If your idea of a nice night out involves a chilled dinner with perfectly cooked food, then Happy Lamb probably isn’t the restaurant for you. It’s the place to go if you’re experimental and risqué, if you like to tell your friends how you like to cook your own dinner, but potentially neglect to mention how well you executed it. Dinner at Happy Lamb is a hands-on affair that I’m not entirely sure how I feel about. 


I think that I like the bits which are cooked for me the most. The Mongolian lamb skewers, fat rendered so that the meat is almost glued together by it, dusted in cumin and chilli. Fudgy and bold, unapologetic in smoke and chew. It’s fantastic.  Or the deep-fried fritters which come dusted in sugar, almost churro-like, with something caramelly to dip in, to be eaten after the hot pot experience as if celebration for passing the cooking exam. 


The hot pot is the reason why everyone is here. A simmering cauldron which fits snugly into the table, ours is a three-broth affair with each bubbling magnanimously away. Into each goes raw ingredients featuring a lot of lamb, some beef, and some seafood. But mostly lamb. Lamb which has presumably led a happy life and now finds itself glued to a blackboard with instructions to simmer for 3-5 minutes. The stocks are excellent as a stand-alone; complex to the point they won’t tell us what goes into them, the chicken one speaks of clove and slowly simmered bones, whilst the spicy one is indeed brow raising. 


We are told that the Chinese way is to throw a selection of what we have ordered in together, though I prefer the keep calm and carry on approach of individually timing everything so that the cook is accurate. It’s from here that we get a prawn paste delicately cooked and sweet throughout, and just cooked beef sirloin punctured with spice from the broth. Doing this takes time and patience but the results are consistent which, given you are responsible for your own dinner here, seems the logical approach. 


When we do start to chuck everything in together the results are not as consistent. Meat quickly turns a Gandolf shade of grey if you leave it a minute over, whilst overcooked prawns are truly the most tragic of endings to what are very good quality specimens. The flavours start to merge into one and the lamb takes on a slightly fishy note whilst the seafood picks up the beef. I have no problem in saying that I found it stressful. I am sure others will find it fun. The broths sit just over a tenner with the stuff that goes into them mostly in the teens for each item. I would suggest taking a calculator as your date. And maybe a chef if you know any. 


There is much to like about being here. The service is tight and the house wine has good taste and excellent value. They care about the way the food is presented and the stocks are ace. The raw produce is of good quality and the lamb skewers are pretty sensational. But for all of that, it is not a place you are likely to bump into me. The reason I go out to dinner is so I can pay for someone to take the stress away from me.