During  the miserable January that we all had to endure, I was desperately seeking something fun and different to do to raise us from our wintery depression. London is a vibrant and multicultural city so I thought that someone must have some to celebrate now and I was looking to jump on thir bandwagon. Then it hit me like a train.

Chinese New Year.

This was a little project I was going to get very excited about so I immediately applied myself to find the best five people for the occasion and the best venue. After much discussion, we decided to stick with the crowds and hit Chinatown., No bookings needed, just turn up and fly by the seat of your kimono. So I thought we had this all sorted, I had had many recommendations of where we should eat and I was insistent that we all bought waving cats as a sign of good luck.

Then Time Out was published and for all your real-Londoners out there, you will understand the significance of this bible and its trustworthiness. The Mongolian Hot Pot got a rave review and immediately the chattering started that we should give it a go, instead of heading the Chinatown. I didn’t really stand a chance to try and obstruct the plan, so I just went with the flow to muddle the Chinese and apparent Mongolian New Year, and I am so glad I did because it was just fantastic.

The Hot Pot is just off the Wandsworth Road in Clapham Old Town, it is painted in the traditional red and boasts a Mongolian and Chinese menu (menu is an over-statement, as it is All-You-Can-Eat…) - I soon discovered that the Chinese bit was the presence of dim sum and then Mongolian was everything else!

The concept is a choice of Grill or Hot Pot. Either you cook your meat either wagu beef-cooked-on-hot-stone-style, or like a fondue, but in stock, instead of oil. We never do things by halves so we got both.

We started with some traditional dim sum, like stuffed lotus leaves, or as the Chinese call it “beggars chicken”. In the olden days, the peasanst of China couldn’t afford a whole chicken so on the streets, lotus leaves filled with rice and bit of chicken and chinese sausage was sold instead. Dim Sum is one of my favourites, and it was as good as I had hoped, and better.

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I tried something that we just so joyous I could eat about 3 more of them right here right now. After much discussion, we decided that it resembled a cloud (or a puff ball mushroom), a sweet fluffy cloud with the most delicious minced pork centre, similar to that of a Chinese moneybag but it was the combination of that and the cloud was just a match made in heaven. It even prompted someone to declare, “I wish every cloud had a pork filling”. To my utter delight, the following morning, I found out that they are called Char Siu Bau and you can buy them, ready to steam, from Chinatown

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For the grill, we had to go and collect whatever vegetables and meat from the bar and then just slung them on the grill in the middle of the table. We had a friendly waitress who informed us on how to do everything and what was on offer.

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This included tripe which obviously caused a bit of stir, and someone who shall remain nameless volunteered that her dog eats tripe. I wasn’t sure if the waitress was going to laugh and or take some horrific racist offence, but luckily she hailed from Hong Kong and tripe was a typically Mongolian dish so we managed to sweep that one under the carpet (just about…)

After we had eaten our fill, the famous hot pot was brought in. We decided to have 2 sides of the pot, one spicier than the other (just for research purposes, of course). The concept was the same, just sling it all it in to the broth, remove when cooked, add rice and down the hatch.

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(In case,  any of you were asking, those are tomatoes, not eggs as I originally thought)

I preferred the grill course, firstly because the range of sauces were delicious; a satay one, chilli sauce and a soy-based one, and secondly, I love the taste of chargrilled meat and vegetables that you can cook to your own personal taste.

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This whole thing cost £14.50 a head for both grill and broth courses, All-You-Can-Eat, which sounds like a great deal but when you go big on the Dim Sum and stuffed Lotus leaves and wine and beer is flowing freely, the costs mount up. Anyway, all for a good time, so money well spent in my opinion. This is a great idea for an interactive and exciting way of discovering a new cuisine, in a terrific and authentic atmosphere.

http://www.mongolian-grill.co.uk/