A meal at Hakkasan, London
A night out
A couple of friends who had spent a few days at our place invited us out to say thank you for our hospitality. Even before arriving in London, they had asked me to make a reservation at famous Michelin starred pan Asian eaterie Hakkasan. I do not mind Chinese cuisine although it is not one of my favourite, however Robster could do without it, partly due to allergies and partly due to the fact that my husband is a fussy eater.
After our failed attempts at suggesting a different venue, we accepted our destiny and booked our 8pm table at Hakkasan. Before confirming however, I ensured that they had sent me their menu via email. They website is in fact being revamped…not ideal to capture customers!
Hakkasan was in the press a couple of years ago because they famously removed their shark fins’ dishes from their menu. For conservationist groups and people like myself, this is top marks, as I would not even consider eating in a restaurant that serves shark fin, no matter how good or no matter how much people want to take us there.
Still, after reading plenty of negative reviews on prominent review sites, I was even less keen on trying Hakkasan out. At least we were not paying for it, right?
We arrived walking through a very smelly side street off busy Tottenham Court Road. Bouncers outside, posh cars waiting for clients, it all felt a bit ‘Hollywood movie’… we walked down a steep stair case (try that in heels!) and entered the reception. Loud funky cool music came through from the restaurant area, enormous orchids, tea lights and incense created an exotic atmosphere… As we were slightly early, we made our way to the bar, which is beautiful but has very narrow space so it is quite uncomfortable to stand and as it was packed, we even gave up on trying to order drinks.
|Odd looking plate|
Back to reception area, we waited a few minutes during which I managed to step on a old chewing gum stuck to the floor and enjoyed some sticky walking for the rest of the evening (don’t they clean the floor?).
Finally our table was ready – the dining area is massive, but each section is ‘enclosed’ in dark wooden screens, carved up in Asian style, which does make the place attractive but as it is absolutely packed, the ambient decor is somehow lost in what feels like a posh version of Busaba. Some crockery was also not very appealing.
|Soft Shell Chili Crab|
The menu is extensive and thankfully it only features ‘vegetarian shark fin’. There are other over-fished species on the list such as cod, which I refrained from ordering. Starters are priced around 10-12£ each, mains anything from 16£ and upwards. The range is wide – from dim sum to Wagyu beef, from abalone to duck. I ordered Chili Spiced Soft Shell Crab. After a couple of initial enthusiastic mouth fulls, I actually felt it was too greasy and the crab meat too mushy to really be a complete enjoyment. Robster’s Crispy Duck Salad was excellent however: it arrived as a tower of ingredients and was then mixed up table side. It was a large portion and the salad and fresh spring onions beautifully complemented the slightly fatty meat. Our hosts ordered Dim Sum mix and Spring Rolls and I cannot comment on the taste. Visually, they looked like nothing special and less appetising than what I had a couple of weeks ago at a Ping Pong branch.
|Black Pepper Beef Stir Fry|
|Welsh Black Beef|
Our mains swiftly arrived, I imagine as each table has a turnaround time of two hours (however we never felt rushed during our dinner). Robster had Black Pepper stir fry beef, which was similar to the typical Singapore dish of Black Pepper sauce which I simply adore. Hakkasan version was good, the beef well cooked and tender but nowhere near as full of flavour as Singapore’s street markets’ offering. My Welsh Black Beef with blue mushrooms was a slightly more sweet version, with fresh spring onions, peppers and onions. I thoroughly enjoyed my dish, but I would have like to have either a knife, or smaller size pieces of beef as it is quite tricky to bite a 10cm long beef strip while holding it with chop sticks. And at £32 it was way too expensive for what it was.
I also tried our host’s cod, Hakkasan signature dish. Roasted with champagne and honey, it came in a large portion and looked fairly bland. The taste was also, in my opinion, as bland as its look, however our friend really loved it. A side of noodles was totally disappointing and not even worth eating, while the steamed rice portions were the tiniest I have ever seen, only a couple of spoons in each bowl.
We even decided to share some desserts and we all choose the same one – Rhubarb and Vanilla Crumble. A different take on a crumble, it was poached Rhubarb, jelly, vanilla ice cream on crumbs. Nice, but pretty forgettable.
The bill came to around 67£ per person, including drinks (4 beers, one bottle of wine, 1 cocktails and 3 waters). It is not that expensive for a Michelin starred restaurant nor for a Central London celebrity type eaterie. However I am not sure it is really worth this amount of money, nor frankly, the Michelin star it holds. The food was nothing out of the ordinary and I have had better options elsewhere (in London and in Asia).