A last minute decision to see what was available led me to an early dinner at Hakkasan Mayfair on Friday night. I’ve previously eaten at the Hanway Place venue a few years ago, had a great time with friends with brilliant food and so was looking forward to this. I hadn’t quite realised just how many versions there are of this ‘modern Cantonese’ chain, there are 12 other restaurants around the world but it appears only the 2 London ones have Michelin stars. As an aside, I’d love to be able to add a list onto Opentable so that i could just search to see what had space at the time I was after, would make the booking so much easier!
The early time meant I could take advantage of the ‘Taste of Hakkasan’ menu, which is served at lunch and 6-7 at evenings. At £35 it’s pretty good value for 3 courses, whereas the going fully al a carte could soon add up – for example going for Peking duck with Hakkasan special reserve ‘Qiandao’ caviar will cost you £215! It does like that’s shareable for 2, so who’s up for that?
The set menu started with dim sum – a choice of vegetarian or not. A spicy salad – the spice was in the dressing – provided the first chop stick challenge (you need to ask for other cutlery if you want it, it’s not offered). Picking up microgreens takes focus and concentration and if you’re not careful, they go everywhere! A variety of steamed dimsum next (I looked up the names…). The green crab and chive dumpling, a prawn har gau and a scallop and prawn shumai. This chopstick challenge was about the large size, picking up the whole and eating without dropping. the final element was a venison puff, my favourite, rich, gooey venison in puff pastry type coating. Gorgeous. overall a good starter.
I chose the stir-fry Peking style duck with dried chilli, baby leeks and onions. All the mains came with pak choi and Jasmine rice. Of course, i’m wondering what the difference is between Peking duck and Peking style duck. I’m also still wondering if I should have eaten the strange next of dried noodles this dish was served on. I left them, although some of the sauce-soaked ones made their way into eating bowl. A very nice dish, with a good balance of sauce, meat and alliums. The rice was just about the right serving size, not leaving me with the guilt of having to leave some as I’ve had in some places, where you just get a huge bowl.
The final dish was Apple Tarte tatin, with blackberry, almond crumble and vanilla icecream. A huge pile of rich apple on a sliver of puff pastry was gorgeous. Loved it. Was my favourite part of the meal, along with the venison puff.
And that last sentiment is an indication of what I felt about this meal and the risk of going for set, fixed price menus (that aren’t the tasting menus). You may not get their best, most innovative cooking. As I said, I’ve been to the Hanway Place version and loved it, the dishes we had were excellent. There was nothing at all wrong with any of the dishes I was served today, the ingredients appeared to be class, the taste was excellent but it didn’t give me anything different. That’s why I’m wanting to work my way through the Michelin starred restaurants, to get great food that leaves me surprised and delighted. This I felt I could have got in any good regular Chinese restaurant. My expectations were too high I think.
I would recommend the place but I suggest you go for the more al a carte dishes instead of the regular set menu. I’m going to visit Hanway Place again and will be doing that, trying one of the tasting menus. Also, although the place was full of couples, it’s definitely not an intimate date place, the lighting is dark and the music was loud. The service too was fairly efficient, with all staff doing their job quickly, with no chat at all, unlike at last week’s Texture.