The first thing I would say about Hakkasan is that i've walked past the road its on hundreds of times and until it was pointed out to me I had no idea that one of London's best known restaurants was located here.
Its often in the London press as one of the places to be seen and was voted 36th in the top 100 restaurants in the world to dine in, it is part of Alan Yau's burgeoning empire of high class Asian restaurants in London and is the place to come for a bit of glamour in the City.
When you enter the restaurant it looks amazing, like an old style joint from the 1930's, the place is full of stylish people and you really should dress up to feel a part of it all, you can book a table through their website although its one of those places where they are more likely to tell you when you can eat, thankfully a friend booked our visit and managed to get a table at a decent time.
Although it looks glamorous for me it lacked the substance of a really good restaurant as it looks better than it is. Once seated I found it strange how close together the tables were, I understand they want as many covers as possible but the closest seat to me made me feel a tad uncomfortable.
The service is good and staff do their best but they seemed to have too much to do and were constantly rushing, which meant they had no time to build a rapport or show any empathy to our table and made us feel like part of a conveyor belt.
The food itself is very good, I had a delicious pork belly and some lovely oriental greens, another of our table had a nice looking selection of Dim Sum (I hate Dim Sum so can't tell you more than they said they were stunning) and another of our table had an amazing duck dish, we had cocktails to begin which were well made and very strong and a bottle of wine from a decent selection with our dinner.
Whilst the food was good I felt it was overpriced and have had much better at many Chinese restaurants in London and my local area, the food is presented very well, but it wasn't filling and wasn't everything i'd hoped it would be, the menu was also a little more limited than I would have liked. I think in future if I want a good but limited oriental menu I will go to Yau's Cha Cha Moon off Carnaby Street which has much more of a street food feel to it and is much cheaper.
Overall i'd say this place is amazing to look at and the food is good, it just lacks that something to make me want to come back, its like talking to a beautiful person at a party and realising they look great but have no substance and, you then want to get back to somewhere you feel more comfortable and have a laugh with people whose company you enjoy, thats how I felt about this restaurant i'd prefer to go somewhere with a bit more atmosphere and a bit less of the beautiful people staring at each to see who's there and what they're doing, rather than having fun.
Dinner for 4 came to £240 with wine and cocktails and unfortunately for me, i'd rather spend that on a weekend in Paris or something in the future so probably won't return.
When I think back to our visit, the place was great looking but a bit soulless.
When we first moved to London, we visited Hakkasan at least once a month. My husband had received his first BA from UCL and had lived on Tottenham Court Road, and Hakkasan had been a favourite of his for nice meals. The venison puff pastries were a big pull for him even then.
Upon my first visit, I was enchanted by how hidden away it was, the dark descent to the dining room, the incense in the hallways, and the nearly too-cool-for-school decor and atmosphere. The dark wood carved room separators gave the whole restaurant an aura of mystique. These aesthetic aspects were great enough for me to disregard the fact that the bathroom smelled like sewage. But the food was delicious, and though it was more expensive than other dim sum meals I'd had in London, I justified it to myself with the knowledge that the ingredients were all very high quality.
However, after a while, we became disenchanted with Hakkasan for a number of reasons. Firstly, we found Chinatown - specifically, the restaurant Plum Valley. Arguably the most up-scale option on Gerrard Street, Plum Valley offers Hakkasan-quality ingredients and food at a fraction of the price. Secondly, we grew tired of waiters hanging around our table near the close of our meal, anxious to turn our tables over. When the late 'London Paper' began their campaign against Hakkasan and its unsociable table turning policy, I was aware of the problem, but genuinely didn't realise we had any alternative. Knowing that other Londoners were taking a stand against its policy, we decided that we too would be happier going somewhere else that didn't make a point to guilt us into leaving the premises as soon as possible.
Whilst their venison puff pastry is still a fond memory of ours, we haven't been back to Hakkasan in a while, due to the above reasons. Until I hear otherwise, I think we'll make the trek just a little further west to Soho for our dim sum.
