Hakkasan Hanway Place burst onto London’s restaurant scene in 2001, with their contemporary Cantonese cuisine served in stylishly sleek surroundings. A hit with the critics and punters alike, Hakkasan won its first Michelin star within a year of its launch, which it still maintains today. Executive Head Chef, Tong Chee Hwee has led the Hakkasan kitchen since its inception, and his dedication to Chinese cuisine was acknowledged in 2005, when the Tio Pepe ITV Restaurant Awards declared him ‘London Chef of the Year.’
The Hakkasan group is now a global phenomenon with restaurants and lounges globally, from Mumbai, to Shanghai, Dubai, Miami, Beverley Hills, and even a nightclub in Las Vegas. Leading Hakkasan’s global culinary expansion is International Executive Chef, Ho Chee Boon, a Michelin-starred chef with over 24 years experience. His traditional techniques use fresh local ingredients to ensure his contemporary dishes retain the essence of conventional Cantonese cuisine.
2010 saw the launch of Hakkasan Mayfair, the location that achieved its Michelin star in 2012 among various other accolades. Hakkasan is clearly an amazing financial success, but in reality, does it live up to the hype?
Be warned. Diners are greeted by bouncers on the door and ladies with clipboards – if your name is not down, you’re not coming in. The staff are steely – I’d imagine that they have to be with the hordes that come through the doors each night – but efficient. The extensive cocktail list offers an abundance of exotic flavours to choose from. Perfectly sweet and sour, my lychee martini (Belvedere vodka, lychee juice, lime and orange cream citrate) disappeared in a flash. His Saketini of Hendrick’s gin, Belvedere vodka, Akashi-tai sake, cucumber and lime was equally well received.
The menu is lengthy with amazingly named dishes to choose from including the chef’s ‘Supreme Special Dishes’ of ‘Monk Jumps Over the Wall’ (double-boiled soup with abalone, fish maw dried scallop, sea cucumber and dried shiitake) for £80.00 or Peking duck with Hakkasan special reserve ‘Qiandao’ caviar (whole duck, with 16 pancakes and 30g Hakkasan special reserve ‘Qiandao’ caviar second course with a choice of XO sauce, black bean sauce or ginger and spring onion) for £215. Our more modest options of a dim sum platter and salt and pepper squid were good – the dim sum were delicate and delicious and the salt and pepper squid delightfully tangy.
For our main course, we went with the waitress’s firm recommendations: roasted silver cod with Champagne and honey for me, and grilled Wagyu beef with enoki mushroom and garlic soya dipping sauce for him. A chunky piece of fish, the cod was served with a lotus crisp and fell to pieces in the most delectable way. Complete nectar. A rare treat, the Wagyu pieces appeared under a crispy rice noodle nest and melted on the tongue. Both dishes were exceptional; their flavours lingered, their delicious aftertaste reminding us to revisit Hakkasan Mayfair just for one more bite. My pudding choice was heavy: a chocolate sphere, served with a chocolate sauce laced with popping candy that bounced off the tongue and crackled in the ear. But my husband declared his ginger chocolate ganache ‘perfection.’
With great people-watching, Hakkasan is a place to see and be seen. But a word of warning: go with someone you know well, as the food is so good, you’re going to want to share and taste from each other’s plates.