In case you didn’t already know, Hakkasan is a ‘high end’ chain of Chinese restaurants from the aptly names Hakkasan Group – as well as a dozen Hakkasan restaurants spread across USA, China, India, London and the Middle East, they also operate Sake No Hana, Yauatcha and HKK.
Of the two London outposts, Hakkasan Mayfair (which I am yet to visit) is the newer of the two but it’s the original Hakkasan Hanway Place that I know and love. Opened in 2001 by Alan Yau (of Wagamama fame), Hakkasan Hanway Place gained a Michelin star in 2003, which it has maintained ever since.
I first visited circa 2005 and made semi regular visits over the next few years or so but have not been back since I started my blog in 2011 – one reason being that we visit London less frequently and another being that as a blogger it is good to explore and experience different places.
This visit did not go as expected. Earlier in the day, my wife and I had visited Simon Rogan’s excellent new Fera at Claridge’s. We had underestimated the length of the meal and my wife could simply not manage any more food so, rather than cancelling our Hakkasan meal at short notice, I decided to pop along on my own.
One down side being that I was unable to have the ‘Taste of Hakkasan’ menu as it can only served to a minimum of two people; another was that by choosing from the A La Carte, I’d have to be careful about what I ordered as I would eating all of each dish and not sharing.
For example, the Vegetarian dim sum platter came with two of each: crystal dumpling, vegetable shumai, yam bean & shiitake dumpling and vegetable beancurd roll – all faultless examples of the kitchen’s Michelin starred capabilities but I wish my wife were there to have half so I could have saved room to try more dishes (and look at her beautiful face across the table, obvs!)
For the rest of the meal, I decided to order dishes that sounded reasonably light (and stuck to the cheaper end of the menu as some mains come in around £60) – soft shell crab, a lamb salad and a tofu dish.
Golden fried soft shell crab with red chilli and curry leaf – the crab itself was one of the plumpest and meatiest I have had. This dish has been on the Hakkasan menu for quite some time and it’s easy to see why – perfectly judged spices that tingle the taste buds without overshadowing the crab.
Lamb salad with spicy peanut dressing – this was the star dish for me. The spicy peanut dressing had a real kick to it that was tempered by the sweet and sour crunch of alliums, white radish and mango.
Sichuan Mabo tofu with minced beef – made with the traditional accompaniment of minced beef (as opposed to the more common pork) this was another spicy dish, characteristic of Sichuanese cuisine. “Ma bo” translates as “pock marked old woman” and, as the story goes, is named after Mrs Chen, the wife of a Chengdu restaurateur whose face was marked with smallpox scars.
To drink I enjoyed a couple of Hakkasan’s non-alcoholic cocktails - a China Doll (tamarillo fruit, pistachio, apple & peach juice) and an Eden (grapes, rose syrup, lychee juice and soda water) – the soft drinks are always particularly good in Hakkasan group restaurants.
I also enjoyed an Old Puer Ya Jian tea. Feeling full and wanting to get back to my wife, I decided to skip dessert.
Next time, I promise to try Hakkasan Mayfair.