Hakkasan Hanway Place, 8 Hanway Place, W1T 1HD
http://hakkasan.com/locations/hakkasan-hanway-place/+44 (0)20 7927 7000
I hadn’t been to the original Hakkasan in Hanway Place for many years so it was a pleasure to reenter its Christian Liaigre designed dark sexy interior. Who would have guessed in 2001 that this hot new basement Chinese restaurant with its decadent style would develop into a global group. With a Eurodisco soundtrack playing discreetly in the background Fiona and I had come to review their Chinese New Year signature menu (£88 or £108 per person for parties of two or more) which runs until February 11th. It’s difficult for restaurants to maintain their level of quality especially when the ‘concept’ has been spun off internationally so I was fascinated to see if Hakkasan retained its old magic.
We started with a couple of cocktails inspired by the Year of the Rooster. A Waltzing Collins was a blend of that favourite Chinese spirit Baiju, blended with sake, mandarin, lemon, grenadine, cucumber and sparkling wine (£13.50). If you’re a Baiju fan you will love it-if you’ve never had it you should try it.
The Waltzing Temple (£8) was a non-alcoholic take on the same dance with a blend of mandarin, lemon, grenadine, cucumber and lemonade. It was a bit too sweet for me.
Then the serious business began. Braised Chilean abalone with wind dried oyster and gold leaf was a fantastic plate of food with rich umami flavours bursting through the unctuous abalone. Delicately flavoured golden fried soft-shell crab sat on an amazing looking nest of shredded egg floss. Post-cocktails we were drinking a lovely German Pinot Noir Jülg 2014 Spätburgunder-light and crisp with cherry notes. I’m starting to drink Pinots quite regularly with the more robust fish and seafood dishes.
Stir-fry lobster came in a white pepper sauce, flavoured with hot fragrant Szechuan peppercorns. I’ve had more hardcore versions of this dish before that were simply too hot for me but this was beautifully balanced between the delicacy of the crustacean and the heat.
Steamed turbot was served in supreme stock with cloud’s ear and saffron. There was a wonderful counterpoint of flavours in this dish played out between the saffron, fish and garlic.
Sautéed duck breast in spicy bean sauce with pickled lotus root was really tender with a spicy kick. Egg fried rice with spring onion was very moreish and a great base for the protein.
Our stir-fried selection of mushroom in abalone sauce was a mycologist’s wet dream. Rich and savoury I am now a huge fan of abalone sauce.
I’m not often excited by desserts in a Chinese restaurant but these were something else. Golden feather ginger pannacotta, mandarin and caramelised white chocolate shell was extraordinary. Cracking through the shell the quivering pannacotta ‘white’ tumbled out followed by the mandarin sauce ‘yolk’. It was a delicious blend of citrus sweetness with the oriental ginger twist.
Steamed custard and red bean rice cake came sexily shaped as a fish. I love steamed red bean buns and this was by far the prettiest take on the classic dish that I have ever had.
I was half expecting standards to have slipped at Hakkasan-it’s been around a long time and with the expansion it’s almost counter-intuitive that the food seems better to me than when it opened. But they are obviously trying hard to hang onto to their deserved Michelin star and with the Chinese New Year menu have created a generous offer that is excellent value for the price point given the quality.
The interior still looks good and despite fierce competition in the pan-Asian market from newcomers such as the ultra-bling Sexy Fish, Hakkasan is still a real contender.