|2014||The Good Food Guide Points||Not Ranked|
|2014||AA Guide||3 Rosettes|
|2014||The Sunday Times Food List||29 Ranking|
|Value for money|
‘Happening’, ‘electric’, ‘seductive’, ‘exclusive’ – just some of the superlatives fired at high-rolling Hakkasan’s Mayfair-chic sibling. The scent of jasmine candles hits you in the sultry passageway, & the smell of money also hangs in the air as the place works its ice-cool magic. A thumping ground-floor cocktail bar immediately cranks up the decibels, & the cacophony continues in the glamorous, moody-blue dining room. Those flexing the company plastic go for ‘supreme special dishes’ at ‘shocking’ prices, although financial investment pays dividends: the legendary roast silver cod with Champagne & Chinese honey shows technical skill & invention in spades, likewise roast mango duck & ‘awesome’ New Zealand lobster tails with glass vermicelli. Elsewhere, the long menu runs from some extraordinary dim sum to the likes of sweet & sour Duke of Berkshire pork with pomegranate or Alaskan royal king crab in black bean sauce. Cleverly crafted east/west desserts are also guaranteed to wow in this oriental sizzler.
WINE LIST: A groundbreaking list. Hakkasan’s wines are split up into unique sections, such as ‘Blends – the art of the winemaker’ (varietal blends) & ‘Purity: the expression of the fruit’ (unoaked wines). You’ll find plenty of bling bottles, but there are also some very affordable ones, too. BEST BUY WHITE 2008 d’Arenberg, The Hermit Crab, McLaren Vale, South Australia, Australia, £35. BEST BUY RED 2006 Alpha Domus, The Navigator, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, £40.
Price: Three courses: £52.25
The original Hakkasan certainly has the air of a place someone might take you when they were trying to – how to put this politely? – get into your pants. I never understood why; the weird blue lighting interfered with the attractiveness of both food and punters. Perhaps it was because footballers used to eat there, and raise the mood with their pheromones.
Hakkasan Mayfair has relatively nice low lights, but C objected to the lacquered black surfaces on the grounds that only evil people gather in such places; they like to see their faces reflected as they would look in hell. Which, I guess, is one interpretation.
We disagreed on almost everything. I said it all looked delicious except for the soft-shell crab (£12.50); he immediately ordered it. He said he hated dim sum (a whopping £13.50, but more to the point, who could hate dim sum?), and then of course I wanted it; it's like being told not to think about leprechauns.
We were both wrong. The reason I don't like soft-shell crab is that, when it's served with noodles, even the slightest crunch of the shell is a bit spooky. But this was served with a weird, crunchy haystack; if you were to make a salad of smithereens, I imagine this is what it would look like. It tasted a bit like posh Pringles, but I mean really posh.
The texture of the crab made a sudden kind of sense and, without that to fear, I was able to taste it properly for the first time. God, it's good! It dwells at the meatiest end of the marine spectrum, but is still so subtle.
My dim-sum platter was two prawn, two scallop, two mushroom and two Chinese chive dumplings, trussed up in that stretchy, shiny wheat-starch skin that I don't think I will ever get enough of, and no more or less delicious than these things ever are.
It was an unfair choice of mine; these are the salt-beef sandwich of the Far East. Unless you are born eating them, it's hard to get past the wall of deliciousness and differentiate between one restaurant's and another's.
And then, in a second menu outrage, I effectively chose the same thing twice: scallop and prawn-cake claypot (£26.50). In my defence, I didn't know what the dim sum were going to be until they'd arrived. This was fascinating – the seafood had all been drenched in seasoned flour, then fried, so that there actually was something cakey about them, a moreish, squidgy exterior, underpinned by very fresh, distinctive flavours.
I also had the garlic shoots. I don't want to call them eye-wateringly expensive lest I ruin the magical atmosphere, but a tenner for a side dish is something you don't come across very often. C had the black-truffle roast duck (£28.80), which was the man of the match: the truffle was married to a sweetish, five-spice undertone to create something truly unusual and memorably good.
I don't mean 'I remember thinking it was good'; I mean it was so good I can almost recreate the taste from memory. How often in life does that happen? Not often enough!
