On Tuesday, I was completely spoiled and treated to something way out of my usual experience range.
Hakkasan, the Cantonese restaurant in Hanway Place has had a Michelin star since 2003, and the very few people I know that have been have been exceedingly complimentary.
There is another Hakkasan in Abu Dhabi and one in Miami, and last night the brand new one opened in Mayfair.
My boss is friendly with the manager, who was previously running the Hanway Place restaurant, and was lucky enough to be invited for a complimentary lunch as part of the launch celebrations – and he chose to take me. Unfortunately, because I was with him, I was unable to take any photos, which I was really dying to do, because everything was so…perfect!
You wouldn’t know that the restaurant was there (in Bruton Street) if you didn’t know it was there. I was physically looking for it, and almost missed it. There is no sign, just the logo cut into the plate above the door. all very minimalist and chic! Our names were checked at the door, and then we were taken down the grey marble stairs to the amazing basement dining room.
I have never been in a room that just oozed sexiness. It was all blue lighting, dark contemporary wooden fittings, ‘just-right’ music and a real chinese influenced style, and unlike anywhere that I have ever been. It also managed to be quite open plan and yet feel very intimate. The lighting was exactly right – you could see the person you were with, see all the food clearly, but the rest of the diners weren’t a distraction.
You can just make out the kitchen through frosted glass at one end of the dining room – a flurry of exertion and activity if you choose to watch, but no sound or vision to distract you from complete relaxation and luxury.
We were presented with far too many menus – but this was the launch, and we were allowed to have whatever we wanted – so we had a choice from the main menu, the dim sum menu, the bar/cocktails menu and the wine list.
The menu is staggering really – there is so much to choose from, and it all sounds so divine. I really really didn’t know where to start – but our waiter (Jason, if you’re interested) was fantastic and he offered to devise a menu for us, asking us a few
of our preferences, and making suggestions that all sounded fantastic! We did manage to order our own cocktails, and I had a Pink Mao Mao (vodka, watermelon, strawberry, pink pepper and other yumness) and a Pink Mojito – I can’t remember what the boss had, but there was one with pineapple and lychee called The Hakka (or similar and that was scrummy too!)
So – this is what we ended up having to eat:
- Venison puffs – gorgeous flaky light pastry encasing a flavourful yet light venison ‘stew’ almost. It was the first food I put in my mouth and it was a delight. They were big beasts too – you certainly get decent portion sizes here.
- Scallop & prawn – a roll of minced prawn topped with a scallop with a dollop of (something beginning with ‘t’) ‘caviar’. Gorgeous, fresh and I had never had caviar/roe/whatever before, and although I’m not a massive seafood lover, it was delightful! Everything was plump and tasty.
- Duck & shitake rolls – juicy, yummy, slightly sweet rolls of shredded, marinated duckwith a little spring onion and topped with a slice of shitake mushroom. they may have been rolled with shitake too…my memory isn’t picture-perfect.
- Pork & prawn dumplings – fried dumplings with minced pork and prawn. My boss cracked up when I called it ‘posh surf & turf’ – but it was gorgeous.
The dim sum came with various dips obviously – but the sweet chili was definitely my favourite. then it was time to move on to our mains. Lovely Jason had recommended:
- Steamed mini New Zealand lobster wrapped in glass vermicelli with Gu Yue Long Shan rice wine and chilli garlic sauce – (yes, I copied that from the menu) Apart from a lobster and crayfish ravioli that I had on my birthday this year, that doesn’t really count as it was more of a mousse, this was my first time trying lobster, and I wasn’t disappointed at all. It was gorgeous, and the sauce was fantastic. the only problem was that the lobster hadbeen cooked with their tails on, so they curl round and the tail is actually in the middle. I’m not the most delicate person, but I really couldn’t work out how to get the tail off and eat it easily without butchering it. Jason did notice this, and rushed over to us with bowls of water/lemon and hot towels, and discussed with us about whether the lobster would be better tail-off. It will be interesting to see if they continue cooking it the same way
- Jasmine tea smoked chicken – this was the only dish that we actually ordered ourselves (or rather *I* did). i’d spotted it on the online menu, and when a friend suggested it on Twitter, I thought we should give it a go. it was divine! moist, plump chicken with a beautiful delicate smoked flavour, with the skin absorbing even more flavour, but just slipping off of the chicken. Perfect!
- Hakka noodles (I think that’s what they were called) – I think this must be their standard ‘house noodles’ dish – it had little bits of chicken, chili, and other yummy stuff and was an absolutely perfect accompaniment to the main dishes.
My only criticism would be that most ‘multiple’ dishes seemed to come in 3s or 5s, and I know this is because it’s aesthetically pleasing, but seeing as most people dine in 2s, it makes it a bot difficult to start carving things up!
We thought that we would be stuffed by the end of all this, but when they insisted on bringing us the dessert menu, we were convinced to have a coffee and share a dessert, which was a cardamon creme brulee served with chocolate mousse, orange sorbet, orange tuille, crushed biscuit of some kind and was the most delicious dessert I have had in a LONG time! A perfect end to a perfect meal.
And then we walked out without having to pay, picked our coats up and caught the C2 bus back to the office, LOL – what a come down!