Words By Caterina Dassiè
Quench were invited to try some of the food of Hotpot Spot.
In the middle of Roath, based on Wellfield Road at the first floor of the Globe Centre, you can find the first Hotpot Spot in Wales. Yes, you heard me, the first and only one!
After spending some time with a Chinese friend in Beijing and discovering the delicious and antique Asian tradition of cooking food in hotpots, the founder and chef, Trystan Cook, decided to attempt bringing the custom back to Wales. It was even nominated twice this year by WalesOnline as one of The 12 best Chinese restaurants in Cardiff for 2019 and The 25 best Chinese restaurants and takeaways in Wales for 2019.
The restaurant has not even been open a year and yet, Trystan said that since he got back from China, it has taken three years to figure out whether there were already this kind of restaurant in Wales. Furthermore, there came the challenges of seeing if there was a market for it and, above all, learning how to make the perfect broth. He had taught dancing classes for years before pursuing this career, but the passion he has for the cuisine is reflected on the food offered at the restaurant – simply delicious!
As soon as you step in, you fully embrace the founder’s aim, in his own words, being “inclusive, authentic, social and progressive”. He even went as far as making the wooden tables at the restaurant himself in order to be able to cater every customer’s needs equally. At the heart of every table there lies a big induction stove smaller ones surrounding it to make sure people with allergies, vegans and vegetarians, can enjoy the experience as well without the risks of cross-contamination.
The ambience is welcoming, with a graffiti-style art piece of the Chinese Lucky Cat with the city of Beijing on the background plastering the walls. The big blue windows allow natural light to come through making the room feel bigger. The kitchen is half open and you can see Trystan cooking; the openness creates a better relationship between customers and the owner, who often goes around the table to talk about the dishes and friendly welcome the clients. The organization of the tables makes you want to go there with friends for some communal eating, a rare concept to find in restaurants. The only flaw was the sauce station which I felt could use a little more love to keep it in line with the high standards of the building’s otherwise charming aesthetic.
My friend, Remi, and I did not know what to expect for the place and we were pleased that the menu was pretty straightforward. Often, Asian restaurants can have too many complicated food options; this menu was delightfully restrained. We decided to opt for the Seafood Set plus some veggies, Shiitake mushrooms and Brown Rice noodles with both a spicy broth (spiced at 3/5) and a vegetable one – just to avoid mixing meat with the fish flavour.
The waitress kindly explained to us how it worked, but there are also instructions on the back of the menu if you forget. She also suggested to share a set menu instead of getting one each – I later discovered that it was wise advice to follow! The portion was enough for two, or maybe three (if you are just together with girlfriends and get sides as well). The price? It is just really affordable, especially for a student’s pocket. The seafood set, one of the most expensive sets available, was just £14.45, and we shared it! What do you want more from life?
As we were indecisive whether to get the 4/5 spicy broth or 3/5, I am glad we got the less spiced one at the end, as it was perfectly spiced: neither too much nor too low of chilli. Both the broths were really tasty and spiced to perfection, especially the chilli one. We also added some sauces which we previously selected from the sauce station next to the kitchen; there was a wide range of options, again catered to any taste.
We received the fish raw and we had to cook it ourselves, such an experience! And don’t worry, all the cooking times are written on the menu; you are all safe! The fish was lovely, especially the fish balls which I had never tried. They weren’t too salty or fishy and they had an aftertaste of egg, but both my friend and I adored them. We also tried a recent addition to the menu: Biang Biang belt noodles. The name comes from the sound the batter makes while working it to make the noodles. They are hand made in house and were accompanied by pak choi, bean sprouts fried with garlic, spring onions and chillies with a hint of our in-house sauce, which Trystan admitted being a mix of Chinese vinegar and soy sauce. I have to admit that it was the best good I had there. The noodles were thick, wide and juicy, and the crunchiness of the bean sprouts, garlic and pak choi contrasted the almost chewy texture of the dough. The sauce had a good combination of sourness given by the vinegar and sweetness coming from the soy sauce.
There are quite a few desserts to choose from as well. And of course, I couldn’t decide! We went for Custard and Taro (a quite sweet root mostly used and cultivated in Africa and South Asia), Bao and Dorayaki (Japanese Cream filled Pancake) served with 3 scoops of ice-cream and filled with cream cheese and red beans. Even if they were all really good, especially the Taro Bao, I honestly preferred the savoury selections.
Overall, Hotpot Spot is the perfect place to go with friends for a chill evening or lunch, or even to try something new. After leaving the place you feel the need to go back; firstly, because Trystan always aims at improving and serving new options and then, because no two Hot pots are the same!
Monday (星期一) – 12pm to 10pm RESERVATIONS ONLY (僅限預訂/仅限预订)
Tuesday (星期二) – 12pm to 3pm, 5pm to 10pm
Wednesday (星期三) – 12pm to 3pm, 5pm to 10pm
Thursday (星期四) – 12pm to 3pm, 5pm to 10pm
Friday (星期五) – 12pm to 3pm, 5pm to 10pm
Saturday (星期六) – 12pm to 3pm, 5pm to 10pm
Sunday (星期天) – 12pm to 4pm