Southbank Riverside, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 7PB, United Kingdom

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This was my second visit to Hannah. In my previous review I covered the background of the chef and also discussed the wine and sake list, so I will not repeat that here. The dining room was much busier than on my previous visit, and although the tables are well spaced, at some points during the evening it was a touch noisy due to the wooden floor and hard surfaces of the room. As before, we went for the full-length tasting menu, priced at £185. There is a shorter 8-course version at £125, and a 5-course menu at lunch only at just £45. Kaiseki cuisine is the most rarefied style of Japanese dining, its home being the formal capital city of Kyoto. It developed out of Buddhist tea ceremonies and dates back to at least the 16thcentury, but draws on older traditions such as imperial court cosine as far back at the 9th century. The idea is a multi-course banquet based on seasonal ingredients, and where artful presentation is important. There are potentially numerous stages of a kaiseki meal, and as I discovered in Japan there is considerable flexibility in the number of courses and even, to a degree, the sequence. Inevitably, there are traditional and more modern interpretations, so rather than worrying too much about the sequence or stages it is best to just sit back and await the dishes. In this case we opted for the sake pairing, which draws on the extensive sake selection here. 

An array of five starters began the meal, very attractively presented together in pretty dishes. Tofu cream with langoustine jelly was lovely, with deep shellfish flavour and pleasing levels of acidity. This was topped with langoustine mixed with langoustine oil from the shell, and a little tosazu jelly (made from dashi and Japanese rice vinegar), mixed with minty tasting kinome leaves and shiso leaves.

Chawanmushi of white asparagus in a little cup was a warm savoury custard with silky texture. The bottom layer was steamed egg custard, the of which top was green pea purée and white asparagus puree, with Iberico ham bacon on top. This was a sort of Japanese take on bacon and egg. Slow-cooked simmered aubergine came with sesame paste and pickled myoga (Japanese ginger). This had excellent flavour from the ginger. A cherry stone clam with rice cracker had nicely contrasting textures and avoided the chewiness that many clams exhibit. Vinegar mackerel sushi with radish pickle was lovely, the mackerel having fine flavour and its natural oiliness neatly balanced by the vinegar that had been applied to the sushi rice. The mackerel was covered with pickled peeled radish and a konbu seaweed sheet (average 16/20 easily).

Amadai fish and chips was next. Amadai (tilefish) is an exquisite and very expensive fish, being much costlier than turbot and with glorious texture and sweet flavour. Here it was wrapped in a layer of ultra-crisp purple potato and topped with N25 caviar. The amadai included its scales which were crispened by the use of very hot oil. The meat of the fish was covered in tempura batter and lightly deep-fried. This was served with aged balsamic miso sauce with a little masala spice. This really is fish and chips taken to a whole new level of luxury; it was superb (18/20).  

Next was sushi of anago (sea eel, as distinct from unagi, which is river eel). The conger eels were filleted and slowly simmered in a sauce made from the anago bones, flavoured with sansho pepper, a Japanese pepper related to Sichuan pepper. Anago has a subtler flavour than unago, which is fattier. This was another glorious dish, the sauce subtle and with the gentle spice of the sansho pepper just lifting the dish (18/20).

The tsukuri (raw) stage of the kaiseki banquet involved a trio of dishes. Devon scallop sashimi came with shiitake mushroom and kohlrabi and a sauce of sake and dried plum wine. The scallops were cured with two pieces of konbu (Japanese kelp) and Shio-Koji, a marinade of cooked grain. This was served with irizake sauce, a seasoning made from sake, umeboshi pickle, dried bonito flakes and soy sauce. The scallops were pleasingly sweet and the cabbage provided some earthy balance (16/20).

Sea bream sashimi, which even in Japan can be rather chewy, here has no such characteristic. The fish skin is scaled on the skin side so the oil can come out from the skin a little, and when the fish oil drops on the charcoal, it creates immediate smoke. The sea bream is grilled close to the charcoal at a high temperature so that the skin side is very crispy, while the meat side still remains raw and tender. This came with radish and six-year aged ponzu sauce, with a separate cup of broth of sea bream made from the baked sea bream head and bones. The ponzu and radish combination was superb, almost outshining the excellent bream (17/20).

