Hunan 22

51 Pimlico Road , London, SW1W 8NE

10 reviews

68 Chinese Belgravia

Hunan, South East London

SquareMeal Review of Hunan

It may be more modest and less capacious than some of its neighbours, but this “delicious and different” Chinese restaurant is still going strong after nigh on 35 years in Pimlico. There’s no menu – simply tell staff about your likes and dislikes, indicate your spice threshold (be conservative here) and leave the rest to chef Michael Peng and his team. In return, you’ll be taken on a fascinating culinary trip full of intriguing regional tastes and textures. Staples range from the signature steamed pork broth with ginger and mushrooms to crispy frog’s legs wrapped in fermented bamboo shoots with chilli, but other delights could include spring onion pancakes with daikon and beancurd skin, tempura green beans and braised ox tongue with mangetout, plus indigenous specialities such as wind-dried meats and stir-fried spicy aubergine. Expect around 12 little dishes, and match them with something suitably aromatic from the authoritative wine list, or stick to premium Chinese tea.


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6.9

Food & Drink: 8.0

Service: 6.5

Atmosphere: 5.9

Value: 6.2

Food & Drink: 3.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 3.0

Cardy C. bronze reviewer 24 June 2015

You can see my review here - http://www.hkpiggyfoodjournal.com/#!Taiwanese tapas at Hunan/cmbz/55817f5a0cf2c5a6c8f95eda

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 3.0

Grumbling Gourmet platinum reviewer 13 February 2012

China's ascendancy as a global power over recent years has done much to force and foster understanding of a massively diverse culture. Western diners have realised that there isn't just ‘Chinese’ food, in the same way as there isn't just ‘European’ food. Across the continent, there are tens and hundreds of regional variations in cooking style and ingredients, these are often broken down into 8 or so key cuisines and those further categorised into four very broad and general groups; Northern (Lu or Shangdong), Southern (Cantonese predominently), Western (Sichuan and Hunan both fall here) and Eastern (Yang or Huiyang after one of the main regions). The problem you have with trying to categorise such diverse cuisines together is that obviously, and wonderfully, they just don't want to fit into your neat boxes. I love the idea of the four cuisines on a stage like a boy band; Sichuan, as the ‘kerazee’ Robbie Williams is spicy, punky and unpredictable, Cantonese Gary Barlow, gloopy and ubiquitous, for many years the only one that you'd find anywhere. Prissy Mark might match Huiyang, meticulously turned out, perfectly prepared and delicately flavoured, leaving Jason or Howard to stand in for Shandong's background soups, seafoods and, um, harmonising melodies.  Going by this broad categorisation, you might worry that setting up a Hunanese restaurant round here would be like throwing an ultra spicy tattooed powerhouse into the refined part of Pimlico that sits just off Sloane Square and forcing them to hang out with bankers, diplomats or the wives and mothers of such. It's not ideal.  Thankfully the joys of a generalisation (and particularly of my very stretchy analogy) are that you have plenty of room to work. Hunanese food is not the same as Sichuan. Not close. Despite the categorisation, the spice, where it is used, comes from the vinegary sour of pickle and ferment and not the numbing heat of the pepper. This doesn't mean that it's not hot at times, but the gulf in style is substantial.  As well as the differing cuisine styles, there is a different ethos to Chinese dining. In several of the cuisines, emphasis is given to the structure and composition of the meal you are eating. Individual dishes shared by the party might be individually underpowered to give harmonising notes or emphasise other elements of the dishes but by and large, you are tasting a whole orchestra, not eating a cellist.  It's in this last that Hunan's individuality comes out. Many Chinese restaurants will offer a group set menu intended to give an array of flavours. Hunan has nothing but a set menu. You pays your money and the orchestra plays. Solicitous staff check that you're not allergic or alarmed by any of the ingredients in the menu and from there you have a two hour roll through 18 or so courses. As most were no more than a bite, this was nowhere near as much as it sounds.  The problem for me is that nothing really stood out. I remember a couple of interesting dishes; a brown sauce soused beef tripe was uric and hearty, prawns, featured often, excelled when combined with a thick herby stuffing and crispy, salty, garlic and chilli green beans with a light tempura batter were excellent, a Dr Jekyll to its firey Sichuan brother. Other than those, I remember little, even on reviewing the menu two days later. I know what I ate was pleasant, we left nothing and murmured assent often, but the abiding memory was of background and filler. The orchestra were competent, but I couldn't for the life of me tell you what the soloists were like.The staff were multitudinal and solicitous, the ground floor terraced room narrow and cozy and despite the toilet facilities being a little more Chinatown than Sloane Square it's difficult to pick holes with the set up. A good spot for a business dinner or lunch and a fairly good call for a classy date, just go planning for the light chamber orchestra and don't expect Robbie Williams to show up.

