Travels with a Gourmet

a food lover's travels, memorable meals, culinary trials and gastronomic experiences

We had nothing booked for Wednesday noon so after spending more than an hour window shopping and buying a few things at Marc by Marc Jacobs, we went back to the hotel to dump our shopping bags and think about where we were going for lunch. Since we hadn’t had Chinese food yet, we decided to have some dim sum at another Alan Yau restaurant – Hakkasan.

Booking a table at Hakkasan is not for the faint-hearted – you have to get through their automatic phone system and more often than not, a table is hard to come by. On that day though we were lucky as it was mid-week in the summer and we didn’t need a table until 1:30 so as soon as we called, we got our confirmation.

I had been to Hakkasan when they first opened in 2001 when the concept high-end Chinese cuisine in very modern interiors, more like a nightclub than a restaurant, was a novelty. Now, modern Asian restaurants are the norm rather than the exception and Hakkasan has proven to be on top of it’s game even after almost a decade while still holding on to it’s one star Michelin status.

The entrance to the restaurant at the end of the alleyway on Hanway Place just off the end of Oxford Street is almost a secret location. Going down the stairs into the dark interiors makes for a very mysterious first impression. The large bunches of orchids are still there and the rich colors of purple, orange and red from the Christian Liaigre designed interiors are still beautiful (n.b. Alan Yau’s other restaurants Yauatcha and Busaba were also designed by Christian Liaigre).

We asked to be seated in a quiet area (was it called the Ling Ling lounge bar) rather than right by the bar where it was packed. There were only a few tables occupied mostly by Chinese having dim sum. We settled into our purple velvet-upholstered banquette and started to look through the leather color-coded menus – orange for dim sum, red for the a la carte selection and purple for the wine list.

I chose one of their teas – a light one called Classical Beauty while T had an exotic cocktail from their very complete list (Martinis, Bellinis, Juices, Champagne etc) called a Pink Mao Mao made of fresh watermelon, strawberries, Belvedere vodka, Akashi-tai sake, strawberry liqueur) in a glass rimmed with crushed black pepper.
While we were looking at the menus and deciding what to have, I started to take some photos of the table set-up and interiors and was told by our not-so-friendly waitress that taking photos wasn’t permitted (excuse me!) which is why this post doesn’t have any food shots. You’ll just have to imagine what we ate.

We ordered three dishes from the dim sum menu: XO Scallop dumpling with asparagus and mushroom; stir-fried snow pea shoots; salted fish and salted egg fried rice. From the small eats section of the a la carte menu, we chose the fried soft-shell crab with red chili and curry leaf. All the dishes arrived almost at the same time and were all piping hot, the way they should be.

The scallop dumpling was a delicately-flavored dim sum of scallops with tiny chunks of asparagus and mushroom which we dipped into the chili-garlic oil (one of the two sauces provided, the other was a red chili sauce). The snow pea shoots were fresh and still had the crunch of something quick-fried in a very hot wok. The fried rice was perfect – yellow from the salted egg yolk and full of flavor from the salted fish yet not oily at all. It’s a dish hard to come by in most Chinese restaurants. Last but not least was the soft shell crab which was crunchy, spicy, salty and delicious.

As usual, we had our fill and didn’t save enough space for dessert so we sipped the rest of the tea and lingered at our table before we went back up into the street and into the hustle and bustle of London. Hakkasan is a sexy oasis that serves fantastic Chinese haute cuisine in boudoir-like surroundings. If only they could get their staff to smile more, but then I guess that wouldn’t be authentic enough.
8 Hanway Place
London W1
+44 020 7927 7000

Open for lunch and dinner daily
Ling Ling Lunge Bar open till very late
Dim sum for lunch only (*a great bargain)

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