8 Hanway Place London W1T 1HD hakkasan.com/l
While the rest of the UK watches England take on the fearsome might of Panama in the World Cup, Nick shoots and scores underground
I’ve never had the slightest interest in football, or been to a football match in my life. It’s not just down to the fact that I went to a public school, football was of course seen differently back then, a sport for the lower orders, but I actually never liked rugby either. All those awful big brutes trying to maim me.
So I was happy to go underground to Hakkasan Hanway Place on a Sunday lunchtime to try their new Dim Sum Sundays and so avoid the England match.
Hakkasan Hanway was the first Hakkasan, and I remember all those years ago what a sensation it was. A windowless underground bar and restaurant created from an old car park. Sexy? It was sexier than a sexy thing.
Dark corners concealed celebs up to no good, the sanitised air was a constant perfect temperature, there were always paps hanging around outside, and the food was just fantastic. It was Chinese food taken to a level unheard of; you’d not ask for a sweet and sour pork in this place.
Colours and tastes and service all combined to make it somewhere very special. And while I hadn’t been back since my glory days, nothing seems to have changed in my absence. The staircase down is still a bit dangerous, until your eyes adjust to the dark, and the room itself, a lush, pomaded and ponced boudoir is still a bit of a breath taker.
Dim Sum Sundays translates as a set sharing menu with a cocktail before and after the food, and a half bottle of Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV Champagne during.
Once a month on the last Sunday, there is also a live pipa player, like today, freeforming over mellow house music chosen by a DJ who looks frighteningly like Ray Jayner, the same Three Musketeers hair and beard, but not the warts. The pipa, by the way, is a stringed instrument that plinks and plonks cheerfully.
We order the cocktails from the short list and they are excellent and generous; perhaps it’s just me but it seems everywhere cocktails are getting ever smaller just as their prices get ever larger. Austerity perhaps? Plink.
Rose Blossom - Plymouth Sloe Gin, Cynar Aperitif, mandarin liqueur, cherry and lemon for the laydee, and Pear B&B - Calvados, pear cordial, Benedictine liqueur, lemon and Bokers bitters for moi.
Our first sharing dish is crispy duck, as found usually in pancakes, but here mixed at table into a tangle of peppery cress with a dash of hoisin sauce. It’s very refreshing and rather fun to share as we battle good naturedly, clashing inexpertly wielded chopsticks over each ducky morsel. Plonk. |
Here come the dim sums in two waves and even in the dark they shine, fantastic colours seemingly lit from the inside but in fact benefitting from the table suspended spotlight.
Two each of Har gau, Scallop shumai, Chinese chive dumpling, Duck and yam bean dumpling, Golden seafood and cheese roll, Baked venison puff, Smoked duck and pumpkin puff, Spicy mooli and crab meat pastry.
I love them all but stand out is the spicy mooli and crab meat pastry, a creamy concoction wrapped in vermicelli and deep fried so it looks like a Shredded Wheat.
We eat the duck and yam with its beguiling mix of salt and sweet, and the scallop shumai which is 'pop in the mouth and go quiet for a bit' wonderful.The Har Gau seem pretty perfectly pleated to me, but I am no expert.
The champagne is slipping down a treat, glasses unobtrusively topped up by Hakkasan’s perfectly poised team, and we head into the final half before the whistle goes. Stir-fry black pepper rib eye beef with merlot is simple, but oh so tasty, the meat tender as a bruised ego and the pepper just a hint.
The egg fried rice is eggy and ricey and the side dish of stir-fry water chestnut, sugar snap and cloud ear is a colour splash of a dish, the sugar snaps crisp and slippery.
From the plink and plonk of the music to the snap, crackle and pop of my dessert. Jivara Bomb, a kind of hazelnut praline coated in rice krispies and drenched in chocolate sauce, quite divine even for a non-dessert person like myself.
P has the apple and sesame croustillant a mix of tahini, caramelised chocolate and puff pastry. The tahini, she reports, is the key - that rich sesame aroma and flavour.
We have our recommended cocktail pairings, very well judged but I managed to not take note of their names, blame Louis Roederer for that.
At £62 a person this is very good value, of course it’s not cheap but then Hakkasan is not the Taste of China either. You pay for the ambience, the charming and efficient service and the upscale food.
Dim Sum Sundays at Hakkasan Hanway Place? Back of the net.