Hot pot is an ancient Chinese cooking process and dish which prizes an up-close and personal dining experience. Now, Bristol welcomes the tradition on the corner of Small Street in the city centre.
“It’s Not” Hot Pot sits pristinely with unfussy signage, overlooking The Cenotaph’s daytime skateboarders.
With only a brief hot pot-explainer and lunch menu hanging in the window, we’re not sure what to expect beyond its dimly-lit, curtained entrance (not to mention the restaurant’s complete lack of online presence.)
Inside, the restaurant feels dark; its walls awash with grey shades; its ceiling a deep, matte black. Quick eye-adjustments aside, a friendly waiter explains the menu.
Hot pot involves food preparation at the table. Here, electronic induction heaters lie like wells at the centre of each table, while opulent tableware is piled neatly at the side.
“Hot Pot consists of three parts; a soup base, ingredients, and dipping sauce,” the hot-pot explainer reads.
Opting for a build-your-own-hot-pot system, the menu lists different manifestations of the cuisine’s staple components including meats, mushrooms and sauces. Each component is individually priced.
Besides us, a double-date tuck into their own hot pot. An extremely generous portion, it’s easy to see why this restaurant is geared towards group-outings; the four natter while steam escapes their hefty hotpot centrepiece.
As I navigate the customisable check-list, I order a herbal tea (£3). Interestingly, it arrives cold, in a can.
But the price of the suggested hotpot amalgamation for two at £58 necessitates a quick scramble for the lunch menu.
Thankfully, the lunch menu contains options for less than a tenner. A concise offering, it lists only seven main courses and four, cold appetisers.
With the menu lacking much-needed descriptions, I opt for ‘mixed mushroom with beef soup noodle’ (£9.95) and hope for the best.
The restaurant’s interior reflects a typical fusion of traditional and contemporary influences, but it’s done well; the dabbing neon sign is a novel highlight against the restaurant’s laidback, banqueting layout.
Our portions arrived piled high and piping hot. On my dish, steamed pak choy, mushrooms and thin beef slices loll above a sweet broth sea, while a bed of thick, fresh noodles lurks beneath.
The assorted mushrooms offer an intense truffle flavour, while the broth is light and sweet. The beef is less notable but adds welcome texture to the dish.
As I slurp and chew through my brothy-bucket, generous toppings and canned tea, I begin to struggle mid-noodle. Do I feel slightly defeated by this portion? Yes, but so does my lunch date. These portions do not mess around.
“It’s Not” Hot Pot, Creswicke House, 9-10 Small Street, BS1 1DB