Construct your own Korean barbecue meal or bubbling hotpot at this Clapham oriental restaurant.
For the uninitiated, this backstreet restaurant in Clapham’s Old Town may set alarm bells ringing. First, there’s the ‘red light district’ glow (caused by a host of Chinese lanterns), but more unnervingly, the kitchen specialises in hotpot (sometimes known as ‘Chinese fondue’, a dish with its roots in Mongolia) and Korean barbecue (where food is cooked at an on-table grill). There’s an enormous help-yourself buffet of fish, meat and vegetables – all raw. However, food hygiene is scrupulously maintained, with the steel containers frequently replenished by fresh items, and individual tongs used. To cook your ingredients, we recommend choosing a half-and-half hotpot. One side of our pot contained a subtle broth infused with juniper berries and dried plums – ideal for cooking delicately flavoured ingredients (from prawns and squid to broccoli and spinach). On the other was the popular spicy stock, laced with dried chillies, sichuan peppers and chinese peppercorns the size of garden peas: perfect for the more robust raw chicken wings and slivers of pork belly. The cheery female manager is on hand to explain how to make the best DIY dipping sauce; the remaining staff work silently but efficiently. More Soho than south London, Mongolian Grill is certainly not boring.