Name: Ling Ling at Hakkasan
Where: 8 Hanway Place, London W1T 1HD, http://www.hakkasan.com
Cost: The Limited Edition Ling Ling Menu is available throughout the summer at £35 per person and includes a welcome Ling Ling Collins cocktail, 3 dishes, Jasmine rice and macarons. There is a choice of 3 menus that cater for different dietary requirements and can be ordered by the same table providing a great opportunity to savour an exciting range of dishes. The Ling Ling menu is also excellent value when compared to the a la carte menu where starters average £13.90 and equivalent main courses range from £19.90 to £39.90.
Hakkasan serves a comprehensive and imaginative selection of drinks. Most cocktails at the strikingly long bar average £12.50 while wines can be ordered by the glass, with 175ml ranging from £7.10 - £33.70 and 250ml from £10.20 - £19.60. Bottles of wine are £29 - £80 and above.
About: Opened in 2001, Hakkasan quickly built its reputation as one of the top Cantonese fine dining destinations in London. Its innovative menu is accompanied by an award-winning interior decor, designed by Christian Liaigre, immersing diners into a darkly mysterious dining room enclosed by dark wood screens and surrounded by the subtle blue glow emanating from the cocktail bar on one side, wine cellar, and a translucent wall concealing the kitchen on the other.
The restaurant was awarded a Michelin star in 2003 and has successfully maintained its achievement since then, going on to open other restaurants in locations across the globe, from San Francisco and New York, to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Shanghai, as well as a second restaurant here in London, in Mayfair.
Without a doubt, this is one of my all-time favourite restaurants in London and one of very few I return to regularly (reviewed here and here).
What We Ate: On this latest visit, we tried the limited edition Ling Ling Summer menu which celebrates the group’s latest opening this summer, Ling Ling in Mykonos– a new concept where a list of innovative cocktails and an izakaya-inspired menu of smaller Cantonese dishes take diners on an evening of drinking, dining and dancing. In keeping with that idea, the London restaurant is offering a signature cocktail and 3 choices of menu, “Fish and Seafood”, “Meat and Seafood” or “Vegetarian”.
The Fish and Seafood Menu
We started with a trio dim-sum platter that showed some of the kitchen’s classics - the har gau was a perfect combination of the freshest rice pastry packed full with plump prawns. The Chinese chive dumpling was equally delectable with its open chive-coloured rice pastry, fresh prawns and garnished with a single goji berry, while the scallop shumai offered a tender scallop encased by an egg-based wonton ribbed cup, topped with tobiko caviar – the simple combination of textures and prime ingredients was spot on.
We were then presented with our next dish, a crispy aubergine and shiitake salad. Pramesh, who was helping us on the night, explained was a vegetarian version of their signature crispy duck salad. We loved this dish - crispy battered strips of aubergine and shiitake mushrooms served with a mix of lily bulb and four types of cress: affilla, sakura, rock chive and tahoon, topped with pine nuts, pomegranate seeds, a deliciously sweet vegetarian hoisin sauce. It was so enjoyable that it should definitely be incorporated into their a la carte menu!
Moving on to the main course, a finely textured grilled Chilean seabass with a honey glaze was served on a bamboo leaf and garnished with deep-fried battered strips of mushrooms. The sweet glaze gave the fish an attractive presentation that complemented the buttery fish. Steamed jasmine rice was served as an accompaniment to all three menus.
The Meat and Seafood Menu
Like the fish and seafood menu, the first starter of the Meat and Seafood option was the trio of dim sum described above. So let me skip straight to our second plate, the jasmine tea smoked organic pork ribs coated in a delectable barbecue sauce and garnished with an edible flower. The meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender and had a delicious smokey character from the Jasmine tea. It was absolutely moreish.
One of my favourite Hakkasan dishes followed – a magnificent curry of spicy prawns with lily bulb and almond – this was an utterly delicious plate of large butterfly prawns, fresh lily bulbs, spring onions and flaked almonds all immersed in a creamy sauce topped with curry leaves. The sauce oozed freshness, aromatics, spiciness, and a good amount of heat. Simply put, Eastern-Asian curries do not get any better than this!
The Vegetarian Menu
For me, the vegetarian menu was the greatest revelation of the evening and one I would thoroughly recommend ordering. The salt and pepper homemade pumpkin tofu had a crunchy peppery coating with a silky smooth centre flavoured with pumpkin, and was topped with savoury fluffy soybean flakes that were an extraordinarily successful vegetarian version of Chinese pork floss. The flakes melted on the tongue and were mixed with crispy finely sliced seaweed, chopped chillies and sesame seeds, imparting texture and heat to the dish.
The main course was equally intriguing. Stir-fry black pepper vegetarian chicken cubes made of yellow soy beans (tofu) had not only the appearance but also the texture of real chicken and were served with fresh sugar snap peas and red pepper. We loved this.
The main course was accompanied by steamed jasmine rice and stir-fried baby broccoli and preserved olives with crispy seaweed and pine nuts.
The meal came to an end with a stunning selection of macarons. The shells had a perfectly crumbly skin with a chewy centre and were generously filled. The crunchy sesame seed and milk chocolate macaron was superb, while the tangy yuzu macaron offered a sharper contrast to its chocolate centre. The rose and raspberry macaron was fragrant, delicate and accomplished.
What We Drank: As part of the Ling Ling menu, we started the evening with a Ling Ling Collins cocktail made of Beefeater gin, cranberry and grapefruit juices, Chartreuse Green liqueur and garnished with a Shiso leaf. This was a refreshing drink with contrasting fruit and herbal notes.
To accompany our main courses, we decided to order white wine by the glass. Hakkasan’s head sommelier, Tobias Brauweiler, whose previous experience includes working at the Ritz and the boutique wine shop Hedonism, has put together a comprehensive wine list which includes some unusual varieties. Luckily, the choice offered by glass spans a good spectrum so we were curious to try the 2014 Avesso “Cazas Novas”, Quinta de Guimaraes, 13% vinho verde, made from 100% avesso grapes from Portugal (£11.90 for 250ml). Dry with a round limey acidity, but without the spritz found in vinho verde, this wine also had lovely notes of apricot and peaches and a flavoursome weight that stood up to the fish.
Our second choice to match the spicy prawns was a 2013 Chablis 1er Cru “Les Fourneaux”, Alain Gautheron, 13% Burgundy, 100% Chardonnay grapes from France (£19.60 for 250ml). Dry with fruity hints of apple and citrus and a creamy roundedness, we also found this wine matched well with the spiciness of our dish.
Likes: We thoroughly enjoyed the spicy prawns, a dish so fresh and fragrant that its memory lingered for days. Equally memorable were the vegetarian versions of well-known dishes such as the crispy aubergine and shiitake salad, pumpkin tofu with vegetarian floss and stir-fry vegetarian chicken. They were a revelation and proof that vegetarian choices can be just as satisfying as their meaty counterparts.
Verdict: At £35 per person the Ling Ling summer menu offers excellent value and is a great opportunity to try old Hakkasan favourites and exciting new dishes created specially for this menu that will blow you away. Highly recommended.