Rose Petal Martini
The Year of the Sheep is already blooming for me. Not only have I devoured a ten-course New Year’s menu at Hakkasan Group’s HKK in the City, I have also been spoiled with another multi-course extravaganza at Hakkasan’s flagship restaurant in Hanway Place. Even better, we were there for Chinese New Year’s Eve. Oh, count me a million bouncing lambs, the evening was incredible.
My review of HKK went on almost as long as the Great Wall, so I’m going to make this one a bit easier to dribble over.
The Hanway Place Hakkasan boasts a bar that could almost be a liquid encyclopedia of the best alcohol on Planet Earth. There are distinct sections for whiskys, vodkas, fortified wines, spirits of international provenance, gins, rums and many more. Choosing what to drink from their extensive menu takes time. What did I dive into first? A Hakkasan signature cocktail called the Smoky Negroni. Sipping this was like sniffing a humidor of the very best cigars one can find, stirring the scent around with some twelve year-old Suntory whisky, a touch of plum sake, a dash of Campari and some Italian vermouth. Ooooch, I liked it. This was a good way to start the evening. It reminded me of my dear, late great uncle’s pipes. Delicious.
Next (yes, I was naughty enough to indulge in a second cocktail) was the Rose Petal Martini. Adorned with a single dark pink petal, this one was a step into a rose garden, heady with scent. The martini tasted as a rose might smell, yet with kicks of Hendrick’s gin, lychee liqueur, parfait amour and peach bitters attached. The rose syrup content was obvious, but the petal floating atop was a decorative reminder of the key flavour to be enjoyed here. An absolute winner cocktail.
As we settled into our table tucked away in a quiet corner, the sommelier appeared to guide us through the wine list. After much deliberation we ordered a bottle of Portuguese Vinho Verde from Cazas Novas (the Avesso grape variety). This proved an excellent match to the nine courses about to land before us, with a suitably festive, almost bubbly sensation to each refreshing mouthful.
To celebrate Chinese New Year’s Eve Hakkasan put on a signature menu, costing a lucky £88.88 per person. The nine course event started with three dishes:
First, a steamer basket appeared with Hakkasan’s famous soft-wrap dim sum. Hakkasan’s chefs excel in this department. I’ve eaten dim sum all over the globe, but none quite so perfectly executed as Hakkasan’s. The nearest rivals in my little black book of edibles would be thousands of kilometres away in Sydney’s Chinatown in Australia. The fillings tonight? Prawn, scallop, Chinese chive. Some whole, some in softer, paste form, all cheek-swelling orbs of goodness. I could easily visit Hakkasan for their dim sum dumplings alone.
Hakkasan dim sum
Next, the Spicy Lamb Lupin Wrap, borne of the Year of the Sheep. The wrap sliced into many small rounds, each mouthful warm to the tongue, the meat dissolving easily into a warming haze of Chinese spice.
Spicy Lamb Lupin Wrap
Just when we though the lamb was a star upon the night sky of Hakkasan starters, along came the Golden Fried Soft Shell Crab. I have to say that soft shell crab has long featured on my death row menu. So delicate, yet softly crunchy, with that ozone of Neptune’s lair. I love love love it. Somehow I encouraged my husband to eat more lamb, whilst I tucked into the crab. How strategic can I be, when faced with a favourite foodstuff? Like Sun Tzu on the battlefield, I’d say. My wiles worked; I got more juicy crustacean. Hot. Spicy. Crunchy. WONderful.
Golden Fried Soft Shell Crab
Our mains arrived as a cluster of five. The Spicy Prawn with Lily Bulb and Almond was very good, but the vegetarian dish of Lily Bulb with Garlic Shoot was so unexpectedly tasty that it surpassed the little pink curvy things for once. They’re like the bulbs of large spring onions, only more delicate, with less of an attack on the tongue. What’s more, they’re good for high blood pressure, insomnia and heart disease; something that more of us would eat on a regular basis if they weren’t so niche a veg. Note to self: visit Chinatown and source lily bulbs. If not available, offer to clean the woks at Hakkasan for a week to earn some.
The stir-fry black pepper rib eye beef was braised into the next century. It fell apart into soft, delectable morsels that somehow disappeared once in the mouth, amid a deep, merlot flavour. No unnecessary fat. No wibbly bits. Just mouthfuls of divine. Enough said.
Stir Fry Black Pepper Rib Eye Beef, Stir Fry Lily Bulb and Garlic Shoot
Then we tucked into the Grilled Chilean Sea Bass in Honey. Aaaah. It was like a slightly sweeter version of black miso cod. Flaking away from the fork with ease, it blended well with the last plate on our mains menu: Abalone and Dry Scallop Fried Rice.
Abalone and Dry Scallop Fried Rice with Spicy Prawn and Chilean Seabass
I grew up in New Zealand, where there is an abundance of big, fat abalone, which we call Paua. On the international market it sells for a fortune. Start thinking of offloading a small organ for cash and you get the picture. Around the world, abalone can differ. It might be big, dark and fat, as you get downunder, or a smaller, paler variety, as the Italians harvest. The Hakkasan fried rice with abalone was something I will always remember. The slightly chewy flesh and vaguely salty nature of the dice of abalone sprinkled throughout the rice brought me back to the Southern Hemisphere. In my opinion, this was the highlight of the entire menu. A Kiwi in London, familiar with many things Chinese, celebrating Chinese New Year, and EATING ABALONE. Woo hoo! Life is good.
If the above hadn’t been good enough to wow my discerning buds of taste, the next and final dish would. A plastic tree arrived at our table, with kumquats hanging from its branches. Or were they? At first glance they looked like kumquats (small, orange, round) but the fruit had been squirrelled away inside spheres of chocolate, then coated with orange to resemble the fruit. As the tree sat between us on the table, another tree had been painted on our plates and dressed with chocolate, caramelised macadamia nuts and rocks of cocoa. Creative, sweet, light and fun. Then, in case we weren’t getting quite enough kumquat, our waitress encouraged us to try the Kumquatcha, a Chinese New Year cocktail, containing Germana cachaça (a Brazilian white rum), Campari for colour, kumquats and lime. It tasted like very grown up fruit cordial with a touch of the tropical and plenty of sweet citrus taste.
Kumquat Wishing Tree
As we downed our Kumquatchas and stripped the standing tree of its small, orange fruit, we wrote wishes for the New Year on red and gold cards, hanging them alongside quite a collection of our fellow diners’ desires. This was a unique way to end a magical evening at Hakkasan and welcome in the Year of the Sheep. Long will it remain in my memory.
New Year’s Wishes
**I dined as a guest of Hakkasan Group. The views expressed here are my own.
8 Hanway Place, London, W1T 1HD