OH well, where shall i start. Called up American Express (Amex Platinum card privilages) as they say they could guarantee a place for a table of 4 in Hakkasan if I book before 10.00 am that day. Amex got back to me saying that it is fully booked and most probably won't be able to get a seat because it's a saturday evening booking. oh alright...i say..let's try another restaurant then, perhaps gordan ramsey at claridges...wait a minute, they said they will put me on their 'waiting list' and will offer us a table if there's any cancellation. 10 mins later, they called me back saying that the only seats available is from 6.30pm to 8.30pm. OK...i'll go for it anyway. (we'll talk more about it later) Got there at 6.40pm. We all sat down and order cocktails each and some glasses of wine. (we looked into the wine menu and to our horror, the wines there are priced like there's no tomorrow...the cheapest one was i think 150quid and averages to about 250quid per bottle). I tried the so-called famous 'The Hakka' cocktail which is a mixture of passionfruit and a couple of other liquers. It tasted good like the last time i had it. No complaints here. We ordered sparkling mineral water and it came in a cylinder clear bottle which is a really cool way of serving...thumbs up here. Looked into the menu, there were a number of unique choices to choose from. ok...sounds interesting..for our starters, we had a platter of dimsum, deep fried squid with pepper n salt, braised ribs with honey and oats and lastly, deepfried softshell crabs. Verdict : The squid was ordinary....i've had better ones in other restaurants charging much less, the crabs were average as well....the ribs was pretty interesting as i haven't had this combination before and was pretty impressed with it although it was rather on the sweet side (less honey next time please), and lastly, the worst of the lot, DIM SUM platter. They cost
3 times or more the price of dim sum outside but yet they taste the same. All they did is add a few red chinese dates, put some chinese caviar on top of it and charge such high price for it. NO WAY...what a RIP off The staffs service is TOTALLY NOT WHAT I EXPECTED. The manager was chasing a waiter (i think his name is Gordon) around the restaurant. Running around the tables playing hide and seek? i was disgusted by the behaviour of such childishness not to mention unprofessional. They were making heads turn all over the place! The food came. Slowly one by one...well, in a typical chinese restaurant, i would expect the main course to come all at a go so that we could enjoy and pick the food and eat with our rice. This isn't clearly what i expect from what i heard of this restaurant of such calibre. The dishes - Venison in some sort of special sauce....DOH! it's just satay sauce with chopped up red & green pepper with onions. nothing great here. - The Pi Pa duck that we had was below average standards. It wasn't crispy and the meat has a powdery texture to it. To add insult to injury, the duck still has a couple of feathers sticking out from the SKIN!!!! - Vegetable - we had stir fried 'tau mew' which is a kind of chinese vegetable. It was cooked a bit too much and lost it's crunchyness and was WAY TOO SALTY. thumbs DOWN! - The Hakka Stew - this is so called their speciality....to me, it tasted nothing spectacular as well. I could get this dish in a chinatown restaurant for much less with better taste. - Deep fried fish with ginger n spring onions (can't really remember what else they put in there but all i remember is that it was TOO SWEET) - The rest of the dishes were mediocre Not to mention, the portion is exceedingly SMALL! As mentioned in the first paragraph,
they put us on a table at 6.30 - 8.30. I checked the clock at 8.00 and the tables beside us and behind us was STILL EMPTY! IT CLEARLY SHOWS THAT THEY WANT TO CREATE THE SO CALLED EXCLUSIVENESS of their restaurant in order to attract customers. Pretty sad and lowly tecnique. I am very picky about the quality of food as well as the staff service. In a traditional chinese restaurant, the staff taking the food out from the kitchen, aren't suppose to lay the food on the table for the customer. A waiter will stand next to the table and carefully lay it for us. This was ok for the first two dishes we ordered. But as the Pi Pa duck came, the staff just shoved it over my shoulder without even saying the word EXCUSE ME!!! how rude is that!! i've got a lot more to say about this place but i think i should stop now. Thank you and i won't be seeing near that restaurant in the near future.
