I have been many times to this restaurant, so won’t repeat the background of the original Hakkasan, which I have written about in previous reviews. The Mayfair branch is spread over two floors and is very large, serving over two hundred guests at a time and turning tables several times during a day’s operation. As well as an a la carte selection there were a host of different tasting menu options, ranging widely in price.
A basket of eight pieces of dim sum had four different steamed dumplings (there was also a separate selection of baked dim sum on offer). Langoustine har gau was garnished with Prunier caviar, a luxurious take on the usual prawn har gau dumpling. Scallop and chicken sui mai again offered a posh take on the sui mai that you might find in Chinatown. Sea bass jade dumpling had a jade-coloured dumpling and finally there was a dumpling of wild mushrooms with black truffle. All had thin dumplings with excellent texture and good fillings (15/20).
Crispy freshwater prawns were fried and served with cashew nuts and dried red chillies. The prawns were large and carefully and evenly cooked, the nuts adding a pleasant extra texture to the dish, the hint of chilli just lifting the flavour of the dish (15/20). Cherrywood smoked roasted duck came simply with a carrot and kumquat chutney. The duck was really excellent, the skin crisp and the meat having plenty of flavour, while the chutney provided some nice balance to the richness of the duck (16/20). Asparagus was cut into small sections and was lightly pan-fried, the asparagus carefully cooked (15/20). Pak choi with garlic had tender vegetables enlivened by the flavour of the garlic (14/20). Even the egg fried rice was noticeably better than you would normally encounter at most Chinese restaurants, the grains distinct and carefully cooked, the rice laced with spring onions.
Service was very good. It is interesting how well orchestrated the service operation always seems here, despite the huge size of the restaurant. A small example was in the table next to us when it was being turned between groups of diners. A waiter laid out the plates, glassware and cutlery on the table with great precision, taking elaborate care to ensure that every single element on the table was exactly in position, making many small adjustments. It was the kind of care for detail that you might see in an episode of “Downton Abbey” when the grand dining table was being laid out by the numerous staff. No one was supervising this waiter, but he made absolutely sure that everything was perfect for the next set of diners. Of course, you would hope that every waiter in every restaurant would show a degree of care, but it was just interesting to watch it happening next to us in the middle of a busy Saturday night service. The bill came to £145 per person including cocktails and drinks. If you ordered more carefully you could spend less, perhaps £95 or so, though care would be needed on the wine list, which quickly escalates in price. Hakkasan is a big operation, but over many visits here everything seems to work like a Swiss watch, both in terms of service and consistency of food execution. Our two courses were served to us over a ninety-minute window without even the slightest feeling of being rushed, and the table would be occupied again within a few minutes, with a seemingly endless line of diners arriving as we left. Hakkasan may no longer be the trendiest restaurant in town and it is never cheap, but it still packs them in. I can only admire its attention to detail, night after very busy night.