Where: 8 Hanway Place, Fitzrovia, London W1T 1HD
Cost: The Chinese New Year (CNY) menu costs £88 per person. The suggested Happy Daisy cocktail is £13.50.
About: 2018 is the Year of the Dog in the Chinese calendar, and Michelin-starred Hakkasan is offering a special CNYs menu for a lucky £88 per head at its flagship and Mayfair branches. This special celebration meal is available for a limited period, between 29 January and 4 March, and as in previous years I was keen to give it a try.
Hakksan Hanway Place is one of the very few Chinese restaurants in London to hold a Michelin star, and it always seems to be heaving, as indeed it was on the Saturday lunchtime when I sampled the CNY menu. In my experience it offers good customer service and almost flawless cooking, so it is perhaps no surprise that it is perennially popular.
What We Ate: The 2018 CNY menu starts with a selection of small eats. The Szechuan oyster with lotus root with crispy rice in mantau bread had a magnificent flavour of the sea, complimented by a scattering of pine nuts and Chinese chives.
Wonderfully tender braised beef tongue rolls came next with crunchy caramelized walnuts, served on a bed of fine baby asparagus, with mustard and mint.
The final “small eat” was scallops, served with sweet plum sauce and mango in a “golden cup” of crisp rice pastry, on a bed of green pea shoots, goji berries and Chinese chives. The pastry shell gave a lovely crunch to the dish, contrasting with the unctuous scallops.
The main courses followed, served simultaneously. Wok-fried native lobster came gorgeously presented in light stock with edamame beans, red and black caviar and edible flowers. This was a sumptuous dish, as good to eat as it looked, and the lobster pieces were succulent, ultra fresh and tender.
For me, the weakest link in the meal was the Rhug estate organic lamb in seaweed soy with celery and enoki mushroom. The lamb was medium rare, tender and delicious, but it did not in my opinion live up to the quality of the other dishes in this part of the meal.
Best of all though was the baked Chilean sea bass with kumquat glaze. I have prepared and eaten a great deal of Chilean sea bass in my time. But Hakkasan’s version was sensational, with magnificently tender, creamy flesh in a well-judged, zingy kumquat reduction.
To accompany the main course, there was a generous serving of abalone fried rice in a fine bean curd wrap with Chinese sausage, shiitake mushroom and choi sum. I enjoyed the unusual presentation of the rice, concealed within a fine layer of tofu, and the rice was richly flavoured and more than a match for the meat, fish and seafood main courses.
Dessert was described as ‘Golden Fortune”. Hakkasan is famous for its desserts, and this more than lived up to the billing. Made with ginger caramel, roasted macadamia and wafer-thin chocolate, this was exquisite patisserie, a feast for the eyes and palate, skilfully partnered with an intensely flavoured lemongrass ice cream.
What We Drank: We started with the Happy Daisy cocktail (£13.50), which is suggested to kick off the CNY menu. With Tanqueray No.10 gin, Chartreuse Yellow, lemon, spiced mandarin jam, egg white and soda water, with a lemon thyme garnish. This had a good depth of flavour and bittersweet herbal astringency.
There is an extensive list of ‘dry’ alcohol-free drinks, including cold brewed teas, sparkling juices like quince and apple, or an alcohol-free Australian Shiraz.
We opted to take a pot of high-mountain Taiwanese tea, which I thoroughly enjoyed (£8 per person).
Likes: The lobster, Chilean seabass and ‘Golden Fortune’ dessert were, for me, the highlights of an excellent CNY meal.
Verdict: Hakkasan is one of the finest Chinese restaurants in London. If you are looking for a great food, cocktails, service and atmosphere to see in the CNY, then I cannot think of a venue I would recommend more highly. But hurry as this celebration meal is only available until 4 March 2018!