Ten years after the first restaurant opened, Hakkasan has launched its second London outlet – and fans of the original will not be disappointed with the Mayfair branch. James Stagg went to visit
Hidden behind music stores and electronics shops on Tottenham Court Road, Hakkasan’s first London site always felt a little out of place. Opened by Alan Yau a decade ago, it gained enough of a reputation for unrivalled Chinese cooking to overcome any location problems.
Now run by Abu Dhabi investors with a mission statement to roll out the brand across “global hubs”, a second site in the heart of Mayfair means it has the upmarket location to accompany the lavish cooking.
Once inside there’s no mistaking this is a Hakkasan. Bouncers direct diners along a dark corridor that leads past a cocktail bar and lounge, down a set of stairs walled in blue glass into a vibrant, dimly lit 145-cover restaurant that’s heady with aromatic smells.
It’s a formula transplanted straight from the sister site, with a cage of dark wood surrounding diners that are illuminated by low- hanging lamps over each table. The long bar is also present, offering a range of Cantonese-inspired cocktails including the Walking Buddha, a combination of tamarillo fruit, rum, dried plum, dates, plum sake, peach liqueur and apricot juice.
Head chef Tong Chee Hwee has kept the menu familiar, too, though here he has built on his signature repertoire with new dishes that lend more of a fusion flavour to the offer. There is real variety on the long menu, which ranges from “supreme special dishes” – which include Monk Jumps over a Wall, a double-boiled soup with abalone, fish maw, dried scallop, sea cucumber and shiitake mushroom (£80) – to meat dishes such as sweet and sour Duke of Berkshire pork (£13.50) and the restaurant’s signature roasted silver cod with Champagne and Chinese honey (£35).
With a kitchen full of Chinese chefs trained in the finest wok work and dim sum, it’s unsurprising that one of Hakkasan Mayfair’s most popular dishes is the dim sum platter (£13.50). These intricate and delicate creations include: scallop shumai, a blend of scallop, prawn and tobiko caviar; har gau (shrimp); Chinese chive, which contains prawn, crab and mushroom; and shimeji, a vegetarian combination of chives, yam, shimeji mushroom and wolfberry.
Another “small eat” that is fast becoming one of the site’s signature dishes is the crispy duck salad (£19.50), a refreshing and spikily fresh blend of duck, pomelo (an Asian citrus fruit), pine nut and shallot.
“The duck is poached in Chinese spice stock for 40 minutes,” explains chef Tong. “We then infuse it inside the pot for a further 60 minutes, before being cooled.”
Strips of duck are then fried in clean oil with a light coating of rice flour batter before being tumbled with plum dressing and mixed salad. “It is garnished with pomelo bits (flesh of the fruit with rind and piths removed) and pink grapefruit pieces and finished with pine nuts and chopped shallots,” Tong adds.
Among the main courses Mongolian-style lamb chop (£26) is delicately spiced, cooked with some technical skills, before being inventively served in an edible bird’s nest.
Meanwhile, the fusion theme recurs in a black truffle roast duck with tea plant mushroom (£28.80). “Half a duck is stuffed with slices of truffle and roasted, so the lovely aromas of truffle fill the duck,” Tong says. “The sauce underneath is made from juices from the roasted duck and also flavoured with truffle. The result is a juicy, tender duck full of flavour and the delicate aroma of French black truffle.”
Desserts also lean heavily on Western influences, with chestnut and blackcurrant tart and caramelised white chocolate parfait among the options. But while they are interesting in their own right, it’s the varied and technically brilliant Cantonese cuisine which makes Hakkasan such a destination restaurant, wherever in London it may be.
Sample dishes from the menu
Jasmine tea-smoked organic pork ribs £12
Grilled Shanghai dumpling £7.50
Golden fried soft shellcrab £12.50
Grilled Chilean sea bass in Chinese honey £38.50
Pan-fried Atlantic scallop with hakka sauce £21.80
Stir-fry Welsh black beef £33
Sanpei corn-fed chicken claypot £16.50
17 Bruton Street, London W1J 6QB
Tel: 020 7907 1888