On our trip to China this summer, one of the most memorable good meals was a Sichuna hot pot, so I was keen to check out a place serving them with the husband spotted on the edges of China town. Arriving at the designated spot, I thought it must have shut as all I could see was a shabby place serving one of those gloopy-looking all you can eat buffets. However a peek through the window revealed that all the diners looked Chinese and many seemed to be eating stuff unspotted on the hot trays. We braved it -- and were very glad we did. Tellingly, the only English bit of their website is the street addresses (turns out they also have branches in Manchester and Birmingham, but I wasn't the only one off to be thrown by appearances. The waitress confirmed that they did indeed serve hotpot for £20 per person and brought a large electric hot-plate type device.
Then the hot pot itself arrived with red-chili-flecked stock around the outside basin and non-spicy stuff in the middle. They are not licensed, but the frequently replenished Chinese tea probably did a better job in quenching the fire of the chilli than beer or wine.
We filled our little bowls with garlic, chillies, oil and herbs from the condiments selection on a table round the back (but decided to skip on the MSG), ready for dipping the cooked food into.
And then the platter arrived. It was huge. Ginormous. And they said they'd bring more of anything if we finished. There were huge prawns, fish balls, red slivers of beef (very easy to overcook), mushrooms, greens, noodles, potatoes, sausages, etc, etc. We took turns to drop things in the pot and fish out moments later. Despite the grotty setting it felt like a feast for kings -- and I reckon was big enough to satisfy even Henry VIII's appetite! And all for the price of four poached eggs (sorry, I still can't get over at pricing).
Red'n'Hot; 59 Charing Cross Road, WC2H 0NE; Tel. 0207734 8796; Tube: Leicester Square; www.rednhotgroup.com