Food & Drink: 5.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 5.0

Ivan G. 11 August 2011

Quite simply, (easily) arguably the best Chinese in London. And this coming from a person who has spent time in China and eaten Chinese pretty much everywhere in London. The décor is unassuming, the atmosphere is what the diners make it. All very acceptable and entirely fine. Then comes the food. And the food merits an entirely new paragraph. With your first taste, you know this isn’t going to be a pretender; this is exquisitely created food made with love. Many dishes you won’t find elsewhere and those that are, are pretty much done better than anywhere else. Conversation died at our table, consisting simply of consecutive “oohs” “aahs” “wows” and “oh my god”. There is no need to go through each dish in detail, suffice to say the culinary delights were many and varied. You will be full (and I have an appetite). This is a Chinese gourmet restaurant which would be appreciated by all and waxed-lyrical thereafter by those who truly realise that this really is a very special place. Price, who cares? Eminently more than reasonable. This is democratic food. If there is one negative (because there always is), it is that the owner really should make sure he has staff who are well trained in explaining the dishes and perhaps with a better command of English. The descriptions, whilst brief, did not blunt the final flavour, so for me, this is insignificant. Mouthwatering.

Food & Drink: 5.0

Service: 5.0

Atmosphere: 5.0

Value: 5.0

NGD 12 October 2010

FAB-UL-OUS! One of the best ever restaurant meals I've had in my life. There were people queuing up at the door to get in on a Monday night – you definitely need to book. I love that there is no set menu – instead there is rolling delivery of small plates and small bites. They consult with you at the beginning of the meal to check what you do and don't eat and whether you like hot, medium or mild spice, etc. The service was unobtrusive, impeccable and fautless. Only ever two dishes on the table at once so table doesn't get overcrowded. It's like tapas style, but each dish is just one or two bites, so although we ended up trying maybe 15 different dishes, we didn't feel over full at the end. Another highlight was the beautiful low tannin wine that the Manager / Owner Michael Peng recommended to us. The wine list was impressive, and even lists over 10 varieties of ‘Noble Rot’ wines – very high end indeed. Wine started from £16 and went up from there, so there is a bottle to suit every budget. I cannot recommend this place highly enough. Mind blowingly good from every aspect.

Food & Drink: 5.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 4.0

Alex W. 30 June 2010

i have been going here all my life, without a shadow of a doubt my favorite chinese restaurant in london. the owner recognises us whenever we go in even if we havent been in a year. no menu is necessary, he just asks us what sort of things we want then brings out many small dishes for us to work our way through. im not a fan of regular chinese restaurants but this takes the cuisine to the next level.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 2.0

Value: 3.0

Lisa P. 11 December 2009

We have been to this restaurant on a couple of occasions and each time the food had been superb. Both times we opted for the chef selection menu and the variety and quality and presentation has been truly brilliant. True, the restaurant decor is stuck in the 80's and if the restaurant wasn't full then it may be lacking in atmosphere but if you are a foodie then this won't disappoint.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 2.0

Value: 4.0

Richard E. platinum reviewer 08 October 2009

The great thing about having no choice is that you get all sorts of things that you would otherwise not know to order; the food was excellent, the service much better than some seem to have experienced and the bill, whilst not cheap, not exactly what you'd call outrageous. Arriving for a late sitting, however, we were surrounded by a somewhat garrulous crowd; the raucous crowd on one side had the good grace to apologise, but the drunken kiwi slumped over our table on the other didn't seem to notice!

