It was in 2001 that Hakkasan opened and redefined Londoner’s perceptions of Chinese food. No scowling waiters and chicken’s feet here, just classy Cantonese food and superb service in a beautifully designed dining room, the work of French designer Christian Liaigre. As you pass by the entrance you walk down a flight of stairs lit with lanterns and scented with incense. The room itself is cleverly sectioned off with wooden screens and dark oak lattices to give an impression of intimacy, though the space itself is huge. Lighting is brilliant, the room appearing to be almost completely dark as you enter, yet each table carefully illuminated. The tables are spaced much more generously than at sister restaurant Yauatcha. The head chef is Wah Ho Hip, who previously worked in Singapore, India and China, including a stint as head chef of Great Wall in Mumbai and My Humble House in Beijing.
Hakkasan now offers dim sum on Sunday lunchtime, with two variations on a set menu to share for a minimum of two people. Both start with a salad, a selection of four steamed dim, four fried dim sum, and a couple of further dim sum (there is some choice available in each category). This is followed by a main course with sticky rice and bak choi, followed by dessert. One menu is priced at £48 per head and includes a cocktail, the other at £58 per head with the same food but with a half bottle of champagne to share and a further cocktail.
The meal began with a carefully made salad with radishes, lotus roots, pine nuts, shallots and a citrus dressing with a little coriander, the dressing nicely balanced (14/20). The steamed dim sum we chose were har gau, Chinese chive with crab and prawn, morel and lemon sole and XO scallop. These dumplings were of an exceptionally high quality, the prawn and chive dumplings in particular having terrific flavour, all with superbly delicate dumplings. You would be very fortunate indeed to eat this well anywhere in Hong Kong (17/20).
The next selection was venison puff, fried mouli and onion pancake, fried golden lobster roll and a morel and vegetable spring roll. Again these were excellent, the venison puff delicate, the morels having good flavour, the lobster roll with tender shellfish. In some ways I was most impressed by the least luxurious item, the mooli and onion pancake, which had great texture and sweet onion flavour; it was impressive to take something as simple as onion and white radish and make a roll that was this lovely (16/20). Cheung fun, so often a slimy mess in Chinatown, here had excellent texture and a precisely seasoned filling of three different wild mushrooms (16/20).
Chilean sea bass was grilled and coated with Chinese honey; the fish itself was accurately cooked, the coating not too sweet, served with little tempura of mushrooms (15/20). Pak choi with this was delicately steamed (15/20) and Lotus leaf rice on the side very pleasant.
The dessert was cherry and chocolate bar, with vanilla, a genuinely top class dessert that could have appeared from a high class pastry section in a top Paris restaurant. The rich chocolate was nicely paired with cherry, the texture of the bar gorgeous (17/20).
Service, as ever at restaurants in this group, was extremely smooth. The bill came to £53 a head with just water in addition to the cheaper set menu. This was a really enjoyable meal with classy cooking. It is remarkable that the cooking here is of such a consistently high standard in a dining room that can seat 220 people at one time.
Further reviews: 13th Jun 2010