Ever since I was a little child, my birthday has always been my favourite day of the year. As soon as the new year had passed, it was the date I looked forward to. 8th March was the first date I would find on the newest calendar in the kitchen and write “Aftab’s birthday” on it. Even to this date, I do exactly that in my personal diary. It’s the one day that I get to celebrate me as a person, from hearing the stories of when I was a child to getting together with friends and family, toasting to my life. It’s a special day, for a special person (I get called it so often, I have begun to believe it!).
With the past few years having big celebrations to look forward to, it became a tradition to travel for my birthday. Last year it was Paris, the year before it was Amsterdam and Belgium. However, this years travel plans led to my usual planning to be revoked and have been put together by three of my best friends that I have met through blogging. Even now, after my birthday, I have no idea where we are going or what to pack. All I know is the dates we are going and the rest has been a guessing game in hope that one of them will crack and spill the beans.
I’ve never been one for big parties either, I prefer to meet up with various small groups of people over many days and keep the celebrations going over many weeks. I like to get the most out of my favourite day of the year, can you tell? However, I kept this years plans a little more simple but all the more luxurious.
Since I started my job, it was going to be my first year working on my birthday. Not too fussed about it, because I loved what I do and the people I work with. However, it worked out perfectly because what I had planned in terms of meetings and events meant I was hardly in the office during the day – birthday win. This meant the day shot past like a flash and I got to the really exciting part of my birthday. I was finally ticking something off my bucket list (see, i’m doing the bucket list Maggie!) and I visited Hutong in the Shard for dinner.
Arriving for our 8:00pm reservation, we were warmly welcomed into the Shard before gliding up in the elevator from ground to floor 33 in a matter of seconds. My sister and I made our way into Hutong and were seated right next to the window, showing the most stunning view across London.
Luckily I was sat facing this view throughout my meal and even after 2 and a half hours of it right in front of me, I certainly wasn’t tired of seeing it. It’s just one of those magical moments that makes you truly appreciate where you live. Not everyone can say they lived in London and got to experience this wonderful city first hand. It’s one big, beautiful concrete jungle.
We started off the way we meant to go on. A round of cocktails arrived with a pornstar martini (how did you guess?!) for myself and my sister ordered a sweet colada.
The pornstar martini definitely ranked as one of the top 10 i’ve had in London, so i’m adding Hutong to my list. I’d like to think I have become quite a connoisseur of them now, especially as I can taste subtle differences between quality alcohol and extra added ingredients. My sister’s cocktail was not my cup of tea, especially with the beetroot juice in.
The service stood out the most when my sister told our waitress that she was allergic to sesame seeds, of which she said most of the dishes contained some sort of sesame oil or actual seeds. However, she asked us to choose our dishes and she would go and tell the chef to avoid any sesame seeds. They not only were they understanding of my sisters allergies, they catered their food to allow her to eat it too. It was a lovely gesture from the staff at Hutong that made the experience ever more special.
For starters, we ordered some vegetable spring rolls and Shandong shredded chicken which came with butterfly buns.
The spring rolls had a crispy outer with a warm inner filled with mushrooms and cabbage. Not a combination I would normally associate with vegetable spring rolls, but they were really tasty.
The butterfly buns have always been something I have admired from afar, as every Chinese restaurant I have been to seems to only make them with pork. As I can’t eat pork, it has prevented me from trying them. However, Hutong do a lovely chicken version of it and I indulged into soft clouds of doughy bread with spicy and marinated chicken. It was so worth the wait to find a restaurant that serves them with an alternative, because they were heavenly!
We went for a simple set of mains, because the starters were quite filling.
We ordered one Ma La Beef Tenderloin, which was served with bell peppers, chilli and black bean sauce and one fried chicken fillet with Sichuan dried chilli. The beef was cooked perfectly, coated in the flavoursome black bean sauce. The fried chicken had a crispy outer and tasted divine with the dried chilli. However, it was like playing roulette with the chillies are some were very hot and some not at all.
To accompany our main dishes, we ordered the Chef’s pickled vegetable fried rice and fried noodles. Both complimented the main dishes perfectly.
After the main course, I was brought out a surprise birthday dessert, where I was sung happy birthday to. Served was a lovely passionfruit and white chocolate dessert that so exotic and well made. Definitely a dessert I could have eaten again!
Prior to my surprise dessert, I was eyeing up the chocolate tart – so my sister and I decided to order it and share it.
We requested the ice-cream to be coconut, which is one of my favourite ice-cream flavours. It completed the chocolate so well and the tart was easy to cut into. A good choice of dessert if you have a sweet tooth.
Before we knew it, we had finished up our meal at Hutong and it was time to leave the lovely setting of the 33rd floor of the Shard. I absolutely loved the interiors, especially the hanging lanterns and wonderful views from the bathrooms. A very special place to celebrate your birthday, that is for sure.
We waved the Shard goodbye and to the final hour of my birthday for another year. Hello 23, let’s have a fantastic 364 days!
Until next time…