Hakkasan takes Cantonese cuisine and gives it a distinctly Mayfair-esque spin.
Let’s make this nice and clear from the start: Hakkasan is not your average Chinese restaurant. In fact, it’s not your average restaurant, full-stop. Dinner at Hakkasan falls squarely into the “special occasion” bracket (unless you’re the lucky sort who does this on the regular), with faultlessly attentive service, cracking cocktails, and refined Cantonese cooking making it very special indeed.
Of course, this all depends on whether you can find Hakkasan, as the stylish black exterior of the Mayfair branch is marked only by a symbol. Part of a luxury chain which boasts restaurants in Shanghai, Las Vegas, Dubai, and New York, Hakkasan also runs a joint in Hanway Place off Tottenham Court Road. Still, for the ultimate veneer of luxury, you can’t beat the Mayfair spot, which boasts sumptuous design from Christian Liaigre and a Michelin star to boot.
Even before you dive into the food, Hakkasan Mayfair is an absolute treat for the senses; dripping with dark wood and the odd gilded fixture, the restaurant looks regal in low lighting. If you plan on taking your time, do park yourself at the bar for a cocktail – we tried the Smoky Negroni, a rich and complex riff on the classic which transforms it into an indulgent masterpiece. Honestly, if you’re a Negroni fan, this has to be one for your bucket list.
When it comes to dinner, you’re spoiled for choice with not one, but five menus to choose from. Four of them are “signature” menus – bamboo, dragon, phoenix, and lotus – but we’ve got our eyes on the a la carte menu, which in honour of London Fashion Week has been taken over by footwear designer Lucy Choi and given a fashion-focused spin. It begins with the Choi Ling, a specially created cocktail which features Tanqueray gin, Sipsmith sloe gin, lemon sherbert, rhubarb, and rose champagne, and leaves a delicate floral taste lingering long after the final sip.
The menu gets off to a stunning start, with crispy duck salad zhushed up to Mayfair standards with juicy bursts of pomelo, and duck that’s by turns crispy and meltingly tender. Impressively, it loses nothing by comparison to arguably Hakkasan’s most notorious dish: a platter of luxurious steamed dim sum. Wild mushroom dumpling, king crab and peppercorn dumpling, swordfish shui mai with water chestnut, and langoustine har gau with Prunier caviar are a stunning quartet, with the fish rich and meaty, and the caviar adding a further touch of luxury.
The food just keeps on coming, with a Merlot and spicy prawn dish being an unexpected highlight. Less surprising was the success of the stir-fry black pepper rib eye beef, served in an ornate golden basket and just dreamy with the side of jasmine rice. In a menu composed seemingly of nothing but standouts, this emerged by a nose as our dish of the night – if you’re planning a visit, it’s a must order.
Dessert is another bespoke concoction with a touch of Lucy Choi flair. Presented in a shoebox, the Lucy Loves… appears at first to be a simple cloud of candyfloss. However, once a teapot of ginger-infused syrup is poured over the top, it reveals a bowl of black tea and yuzu poached pear atop a Dulcey cream. Seriously indulgent, and rather theatrical too, it’s the perfect way to round off a knockout menu.
As I said before, Hakkasan isn’t an everyday option – but for Cantonese cooking with a side of Mayfair extravagance, it’s pretty damn unbeatable.
Featured image: @hakkasanmayfair
Also published on Medium.