assorted seafood platter, marinated beef, marinated lamb, boneless basa fish, mushrooms, spinach and noodles. The noodles are an absolute must-order, as they bring the dough out and do a funky little show at your table when they throw them around to stretch them out, then pop them in the pot for you. They’re also pretty damn tasty. Overall we were super happy with everything we ordered (although it was a little much for two people, but we always overorder!). The basa fish and marinated meats were probably our favourites, both being wonderfully tender and really flavoursome.
There’s also a self-service seasoning bar, which is an additional charge but totally worth it. Here you can mix and match from a wide variety of sauces, seasonings, seeds, nuts and even toppings like red bean and kimchi. It’s a super fun experience getting to mix and match all the flavours, and it makes every mouthful different.
Although Haidilao is a little more expensive than most other hotpot places around London, we’d highly recommend it for the experience, and the food is damn tasty. If you’re lucky, a cute little robot might even come and deliver your food for you.All images taken on the Nokia 7.2