Having lived in London for a few years, when new friends come to town they often ask for restaurant suggestions. I have a list – a long one – which covers cheap and cheerful gems, middle of the range must-visits, and high-end budget blowing destinations. I recently scribbled down a list for a fellow foodie, and a few days later I was invited to join her, her mum and a few other friends for a feast at Hakkasan. Oooh, what an unexpected treat.
We arrived at the restaurant a dash early so decided to prop the bar for a quick cocktail. One pink mojito later (delicious) we descended the stairs to the basement dining room. The room had an undeniable nightclubby feel to it – albeit a classy nightclub. Decor of dark wood, dim lights and a big sleek bar seemed slightly dated, and not entirely my style, but still incredibly luxurious. We settled in our big corner table and I couldn’t help but realise how full the restaurant was – impressive for a Monday night.
There are many benefits of dining in groups. Apart from the obvious – catching up with multiple friends at once – another huge drawcard is how much more one can sample from the menu. We decided to share everything and must have had in excess of 10 dishes.
The dim sum platter consisted of eight delicately steamed and bursting with flavour dumplings – scallop, har gau, prawn and chive, and mushroom.
The salt and pepper squid was so lightly fried, it almost tasted healthy! Super thin batter, with succulent and juicy squid. Often this dish is completely butchered with thick batter and chewy squid. This however was exactly how it should be with tender squid and the perfect amount of salt and pepper. The best S&P squid I’ve had.
The duck spring rolls were a hit. Thin and flaky pastry formed a capsule around the richly marinated duck. The cucumber gave the roll a refreshing and light crunch.
Vegetarian gyoza with a lightly fried base came with a lovely dipping sauce.
The king prawns were the biggest king prawns I’ve seen since living in the UK. I’m so sick of those tiny, little, shrimpy shrimps that keep appearing on my plate in other restaurants! The fresh prawns had been butterflied and wok-tossed with a spicy yellow bean sauce.
The pan-fried Wagyu beef was a succulent success. Fat chunks of tender beef coated in sticky Szechuan sauce put to shame all the other Szechuan beef dishes I’ve sampled in my time.
Zingy and fresh stir-fried asparagus, lotus root and lily bulb in black pepper.
Crispy skinned duck with black truffle and mushroom sauce was rich and beautiful, and had a great depth of flavour. So rich was the dish, I was happy to be sharing with five others as despite being a lover of truffles, eating the whole dish to myself would have been a big ask!
A claypot filled with homemade tofu, aubergine and mushrooms in a chilli and black bean sauce made a good argument for becoming vegetarian. The silky tofu was the smoothest I’ve tasted – if tofu was always this good, I’d eat it every day!
Hakkasan lived up to the reviews. It’s a special occasion restaurant and is certainly the best Chinese food I’ve had. The highlight was the food – which, considering it’s a restaurant, is a good thing. Its downfalls – the decor resembles a slightly dated nightclub or hotel bar, service was a little shady in patches (when you’re paying that much, it should be nothing but seamless) and the prices (yikes!). Come for the food. And come with a full wallet.
Dish Piglets’ Rating: 8.5/10.
17 Bruton Street, Mayfair, London. W1J 6QB.
Tel: 020 7907 1888.