Food & Drink: 3.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 2.0

Value: 1.0

Kristin D. 25 September 2009

The four of us enjoyed a good meal at Hunan's yesterday evening. That is the good part. What we didnt like was the fact that the moment we sat down we were not given a choice whatsoever. We were only asked whether we were allergic to anything, when we said no they proceeded at quite a speed to present us with delicious food, lots and lots of it . So much so that we had to ask them to stop. Then we were presented with the bill of £200 (incl.a bottle of wine). Not only is the price far too high but the bill was presented in a non itemised ( in chinese)way so we had to remind them we didnt have the full menue- £25 was taken off for one round for 4 which didnt seem enough). We knew Hunan doesn't present a menue as such what we didnt know was that no price was given at the beginning and how much we would get without asking for it! We all dine out a lot and live in the area but £50 a head is completely over the top without a choice!

Food & Drink: 2.0

Service: 0.0

Atmosphere: 0.0

Value: 0.0

kirsty m. 08 July 2009

the service was terrible! my issue is not with the food: it was good – what there was of it. there is no menu: you are asked how hungry you are: a little, quite or very. we said quite. my friend who goes there often said we would have course after course. they failed to appear. what did appear was very good but not nearly enough. and what food we did get we had to wait for hours, literally. for the final dish, supposed to be the main one, he offered us SLICED duck (which takes 24 hours to prepare) rather than CRISPY duck, which is standard fare. as a reviewer of asian restaurants i am sure you know the difference. he was able to offer us the sliced because a table downstairs had cancelled last moment. he offered it to us after admitting that we had not been given the proper food… when it arrived it was crispy duck. the waiter preparing it with his two forks refused to accept that we had been offered sliced duck. we all sat there stating, again and again, that this was not sliced duck, etc. he carried on preparing it, refusing to meet our gazes, saying quietly, ‘really?’, ‘oh?’ and just ignoring us. finally i got hold of anotehr waiter and asked for the manager. he arrived and took the dish away immediately and admitted the mistake. but it was not a mistake: that much was painfully obvious. the manager had known what was happening and clearly thought we wouldn't notice. i am sure that you can dine there and have a good experience. we had a bad one. other people should know about it.

Food & Drink: 3.0

Service: 0.0

Atmosphere: 1.0

Value: 1.0

john s. 07 July 2009

i used to come to this restaurant with my family in the late eighties and early nineties. we always loved it. i moved away and i did not return until tonight. my wife booked a table several weeks ago. we picked the hunan because we were meeting a friend of mine, who is a director and a partner in one of the pimlico green companies, and so it was most easy for her to join us – and while i had not been to the hunan for a decade, at least, my friend told me it was her favourite restaurant and it had only got better. she told that there were no menus, they brought you a succession of delicious dishes, and the service was excellent. unfortunately, because my wife booked rather than my friend, the owners did not recognise the name so we were given a rather dreadful table upstairs. the food was delicious – but only arrived after chronic prompting – and arrived in tiny samples. the food was good (rather than excellent) – but the service was terrible – our service was overseen by a woman (apparently chinese) who seemed to think we had no idea about chinese food. after a series of annoying discrepancies and extremely sparse offering the evening was (finally, and completely) ruined when we were presented with crispy duck rather than sliced duck. anyone who is familiar with the difference between these two dishes knows that the difference is irreconcilable. the chinese woman played dumb. she refused to acknowledge what she had herself pretended to write down only an hour before: sliced, not crispy duck. in the event the crispy duck was dry and tasteless. clearly, the management had believed we would not know the difference. appalling – stupi – completely unnecessary. the attempts by the maitre d' to pretend that it was a mistake were embarrassing: as he apologised for the woman's behaviour she stood behind him glaring… never again. the reason the evening was finally, and completely, ruined by the duck incident was the barefaced belief by the chinese woman (i believe the proprietor's wife) that we were so ignorant we didn't know one dish from the other. how wrong she is!

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