Date night. During lockdown it involved a Zoom call and a lonely bottle of wine. Freedom has finally returned (in small increments) and date nights are back. And with date night returns the Battle of the Best Order. I’m pretty sure every couple, nay, every person is secretly trying to order the best thing on the menu. After all, you don’t want to be staring wistfully across the table in jealousy on your very first time back in a restaurant.
But the first decision. Where to book? I’m useless at making my mind up… so a quick look at the newest opening near my house drew up HUŎ.
The Asian restaurant has swept up onto the shores of ‘Chelsea beach’ – yes apparently this specific stretch of Fulham Road has been given this rather charming nickname. Although, aside from one gelato parlour a few doors down, you’d be hard-pushed to call this city street a beach, but there you go.
Turning off Fulham Road, HUŎ is on the quieter Park Walk road, with people spilling out onto the street in, what was then, hot weather. HUŎ is designed perfectly for this temperature as the front opens up onto the pavement and a little terrace (although the latter was still in construction on our arrival).
Jonathan Clark Architects has been pretty inventive for such a small space. The linear bright wood ceiling draws the eye right down to the back of the restaurant where a triptych of a woman floating in water decorates the wall at the end. Inside, it feels like a mix of Scandi and Asian – a calming, clean and contemporary feel.
The good thing about sharing starters is you know that you won’t get food envy.
We take our seats and start to dribble over the menu. The menu is expansive, and the only thing that draws my boyfriend’s eyes away (and mine, admittedly) is the arrival of a group of scantily clad girls at the next table.
My companion immediately suggests duck pancakes. And I scoff at him, telling him that dish is reserved solely for takeaways. When we finally decide on our list of dishes, it’s a small banquet. It is the first date night in about a year, so you’ve got to go big, right?
Soft shell crab, Pacific five spice pork ribs, Vietnamese prawn summer rolls and tom yum soup are our starter for 10. The good thing about sharing starters is you know that you won’t get food envy – this is an equal playing field. The dishes are an Asian-fusion of Chinese and Southeast Asian flavours, all prepared from scratch using traditional Chinese, Thai, Malay and Singaporean disciplines. The concept is similar to nearby Notting Hill restaurant Uli, so it’s no surprise to find out that both are the brain-child of co-owners Graham Rebak and Adam Wilkie.
Head chef Yam Bahaeur is the mastermind behind the dishes here and they’re executed to perfection. The crab is succulently soft and the ribs and soup have just the right punch of spice.
We wash it all down with some Asian-inspired cocktails. The boyfriend chooses a sweet Lychee Martini and I go for an equally sweet and fruity Rising Sun with woki sake vodka (annoyingly, I think I lose ‘the tastiest cocktail’ round).
Having been seriously slow to make up our minds (this dining out thing is a lot harder than I seem to remember), the charming and attentive waiter gives us a gentle reminder to choose our mains. My boyfriend orders the Thai seabass fillet steamed with chilli and lemongrass and I just point my finger at Moo shu pork because I think it sounds fun. And you know what? I was right. It is fun. It’s essentially duck pancakes, but with pork instead of duck. Which is exactly what I refused to order at the beginning. There’s karma for you.
However, it’s simply delicious. Clean shards of ginger cut through the pork meat juices, which dribble down my hand, but I don’t care. I’m too busy enjoying my first restaurant with seriously tasty food and chilled Asahi beer.
Finally, dessert arrives and it’s molten hot toffee banana fritter. Small balls of sickly sweetness that are like a naughty treat before bed. My boyfriend (even after prior warning from yours truly) pops one in whole only for it to burn his tongue, but too polite to spit it out he insists on holding it in while I daintily nibble at mine (at least I won the dessert round). Heaven.
Satisfyingly full and slightly overwhelmed by being out in public, we call it a night. I ask him what he would rate the place. “5 out of 5”. I say that’s too generous. After all, the terrace isn’t quite finished. He disagrees and says that that didn’t affect the ambience or experience. And while I’m desperate to win this round too, I concede to a draw. 5 out of 5 it is.
Where: 9 Park Walk, Chelsea, SW10 0AJ