Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Hakkasan, Fitzrovia

Buttermilk bavarois

For his birthday this year, The Peanut Gallery chose to be taken to Hakkasan. I can only guess it is no coincidence that the papers announced the next day that it is the most expensive restaurant, per minute of dining, in London. Uncanny.

Hakkasan seems to be one of those places - you'll either love it or you'll hate it. I'm firmly in the love camp.

Soaring ceIlings, dim lighting and dramatic, dark wooden decor reminded me of Buddakan in New York. Unlike in New York, where great grub and a spectacular setting often go hand in hand, it's so rare in London for such a fabulous fit out not to mean the food is complete rubbish.

I have heard rumours of too cool for school service and door bouncers - there's NOTHING I hate more. Although they're glamorous with some gorgeous kit for uniforms (I'd wear those blue dresses on a night out) we found service at all times to be efficient, but quite friendly and helpful. I suppose the area when you first walk and face the line up in could be a tad intimidating. It feels like entering a night club and you have your name ticked off a list before you even step inside.

But we quickly warmed up to it with a few martinis at the bar (lychee for me, classic for the birthday boy). It's fun place for some great cocktails, even if you don't stop for dinner.

Sesame prawn toasts

Crispy duck salad
 Once seated (for our strictly 2 hour time slot of feeding - we arrived early to linger at the bar for a while first), we started with prawn toast and a duck salad.

The large, bulbous sesame prawn toasts are in a different league to anything I've had in a long while. They're fleshy and sweet, topped with sesame and served with a side of fried seaweed and enoki mushrooms. (£13.50)

The crispy duck salad mixes moist strips of duck with crispy fresh greens, pomelo, pine nut and shallots. Very nice, if a tad forgettable. (£19.50)

Stir fry pepper beef
Roast duck with Chinese herbs

Our main serving of roast duck with Chinese herbs is soon pronounced by TPG, serious duck addict, to be the best he's ever eaten. It's full juicy, fatty flavour is spiced up by some generous seasoning, and the texture of crispy skin against moist juicy meat is spot on. (£21.00)

Moist chunks of peppery, stir fried, rib-eye beef with merlot come spilling from a delicate, spindly nest. Again, big flavours and execution is just right. (£18.80)

Warm coconut rice pudding

Desserts are artistic creations. Naturally, TPG has the warm coconut rice pudding with mango caviar and black sesame crunch. I have the gorgeous buttermilk bavarois with blood orange jelly and fresh blood orange. (£8.00 each). Both are stunning, with interesting, indulgent flavours - a party in your mouth.

Hakkasan, under chef Tong Chee Hwee, has held a Michelin star since 2003. The food is excellent and the atmosphere is buzzing. Yes, Hakkasan is expensive - expect to upwards of £50 per head for food, and prices can of course soar if you get stuck into the cocktails or the wagyu (there's pair of £58 wagyu dishes). However, you can experience the glamour and some great Chinese food for a fraction of the price if you go for dim sum. It's fresh, interesting and the flavours pack some serious punch.  I'll be back.

Hakkasan, 8 Hanway Place, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 1HD (Tel: 020 7927 7000)

Hakkasan on Urbanspoon

If you're interested in dim sum, you can see my review of the dim sum at Hakkasan's sister restaurant, Yauatcha, here.


  1. Ha, I'm in the other camp. Whilst I don't feel quite strongly enough to describe it as hate, I didn't like it at all. Service was very very hit and miss varying from friendly and warm to downright rude and deliberately ignoring us. And in terms of efficiency, it was just so so, with lack of training to the level I'd expect at restaurant of this calibre.
    I didn't warm to the dark interior either, definitely too cool for school, let's hide the celebrities in amongst the "people" vibe. I hate not being able to see my companion across the table!
    The food was also only so so with a couple of good dishes and a number of OK ones and some disappointing ones.

  2. I found the main dishes to be very forgettable for their price tags - dim sum was good though. I took major umbrage with them telling me when my tea was brewed enough though, and they don't let you steep the leaves for longer by simply not giving you the option. Hmpff.

  3. I'll put up with indifferent service (though I thought we were served quite well) any day of the week for that duck. Goodman steak aside, probably my favourite dish this year. TPG

  4. Kavey - Well, good to get both perspectives on here! I had heard whispers of this before, but not a trace on our visit. How long since you have been (I wonder if they have responded to early service issues more recently)?

    Lizzie - I loved the dim sum at Yauatcha too so definitely plan to go back fro it at Hakkasan.

    TPG - Umm, I assume you're excluding my excellent home cooked meals.


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