It’s an unprepossessing start. But that’s part of the joy of this Chinese hotpot specialist: a narrow frontage, almost hidden in the seemingly permanent building works on the northern edge of Chinatown, opens to reveal an unreconstructed old-school interior. Little Lamb focuses its attention on one thing: hotpot – and from the crowds here on a Friday night, it clearly does it well. Or, you do it well, as you basically get simmering pots of seasoned broths and piles of raw ingredients that you cook yourself. It’s a fun way of eating made more so by the menu, an A3 sheet on which you tick off your selections. Every dish is listed in Chinese and English – including pork intestine, pig’s blood curd and beef aorta.
There’s a choice of five broths, ranging from the healthy-sounding ‘herbal tonic’ through to the ‘hot and numbing pot’, heady with the smell of sichuan pepper. Then you add raw items from a wide selection that takes in thinly sliced pork, beef and lamb, squid and fish balls, and various tofus, vegetables and noodles. Then you start cooking. We ordered one round of dishes, ate those and ordered another, adding in some grilled meat skewers (from £1.50) and special sauce dips.
Little Lamb’s prices are a bit higher than other hotpot spots, but so is the quality and service; despite its obvious popularity we weren’t rushed to leave, making it a markedly more sociable and laidback experience than many other restaurants in Chinatown. Kick back with a few Tsing Tao or Tiger beers and you may well feel you’ve found hotpot heaven.