Bangkok Restaurateur Bringing Chinese Hot Pot to London’s Soho
A Bangkok restaurateur says he has spotted a gap in the London restaurant market and plans to open a specialist Chinese hot-pot restaurant on a prominent site in Soho.
Shuang Shuang, on the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue and Wardour Street, will serve five different broths from across China. Diners will choose from about 50 ingredients — including sea bass, pumpkin slices and pork — from a conveyor belt.
“When I was at high school in Bangkok, my friends and I would always to for hot pot to celebrate,” says Fah Sundravorakul, who ran restaurants in Thailand before moving to London 18 months ago. “It's about having fun, interacting and trying things.
“When I came to London, I was always amazed by the number of people standing outside pubs, talking and chit-chatting. It really struck me: That doesn’t happen anywhere in the world. It was when I saw that, that I felt hot pot would work here.”
Shuang Shuang will cater for vegetarians with two broths: Monk’s (soy milk, turnips and mushrooms) and Mala (Sichuan peppercorns and dried chili.) The others are Bird Berry (black- fleshed chicken and dried berries); Lamb Tonic (lamb bones and pickled cabbage); and Herbal River (prawn heads and fresh lemongrass.)
“Hot pot is the only cuisine that has been shared in all the major food cultures in Asia: China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, Mongolia, Singapore. Everyone has their own version. That’s why it’s so popular. Wherever you go, people love it.
“I am sure Shuang Shuang will do well with the Asian market but we also want to target the non-Asian. But I am new here and the market is very competitive.
“London has changed a lot over 10 years and has now become the food capital of the world,” he says. Some people say New York but I find people here are more open and the food in London is more authentic, even though you have many varieties.”
Shuang Shuang, which is scheduled to open over two floors in November, won’t accept reservations. The ground floor will be informal and reminiscent of hot-pot restaurants in Asia, while upstairs will be a little more serene.
Sundravorakul studied in Bangkok and Connecticut before graduating in economics from the University of Oregon. He says he expects diners to spend 20 pounds ($21) to 30 pounds on food, including snacks and desserts. Bao, a Taiwanese street food restaurant that opened nearby about four months ago, frequently has people lined up outside waiting for a table.
Sundravorakul's Bangkok restaurants included Imperial Duck, Boon Tong Kee and Yamagoya. He previously worked for Diageo, leading the Johnnie Walker team in Thailand.
Report by Richard Vines, chief food critic for Bloomberg