MARLO MEETS: MICHAEL PENG
For a mouth-watering summer special edition of Marlo Meets, we meet the proprietor of Hunan, one of London's most acclaimed and celebrated Chinese restaurants.
Michael Peng has spent much of his life dedicated to Hunan, living above it as a child whilst his father and founder Y.S Peng ran the restaurant below. Famed for asking diners just one question, 'any allergies or dislikes?', eating at Hunan is as much of an experience as it is a culinary masterclass. With over 150 different labels to choose from and complemented by Michael's vast knowledge and passion, Hunan boasts one of the most exciting wine lists in London.
We speak to Michael about the excitements of reopening Hunan after the Pandemic, what ambitions he still has and who he'd invite to his fantasy dinner party, which of course would be held at Hunan.
1. We're delighted to see Hunan has opened its doors again. How was it welcoming guests for the first time this year?
It was a surreal mixture of relief and trepidation but more of an overwhelming happiness to be back, seeing familiar faces, staff and customers alike…
2. How did Hunan's home delivery service fare over the various lockdowns?
The response was amazing but we’re limited to 4-6 orders per hour so demand always outstripped supply… We have been very lucky during the pandemic.. Financially the numbers didn’t add up so it was more of a case of letting guests know we are still up and running.
3. What was your childhood dream?
I wanted to be an artist, and apparently according to my secondary art teacher I had some talent but coming from traditional immigrant parents, this idea was shut down almost immediately! 😢
4. Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party, held at Hunan?
Funnily enough I’ve never held a dinner party in my life, I’m always at the restaurant plus it feels too much like work!! I’ve held a BBQ, does that count?
Who would I invite? I thought this would take 5min!! Michael Jackson and Bruce lee..
5. Who was or still is your mentor?
I’ve been very fortunate to have many different mentors at different stages in my life.. When I was younger they played an important role in shaping my outlook and direction.. My mate Andrew Bull, a DJ, guru Ex-pat promoter in China.. My guy Turtle who was one of the most influential operators in the Taiwanese club scene. I’m blessed and have amazing god parents as well who treat me like their own son and always have been a solid source of advice..
6. What is your ideal last meal?
It would be Japanese or Italian but in Japan or Italy!
7. Are there any new wines coming to the Hunan list soon?
Yes plenty, it’s being revised as we speak.. We are in selling mode so we're pulling out what we can from bond.. Some GG Keller, Cathiard, 2014 white burgs so lots of little gems..
8. What ambitions do you still have?
To continue things like what we’ve done for the past 20 years and if the opportunity presents itself build on what we have..
9. Are there any new projects or ideas you have for Hunan in the remainder of 2021?
Sign a new lease and possibly renovate Hunan..