With two restaurants in London, four in the US, and seven others spread across Asia and the Middle East, Hakkasan has become a household name for foodies. Of these thirteen restaurants, Hakkasan, Hanway Place, which opened in 2001, is the original. Tucked away in little hiding place down a side-street off Tottenham Court Road, making your way to michelin-starred Hakkasan feels like stumbling across a secret dining spot.
The welcome to Hakkasan is as lavish as you’d expect from such a highly regarded, world-wide restaurant chain – red ropes, a list at the door and beautiful people behind the front desk ready to take your coat. The restaurant itself is underground, situated in a basement. The small bar borders one wall of the restaurant, cordoned off by more red rope, there’s only room enough for a small number of people to stand, this is not a restaurant to simply visit for a drink. The seated area is dark, and the use of wooden screens and low-hanging, spotlight lamps to create the illusion space is somewhat impressive, with each table feeling remarkably secluded and private, despite being less than a couple of feet from neighbouring tables.
It is unsurprising that Hakkasan has managed to retain its Michelin star for fourteen years, the menu is well-considered and expertly executed, and truly is Cantonese cuisine at its finest. The cocktail menu is equally magnificent, drawing on traditional Asian flavours and spirits to create a range of drinks that perfectly complement the food. The menu is divided into five sections: Character – Hakkasan signatures, Only at Hanway Place, Strength and Grace – classics twisted, Bellinis, (priced from £13.50) and Fruit Blends – soft cocktails (priced from £8). During our two hours at Hakkasan we tried three different cocktails, from Strength and Grace the the Smoky Negroni (Suntory Hakushu Distiller’s Reserve whisky, Japanese plum sake, Campari, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino and Ardbeg 10 yrs mist), and from the Character menu, both the Hakkatini (Grey Goose L’Orange vodka, Campari, Grand Marnier, apple and orange cream citrate bitters), and the Hakka (Belvedere vodka, Akashi-tai sake, lychee, lime, coconut and passion fruit) (the latter of which, I loved so much I had two!).
On this visit to Hakkasan, we opted for the set menu, which included three courses and a single cocktail from a limited menu (£38 per person). I was extremely pleased to see an entirely separate vegetarian menu with four different vegetarian mains to the ‘normal’ menu, along with three different gelatine-free desserts, which is something that is often overlooked by many restaurants. We started with an assortment of dim sum, presented in miniature bamboo steamers, served with spring rolls, a teapot of soy sauce and a selection of chilli sauces. The vegetarian dim sum were divine, perfectly light, and filled with a delicious assortment of vegetables and mushrooms. For main I opted for the four style vegetable stir fry in Szechuan sauce, with crispy fried tofu – a dish to convert even the most tofu-sceptic person. Each main was served with fresh greens and unlimited steamed rice to be shared between the table, although whilst the option of more rice was there, the amount we were served was more than enough. For dessert I ordered the assortment of french macarons. Which I was hesitant to do, aware I should probably have ordered something more in-keeping with the cantons cuisine, however, I was not disappointed. The three fairly large macarons (larger than expected) arrived in bamboo steamer, decorated with pink hibiscus flowers, and were beautifully gooey and slightly crunchy – the way they should be, and the less traditional flavours or rose, coconut and salted caramel (the salted caramel was my favourite) were perfectly selected to go with the meal. My partner opted for a chestnut mousse roulade, which equally beautifully presented.
My experience at Hakkasan, Hanway Place was a very, very enjoyable one. The staff are friendly, and extremely attentive, there wasn’t a moment where my water glass was empty. The food is fantastic and the restaurant is just a lovely, chic place to spend an evening. I can’t wait to return, and am very keen to experience the other Hakkasan’s of the world.