There’s a sense of sealing my own doom as I descend into darkness, down an ominous staircase. An eeriness is about, as though someone pressed a low note on a Korg synthesiser. I half expect to be delegated a master or a gimp. When I get past the automaton receptionists, the multi-million pound wall-to-wall splendour of Hakkasan is unveiled, in all its sexiness, courtesy of French designer Christian Liaigre: Dim lights accentuate the Chinese motifs and black wooden tables, separated by elaborately crafted screens. A gentle soundtrack straddles the commotive diners. It’s like stumbling upon a trendy bar – but is the food in the same league as this eminent style? You’d think it wasn’t in the same solar-system by what some people say.
Fried golden savoury lobster roll £8.80
My first bite of a lobster roll is usually accompanied by a momentary pause, whilst my tastebuds and brain are stuck in a feedback loop of savoury, cheesy joy.
Prawn and gai lan cheung fun £4.90
The chefs set a benchmark in how to prepare cheung fun. Delicious, fresh prawns pair well with the gai lan (Chinese broccoli), resulting in a supremely well balanced flavour. It’s refreshing to see cheung fun that maintains its composure under the siege of chopsticks.
Beef flank cheung fun £4.80
If the prawn cheung fun is a masterclass in how it should be done, then the beef flank variant is a demonstration in how to think laterally. The elements are deconstructed into something more resembling a casserole. The fatty beef chunks have been slow cooked to a degree that they more or less dissolve in your mouth.
Steamed king crab noodle wrap £9.80
The standard is upheld with the next basket of treats. Lumps of fresh crab paired with a slice of mushroom for rigidity, mummified in soft noodles resting on an amber seafood sauce.
Braised hand pulled noodle with blue swimmer crab and crab roe £13
The same viscous sauce is used as a bed for this heart-warming noodle dish. The texture that the swimmer crab and roe contribute, bring it to life.
Fresh water prawn Ying Yang rice snap broth £16.80
Better yet, is essentially a prawn fried rice floating in a soup. Only available on the weekend specials, this unusual – to me – recipe is Malaysian in origin as is Head Chef, Tong Chee Hwee who includes it on the menu. It takes a trio of waiting staff – this is how they roll – to serve it.
Jivara hazelnut bomb £8.50
My distended gut is crying “stop!”, but it takes more than that to stand between me and the promise of a good dessert. Bring on the Jivara hazelnut bomb. A layer of ‘rice-crispies’ coats an orb of milk-chocolate and hazelnut ice cream, doused in a luscious hot chocolate sauce. A hypnotic swirl of popping candy, crushed nuts and dried raspberries adds electricity to an already impressive pudding.
For what I want to experience from my food, these dishes are equal and equivalent glimpses of the near perfect. Strong flavours, different flavours, different textures, comfort. It’s all there, and it’s the same whenever I stop-by.
The service gets a bad rap. They’re actually quite nice but don’t do themselves any favours when they enact the patented Hakkasan sleight-of-hand, that sees dishes removed from your table the instant they empty, making you feel rushed. At points, I look up and wonder where my plate went. Then there’s the two hour turn-around which makes you want to flip-over your table before you exit the building.
Somewhere along the line, this restaurant’s reputation got tarnished. Maybe it was a simple case of a few outspoken diners refusing to accept it was the same after their hero, Alan Yau sold his interest, making hating Hakkasan fashionable. For the dyed-in-the-wool ‘Yau-ists’ among you, there may be no talking to you. For those less so inclined, I recommend poking your head in one lunchtime. You’ll be happy you did.
food : 8.5/10
service : 8/10
ambience : 9/10
value : 7/10
Hakkasan Hanway Place
8 Hanway Place, London, W1T 1HD
0207 927 7000