Hakkasan is located in that ignoble No Man's Land - somewhere west of Tottenham Court Road but not quite in trendy Charlotte Street, behind the Sainsbury's and Virgin Megastore. There is no other way to describe it - not quite Soho, not quite Bloomsbury. Poor hapless diners wander around in their finery, through a back alley, peer round the corner hopefully and espy the smartly uniformed doorman at the end. They teeter forward on the uneven cobblestones and to their relief find he guards the green Chinese slated cave that leads to their grail - Hakkasan. After a later than announced opening date, and several thwarted attempts to visit them, I was thinking this place better be good - and believe me, it is. This is the latest venture by Alan Yau of Wagamama and Busaba Eatthai fame. The food is Chinese with a bit of a modern twist although the name is a strange hybrid of a Chinese dialect and Japanese. The decor is pure theatre. It is very dark and atmospheric, flowers float in candlelit bowls as you enter and are greeted by the Hussein Chalayan clad greeter people. All the staff are very beautiful and you feel like you need to pull up a little taller and wish you hadn't worn trainers. I haven't been turned away yet though, although the restaurant is very busy these days. Reservations are definitely recommended. The dining area is cocooned in the centre of the restaurant, separated from the long bar and a more casual drinking lounge. Everything is dark wood carved panels, Chinese slate, pale blue leather and cool lighting. All faintly Oriental and faintly decadent seventies club life. The first thing that will hit you when you look at the menu (sadly) is the prices - they are definitely a bit 'ch-ching' in the words of Phoebe of Friends fame. Having got over that, you look at the food. And, my friends, this is GOOOOOD food. I love food and especially this food. This is what calls to me in th
e middle of the night and compels me to pick up the phone to make that reservation. There is nowhere in London, as far as I know, that combines foods from so many regions of China in one menu. The ingredients they use are not commonly found in other Chinese restaurants in London and the cooking methods recall days when they used to spend hours smoking, steaming, braising and boiling to provide food that is flavoursome, tender and generally salubrious in everyway. The best part is that you don't have to feel intimidated by Chinese waiters who look at you like you're stupid if you try and ask for something a bit out of the ordinary. There are so many dishes that I love in Hakkasan that I find it hard to recommend any one. Everything is just cooked really well. I tend to avoid things that contain mayonnaise or other egg based dressings as this is extremely non-Chinese and to my tastebuds, jar against the other Oriental flavours. The vegetables are ALL good - unusual vegetables that make me thrill and think of home (I'm Malaysian born). The Red Rice Pork just falls apart in your mouth and comes with beautiful hand made deep fried buns to mop up the sauce. I haven't picked up the courage to pay for the dishes like abalone as I fear my bank manager will have a seizure, shark's fins I avoid for ethical reasons (my boyfriend would have my guts for garters if I partook). Actually, the main courses are pretty reasonable in the price department, when you consider the skill, care and attention that is paid to them. It is really the starters and desserts that make you picture moths flying out of your wallet, having devoured your cash. The starters can be pretty good, but at the price, definitely go for a main in preference. The desserts are beautiful, unusual, sizeable but again pricey. The cocktails are enough to make you fall down in amazement for several reasons - price (oh, my god), variety (the cocktail list is practically lon
ger than the menu) and invention. They have acquired one of the UK's top cocktail bartenders to create custom cocktails for the restaurant. These include very exotic ingredients such as lychee juice, calpico (Japanese yoghurt drink) and various of the like. There is one named after the sword in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as this is one of the proprietor's favourite films. Our waiter was in the process of working his way through the cocktail list when we asked for recommendations but hadn't quite made it to the more exotic ones - by now, I'm sure he has. Finally, on the food and beverage front, they also serve dim sum at lunchtime which is hand made and FANTASTIC. Only a little pricier than Chinatown and really takes my breath away. The 'little bites' are so delicate and finely made it nearly make me cry. They also have several Chinese teas to quench your thirst as you partake. What else can I say about Hakkasan? The loos are worth a mention - so dark that you can't see any blemishes or how fat you've become since you came in, or through the big gaps in the doors in the Ladies (very strange). Very stylish. This is the kind of place I want to frequent all the time. I am not the kind of person who wants to become a member of some exclusive club but this is one place I would want to be a favoured client of. I fear it is getting very busy and on my last visit, the noise from the bar pervaded uncomfortably into the eating area. The lighting is beautiful but doesn't quite light your food but I do still love it, the whole feel and most importantly, the food. I love Hakkasan and am not too proud to say it. If you need somewhere to go for that special night out, this is definitely the place to go. By the way, if they tell you you can only have your table till a certain time, ignore it - we did and stayed as long as we wanted.