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Friday, 26 March 2010

Seeking the Best Dim Sum in London - Hakkasan


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.

Hakkasan on Urbanspoon


  1. I was sooo hoping to love Hakkasan but I'm afraid I was awfully disappointed. The food was OK, with some highlights, but I felt it was overpriced for what it was, both in terms of quality and portions. Service was definitely not great, certainly not what I'd expect from a place with a Michelin star - I thought they took service into account when awarding these?
    Perhaps I need to give it another go?
    Maybe with Hakkasan regulars, like yourself and Dr G? :)

  2. I've no problem with the quality of the dim sum, which is technically excellent (how good looking is that pumpkin puff). And the expense isn't too outrageous for an occasional treat. It's the atmos and the setting that don't quite do it for me.

  3. Impressed you were able to get so many photos in. We've all been stopped early on before!

  4. @ Kavey - love your new avatar pic! I understand what you mean but not having eaten from their a la carte menu I cannot comment on their portion size. Hakkasan's dim sum is the usual deal as regards portion sizes, but I felt that the quality was as good as ever. I will let you know next time I visit.

    @ Mr Noodles - interesting comment, I like the setting but the atmosphere can indeed be a bit of trial sometimes. I am glad the food meets your seal of approval though (big sigh of relief!!).

  5. @ Krista - ermmm, i just carried on and got nearly kicked out! It was lovely meeting you yesterday... I was nursing a terrible hangover, could hardly keep up with what was being said!

  6. Thanks for a great review. I think the dim sum is consistently superb, with highly innovative variations on the standard dishes, top quality ingredients, and spectacular presentation. Although the background lighting is dim, there is a brilliant spotlight over each table. While the tea is exquisite, and served in a pot without leaves, I agree the pricing is extortionate ...
    Mr Truffle

  7. Yum! Everything looks great but what really intrigued me is the smoked duck and pumpkin puff! Was that cooked in a mold?

  8. I went to Hakkasan and whilst I liked their dim sum quite a lot, I wasn't impressed with the main dishes. Nor was I impressed that they wouldn't leave the tea leaves in the pot; I liked my tea stronger, and even the server agreed with me. Bizarre.

  9. I thought this place didn't allow photos so I was always putting off going but apparently not! The cost is pretty steep but I think I would still give it a shot one day.

  10. Great photos Luiz - amazing if you were getting stopped that you had time to get the focusing etc right - but they're great.

    I thought it would be a little expensive for me, but dim sum prices seem reasonable and really delicious. You've inspired me to try it soon!


  11. I traveled to London two years ago and I was looking for the best dimsum place in town. Unfortunately, I went home disappointed as I was not able to locate a good one with reasonable effort. At any rate, Hakkasan would have been a good experience for me too bad I only read about this in your blog today. Well, I will just plan my next visit to London and I will make sure to schedule a trip to Hakkasan. Thank you for this great post.

  12. @ Mr Truffles - thanks for your comment, nice to hear that you agree with the points I raised in my review. I like the name Mr Truffles, one of my dogs is called Truffles! Hope to hear from you again.

    @ Taste of Beirut - hi Joumana, I would believe they were moulded as they were deep fried, the presentation was fantastic.

    @ Lizzie - I couldn't comment on their main a la carte menu as I never ordered from it, I only go to Hakkasan for dim sum. The fact that they do not leave the tea leaves in the pot is to ensure that ppl will need to order another pot as opposed to a refill of hot water, I think this is very annoying indeed as the prices of their teas are very high and one pot will hardly do for a whole meal.

    @ Catty - they do not allow any photography, I was asked to stop taking pictures and got nearly kicked out when I took them! So be warned!

    @ Sasha - I think despite the high prices and snooty service, if you are a lover of dim sum you will love this place. It is definitely a "treat" sort of place, it will set you back £25 to £30 per person with one pot of tea and about 8 dim sum dishes.

    @ Christopher - wow thanks for your kind message. Please do get in touch with me via e-mail (see top of main blog page for address) before your next visit to London, and I will be delighted to give you some personal recommendations. There only so many meals in one day and they should not be wasted on bad food! I am sad that you did not find a good dim sum place to visit here.

  13. I will surely do that Mr. Hara. Thank you for your hospitality. It is much appreciated.

  14. Oh my gosh Christopher, pls call me Luiz (just like Louis or Lewis)! Pls get in touch, I will be delighted to help.

  15. Just went to Hakkasan for dim sum at lunch and funnily enough we ordered much of the same things - including the black sesame balls! It was only £15 for 3 dim sum each which was fab BUT it was £9 for a tiny glass of wine which is scandalous - what a ridiculous mark up! I remember reading this when it came out and you saying no photos but I too managed to take quite a lot until snooty woman at reception told me off!

    Sasha x

  16. Well, this post would be of great help to anyone who would come to read this one. Thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts..

  17. Wow, It is so delicious. Thank you for this post. I will come here again and again.

  18. I love Hakkasan. I hate bits too but I definitely love it. Every mouthful of food absolutely completely and utterly blows me away. I want to bathe in a bath of lychee martinis and I love the dark decor. Yes, it's blooming annoying when they tell you that you have to leave the table as the next sitting has arrived. And yes it is annoying that the waiters are a bit cocky and rude. And finally it is very expensive, but the food is so incredible that I just don't care. The pork balls and black cod rock my world so much I actually want to go now... Right now...


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