Turn right when you exit the ear-popping elevator at The Shard and you’ll be greeted with the most spectacular view in London, a jaw-dropping panorama of the ever-evolving skyline of the Square Mile, with famous landmarks such as St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London and Canary Wharf crowding the edge of your field of vision.
From the two dining options on offer – British-themed Aqua Shard and Szechuan-accented Hutong – we’d go Chinese very time, although no one should come here without first having a drink in Aqua Shard’s bar, which is where you'll find the best views.
That said, the views from Hutong aren’t exactly shabby, stretching westwards up the river from St Paul’s to the Millennium Wheel and Houses of Parliament, with Wembley Stadium and the hilltop villages of Hampstead and Highgate visible on the horizon on a fine day.
Minimally decorated surrounds of dark wood latticing and Chinese lanterns puts the emphasis firmly on the view, though we’ve always felt that the cooking would be worthy of attention even if it weren’t on the 33rd floor of London’s most iconic skyscraper.
The cooking is nominally northern Chinese, though in reality you’ll find many of your favourite high-street dishes done to an exceptionally high standard; Aqua is owned by a restaurant group based in Hong Kong, the spiritual home of Cantonese cooking.
Roast duck carved tableside is a speciality of the house, served in a first course of pancakes and then stir fried. Otherwise, expect vegetable spring rolls, sautéed crispy shredded beef and chilli and some terrific seafood dishes such as king crab and chilled tofu or ma la crispy eel.
Dim sum is served at lunchtime, often made from luxury ingredients: Iberico pork or lobster xiao long bao, pan-fried Wagyu beef buns or baked Wagyu beef puffs – as well as more classic pan-fried chicken dumplings or scallop siu mai. Prices match the sky-high location, but so too does the top-drawer service.