The concept here is a simple one; shared hotpots for two of more people, flavoued broths brought to a rolling boil with tabletop heaters and used to poach a variety of meats, tofus and veggies. First, pick a base broth (or two) from the short list. We went for a steaming seething yin-yang of Sichuan spiced lip numbing pleasure and a soft mushroom broth as counterpoint. Next, select 5 or so options per person from the extensive list and, once your stock is up to speed, get (them) stuck in.
The tiny down at heel space is tucked away, if anything can be tucked away on Shaftesbury Avenue, among the Chinese travel agents, health shops, walk in masseuses and general central London tat. If you don't read Chinese it's not immediately obvious what they sell and as we headed into the bowels of the basement I was glad to be led by the Ambassador. He'd spent much of the last decade in Beijing and Shanghai and knew his beans, not to mention his hot pots.
You can do very well here on the veggies and tofu, but the real fun is in watching the bright pink tubes of thinly shaved and rolled meats blister and boil within seconds in the scorching liquid. The numbing Sichuan pepper takes away a great deal of the subtlety but you can (just) identify the ingredients. Fish balls and crab sticks might not be from the expensive aisle in the nearby Oriental supermarket but like most things, they taste so good when drowned in molten pepper heat.
Fun, challenging and social. And at around £25 a head with sides of meat skewers and a few rounds of Tsing Tao, it's definitely a keeper.