I have a love-hate relationship with Hakkasan – there are so many things to admire about this place but also so much I dislike. Over the years, I have returned many times to Hakkasan, and on every visit I found that what I loved most about this place - the food - had been consistently good. My last visit was no exception.
Much has been said about French designer Christian Liaigre’s multi million pound interior, Hakkasan’s Michelin Star rating in 2003, and its listing in S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2008, so I will not go over old ground.
Despite the occasional snooty service, and the extortionate prices for their teas I keep going back. I love the décor, and unlike many, I do not feel that the restaurant lighting is excessively dark - I find it soothing and feel that it adds to the overall experience at Hakkasan.
I was pleasantly surprised to find I was able to book a table at 12:30pm for dim sum when I called on that same Saturday morning. Dr G and I headed to the familiar spot on Hanway Place, and were soon seated. We ordered a pot of “Orchid Pao Chung” tea @ £4.30 and a selection of eight dim sum dishes. These were:
“Scallop shumai with tobiko caviar” @ £5.20 – the scallops tasted fresh, and were within the finest skin I have encountered. The tobiko caviar added a sophisticated look and a pleasant saltiness/crunchiness to the delicate scallops.
“Braised beef brisket with cheung fun” @ £4.80 – this was also delicious although I was expecting to have beef brisket cheung fun not “with” cheung fun (my mistake!). The meat was braised to perfection in a deliciously sweet broth with hints of cinnamon and star anise. It was lovely to be able to finish off this delicious sauce with the added cheung fun.
“Crispy smoked duck and pumpkin puff” @ £4.80 – I loved both the presentation and flavours of this dish. The combination of pumpkin and duck was perfect and made for a good alternative to the more usual prawn & pork combo.
“Sticky rice in lotus leaf with wind dried pork and salted duck egg yolk” @ £4.50 –this was also a delicious dish with plenty of salted duck egg and pork filling in a thin case of sticky rice.
“Pan fried turnip cake with garlic and Chinese chive” @ 5.50 – the cake had a lovely texture, was crispy on the outside with a delicious flavor of fried chives and garlic. This was one of the highlights.
“Steamed corn-fed chicken bun with abalone and crabmeat” @ £4.50 – the combination of the different meats was surprisingly good within a light and delicious pastry.
“Steamed crabmeat siew long bun” @ £6.00 – Hakkasan’s take on xiao long bao or Shanghai dumplings was as expected excellent, with plenty of soup and a thin, delicate skin.
“Sweet black sesame ball” @ £3.30 – stunning presentation and a light, fragile outer casing containing a generous amount of rich, sweet and nutty black sesame paste. This was a fantastic dessert and one I will make sure to order on my next visit.
I apologize for the poor quality of the pictures. Hakkasan is renowned for not allowing any photography, and I was politely asked by management to stop taking pictures.
Cost: £52 for two, or £26 per person including 13% (!) service charge. This is nearly twice as much as I would normally pay in most dim sum eateries in London.
Likes: Excellent quality dishes beautifully presented, ultra fresh ingredients, stunningly designed restaurant.
Dislikes: Efficient but impersonal service, no refilling of tea pot, and no photography allowed.
Verdict: Hakkasan is one of those restaurants many would love to hate. I love it. I am still surprised by the amount of hostility this place attracts but in my opinion, despite the ridiculously high prices and the impersonal service, the food is fantastic and I will certainly be going back for more.