Otoro tuna (the rich tuna belly) from a Spanish Balfego farmed bluefin tuna came with seaweed sauce, fresh wasabi from Norfolk with sugar, and an umami-rich sauce of seaweed and soy. The tuna was silky and the sauce has good flavour depth. I am not convinced that UK wasabi has the texture to rival top Japanese wasabi but that is my only quibble with this dish (16/20).

Soba noodles with crab, morel mushroom and a broth of Iberico ham was a very impressive dish. The texture of the noodles was superb, some of the best noodles I can recall. The new season morel was lovely, its earthy flavour nicely balancing the natural sweetness of the crab. The stock was made from a rich chicken and Iberico ham stock, topped with white crab meat and simmered morel mushrooms with grilled leek puree. The ham broth unified the flavours nicely (17/20).

This was followed by Scottish lobster, which was grilled with umami butter and prettily presented with a mixed mushroom broth and a slow-cooked egg. The butter was mixed with bonito flakes and kombu seaweed for greater richness. The mixed mushroom sauce was made from shiitake, enoki, button and St George mushrooms. On the side was a homemade lobster XO sauce made from lobster oil, dried shiitake mushroom oil, dried scallops and dried shrimps, providing deeper flavour to the lobster. The lobster itself was very tender and the mushroom broth had excellent depth of flavour, the egg adding a little richness. This was a lovely, nicely balanced dish (17/20).

Miyazaki wagyu of A5 grade (the fattiest and most expensive) was grilled over charcoal and served with a slow-cooked onsen tomago egg, mushrooms and root vegetables and a sauce made from the meat juices. Miyazaki beef is ultra-high quality and was lightly cooked over Japanese charcoal, its flavour coming through well. The garnish included simmered shiitake mushrooms, grilled artichokes and spring onion, as well as with cherry tomatoes and asparagus. The asparagus itself was prepared in different ways: fresh, grilled and smoked, and asparagus simmered in ohitashi broth. A sukiyaki sauce was made from the wagyu beef fat cooked with Spanish onions and shiitake mushrooms. The vegetables nicely contrasted the richness of the meat (17/20).

The last savoury dish of a kaiseki meal is traditionally rice and pickles. This can be as simple as a bowl of rice, though many restaurants in Japan liven this up with assorted elements, sometimes wild mushrooms or even wagyu. In this case, it was slow-cooked abalone with the rice. Abalone is much prized in Asia but can easily end up chewy, and it typically needs some hours of cooking to avoid this issue. The version here was very carefully cooked and was tender, going nicely with the flawlessly cooked rice. The rice was mixed with slow-cooked Tokyo turnips, simmered shiitake mushrooms, grilled chicken and crispy chicken skin crumbles. On top of the rice was 72-hour slow-cooked abalone from Australia with abalone sauce. On the side were miso soup and pickles made of Chinese leaves, cabbage and cucumber, with a little red shiso Jelly on top to add balancing acidity (15/20).

Tea ice cream was made using three different teas (houjicha, genmai cha and sencha), on a base of rhubarb gel, with cherry blossom powder. The ice cream had good texture though tea flavour ice cream is not, well, everyone’s cup of tea. However, the rhubarb jam was very nice (14/20).

Finally, there were several mignardise or miniature desserts served in a little display cabinet. There was tea-flavour airy mochi, with a melting marshmallow texture. Another mignardise was matsukaze, a raisin cake made with chestnuts and pine nuts. A Swiss roll cake with Devon cream was very good but my favourite was the orange jelly, actually made from a mix of orange and yuzu, which had lovely texture and deep orange flavour, and little pear cubes for a contrasting texture. This was very refreshing.

Service was lovely, the many dishes arriving at a steady pace and our waitress being knowledgeable and patient. The bill was rather, …, complicated as there was a prior deposit and some considerable unrequested generosity on the part of the chef, and a cash tip for the staff. A typical bill with sake pairing would be £300. Hannah is a very classy restaurant serving superb kaiseki cuisine that would not be out of place in a top Kyoto restaurant. I would urge you to try it.

Further reviews: 24th Mar 2024

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  • Max Crossan

    Love it here. Spent £800 on dinner.