It’s not often that you hear about a Chinese restaurant that has a great atmosphere although it is more common in cities such as London and New York. I’ve always tried to save going to them for some special occasion. Fortunately it’s my birthday quite soon and since I’m heading to India, am going to miss celebrating it here in London so my sister and I had a small outing to Alan Yau’s Hakkasan. In terms of restaurateurs, Yau has quite a number of great restaurants under his belt, including the ever popular Wagamama and Busaba Eathai.
Finding out about the Michelin-starred Hakkasan is easy since it’s fine dining concept gets rave reviews on many different websites. Strangely enough it doesn’t have a website much like it’s sister dim sum focused restaurant Yauatcha. Hakkasan is located at the end of a street I frequent to avoid the crowds surrounding the Tottenham Court tube station. It’s out of the way and unless you’d be looking for it, there’s no real reason to stumble across it. You’re greeted by a couple of men upstairs filtering those with reservations and those without although you’ll end up having the same conversation with people downstairs.
The dining room is striking, very much befitting a modern Chinese restaurant. Ornamental black lacquered carved walls separate the dining room from the bar and the kitchen continuing the traditional Asian theme. The room itself is otherwise quite dark with each table lit with at least one strong downlight. Unfortunately photos weren’t allowed (probably as a way of maintaining the dining experience).
Their cocktail and wine list is extensive, and it’s no wonder people can spend a fortune at this restaurant with at least ten bottles of wine well over one thousand pounds and many of the cocktails matching club prices. Fortunately they also offer an extensive non-alcoholic cocktail list, and a long list of teas supplied by sister restaurant Yauatcha.
Hakkasan’s menu is quite large and definitely not at all like what you would have in most other Chinese restaurants. They offered plenty of unique dishes, yet none of them seemed to really jump out at me screaming to be put on trial. Perhaps it was because many of them seemed to be some proper Chinese dish supplemented by some sort of exotic ingredient such as foie gras. We definitely splashed out, starting with a mango roast duck in a lemon sauce and jasmine tea smoked ribs. Out of the two, my sister and I agreed the ribs were the best out of the two with the sweet sauce covering an absolutely tender meat – the waiter comes along to cut the ribs into individual pieces and he was literally pushing the meat off the bone clean with only a fork and a butter knife. Unfortunately although the duck was impeccably presented, the tangy mango and lemon sauce didn’t quite work well with the duck.
For mains we had a grilled sea bass covered in Chinese honey, black bean vegetarian prawns and a stir fried chilli and spring onion duck dish presented on a bed of crispy vermicelli noodles. Out of the mains, I really enjoyed the duck although the sea bass came in a very close second. The duck was unfortunately not the amazingly spicy one I’d hoped it was be – instead a very gentle heat accompanying a rather sweet sauce that was still enjoyable. The sea bass was perfectly cooked, slightly glazed and served with a few greens.l They also had some deep fried mushrooms that almost seemed a little out of place given they didn’t stay crispy for very long swimming in the sweet sauce. Nothing very remarkable about the prawn dish, other than it seemed a little sweeter than your classic black bean sauce and some nice fresh chillies to eat with it.
We both skipped the dessert option since the choices didn’t seem as good as what I’d read about. Chinese cuisine isn’t particular well known for their sweets and Hakkasan’s offerings on our night seemed to match this perception with nothing particularly exotic.
In terms of service, I didn’t feel the place met its 13% stated worth despite the number of people buzzing about. It wasn’t exactly terrible but I did have to wait for a number of very simple things (such as the drinks menu) throughout the evening. Overall it’s a great experience and although I think you’ll get much better value at a large number of other Chinese restaurant, the dining experience is definitely worth it at least once.
Found on: 8 Hanway Place, London, W1T 1HD
Contactable on: 020 7907 1888
Highlights: Exquisite dining room, plenty of cocktail choices, and lots of exotic ingredients in classic Chinese dishes.
Room for improvement: Despite exotic ingredients, some of the dishes are not as exciting as they could be.
The Kua Rating: 8.5 out of 10