C was full, so I wandered lonely into the pudding section, settling on a pretty chestnut tart (£8.50), which was a disc of flaky pastry with flowers of crème de marron, and a nice, poky blackcurrant sorbet that brought unexpected zing to a rich dish. I wasn't bowled over by this: there was nothing wrong with it but it was quite easy not to finish.
Look, I think the garlic shoots tell you all you need to know. If someone suggests it for a date, then they very definitely mean business (ways to tell that they don't mean business: Strada; Pierre Victoire; Nando's). So it is date central; all the tables are couples. But this needn't deter those who want to blow a bit of cash because they just love duck.
Opened by legendary restaurateur Alan Yau in 2001, the original Hakkasan has gone on to be one of the most fashionable and successful restaurant brands in the world. However, perhaps to the concern of serious foodies, an Abu Dhabi investment group took over from Yau in 2008 with the aim of expanding the concept.
So here we are in über-posh Mayfair at London’s second Hakkasan and we can happily confirm that this new restaurant is every bit as impressive as the original. This is no doubt because the kitchen is overseen by Executive Head Chef Tong Chee Hwee who, as the culinary talent responsible for Hakkasan’s menu since the very beginning, has built on the signature repertoire featured at the original.
This menu has been supplemented by some exquisite new dishes, including Steamed New Zealand mini Lobster, Black Truffle roast Duck and Sliced blue Abalone in Hakka sauce. The menu also features what is one of London’s most decadent dishes in the form of lollipop shaped Sesame prawn toast that comes filled with melting foie gras. However, it’s not all about luxury dishes, as even simple things like dim sum are also expertly executed. To top an exceptional meal, Hakkasan even manages to smash our golden rule of avoiding desserts at Oriental restaurants by delivering a range of sweet dishes that are match for anywhere in London; both the delicately spiced Cardamon crème brulee and a Chocolate soufflé had us both stunned into a moment of silence to fully appreciate their utter loveliness.
The design also successfully keeps to the effortless style of the often imitated never duplicated original, with an extensive use of dark woods, luxurious marble and moody lighting. Set over two floors, guests have the option of the full dining experience in the large basement restaurant or some excellent cocktails and a quick bite in the lounge bar on the ground floor. As you would expect of a restaurant of this calibre, this is somewhere strictly for special occasions and generous expense accounts. However, the great food and special experience will leave you in no doubt that it’s worth every penny.
Meal for two (excluding drinks): £150
Style is elusive, but however you define it, Hakkasan has it. Since opening in Hanway Place a decade ago, its sultry decor by Christian Liaigre has grabbed as much attention as its Michelin-starred Cantonese cuisine.
So it’s surprising that, at first glance, Hakkasan Mayfair seems to have abandoned this signature look of low lighting and latticework. Tassels hang from the ceiling of the ground floor lounge, where large windows gaze onto Bruton Street and dragons unfurl across ivory banquettes. It’s elegant, but distinct from the style recently exported to the Abu Dhabi and Miami branches.
Head downstairs, however, and you’re in classic territory. The main restaurant is larger than its sibling, but the slivers of cobalt light and dark wood panels are gathered from the same palette.
The menu, too, will be familiar to Hakkasan regulars, with additions that make a trip to Mayfair a must for devotees. General manager Adnan Ozkara says chef Tong Chee Hwee has created a ‘modern yet authentic’ menu. New Zealand mini lobster, black truffle roast duck and sliced blue abalone with Hakka sauce are some of the dishes exclusive to Bruton Street. A delicate venison puff – a dish only available in the lounge until after lunch – melts to unleash an unctuous, satisfying shot of game, and the seafood platter teems with fresh flavours.
Both Hakkasans have been packed since the launch of Mayfair. We expect the private dining room to be popular with members, and the lounge – tailor-made for lunch after browsing Mayfair’s boutiques – will attract diners who avoided Hanway Place because they prefer a light, laid-backs pace. But whichever restaurant you choose, don’t forget to sample a cocktail, or two. A trip to Hakkasan isn’t complete without a Hakka.
And as for further plans to expand the empire? Adnan’s response suggests more restaurants could be on the way: ‘Watch this space.’