The original Hakkasan restaurant in Hanway Place just off Tottenham Court Road is a well-regarded old favourite on the high-end London foodie block.
Opened over a decade ago, the Hakkasan brand has grown just a bit since then, with subsequent restaurants all over the capital and indeed the World - there is a newer Hakkasan in Mayfair and glossy sister restaurants in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Mumbai, Shanghai and Dubai to name a few. Add in a couple more glamorous London venues - HKK, Yauatcha and Sake no Hana and the success of the brand is clearly evident (without even a murmur about the fact that Alan Yau the founder also founded Wagamamas). Hakkasan offers Michelin-star modern Chinese cuisine and was the first Chinese restaurant ever to gain the accolade.
Indeed, far detached from the world of Wagamamas, Hakkasan is a sophisticated, seductive, sexy and classy restaurant that offers a true dining experience. This experience, as with Sake no Hana, begins the moment you walk through the fairly non-descript door with the understated (and barely noticeable) red sign. In typical style of an array of top London restaurants, the entrance is thrillingly understated but formal and enticingly leads you into a dark staircase. The stairs, illuminated by recessed square red lights create the feeling that you are entering a night-club and leaving the Midday sun of the City well and truly behind you.
At the bottom of the stairs and through the glazed doors which were politely held open for us as we were greeted by a waitress, was Hakkasan in all its’ glory.
A dark restaurant with a gentle illuminated blue glow, it is divided into three sections by decorative, black, geometric screens, making the large space instantly more intimate. Try and get a seat in the central section - it is the most stunning. Burnt-timber tables glow and the colourful food looks beautiful under the spotlights carefully positioned over each table. The bar glistens with blue and orange lighting. It is special and feels very glamorous. The design is striking and luxurious with a dark and sexy edge.
In a place like this, even at lunch time there is only one thing to do - hit the cocktail menu. I ordered a strawberry mojito which was perfect in taste (quite sweet) and looked so pretty! There were too many cocktails to choose from and some of the sweeter, more dessert cocktails sounded very good.
After perusing the menu we decided on the 'Taste of Hakkasan' - a three course set menu for £35 a head. To start was a dim sum platter - a selection of dumplings. I have to admit based on the starter I was slightly worried that I wouldn't enjoy the food and that it was overrated. The dumplings, whilst well-made and presented were fairly heavy, too wet for my liking and not all that tasty - they needed the sweet chilli sauce that accompanied them. They were full of scallops, crab, prawns and vegetables-promising ingredients but lacking flavour. I sipped my cocktail and felt ashamed of my lack of dumpling appreciation - I know a couple of people who have had them at Hakkasan and loved them, so it may just be me!
When the main arrived, however, I was relieved as it looked delicious. And it was....very. We had an amazing selection of black pepper beef with merlot, which was rich and delicious; a prawn satay dish which was out of this world- I wanted to drink the sauce and the prawns were perfectly plump; duck in a rich hoisin glaze; vegetables and a generous helping of steamed jasmine rice. It was presented beautifully, with lots of colour and tasted just as good as it looked. It was also deceptively but satisfyingly filling and was really enjoyable.
For dessert we had free range of the whole menu which was good for a set menu. I went for the most amazing looking dessert that had caught my eye when being served to the next table......the jivara bomb. An indulgent round milk chocolate shell filled with soft hazelnut praline and rice krispies, with the most incredible warm chocolate pouring sauce and definite traces of popping candy (which is always pleasing). It was utterly delicious and definitely enough to forgive the dumplings.
On the whole the food was really good - the main and dessert I would definitely go back for tomorrow, along with the sultry and classy atmosphere.
If you want tasty Chinese food, not authentic, more for the good old Western palette, in a beautifully designed restaurant that will make you feel glamorous and sophisticated then this is just your place.