Hakkasan [London, UK]

I ate here with my sister and her fiance (who both live in London full time). It was not cheap (and i avoid saying it was expensive, it is London, duh!), with the bad exchange rate it was $360 for 3 people and what you see below. To anyone that cares i believe the restaurant is Michelin starred–first and only chinese restaurant in the UK, you can read more about it at wikipedia or here’s another review of Hakkasan.

  • 3 cocktails, 2 bottles of water
  • duck with mangos, deep fried soft shell crab, tea smoked short ribs
  • szechuan stir fried ostrich, sea bass steamed in parchment, braised venison
  • coconut sorbet, jasmine tea (very large pot)

The first thing i should say is that i think fancy chinese restaurants are like fancy southern comfort food restaurants. Does dressing up mac & cheese with fancy ingredients (say gouda and emmentaler) topped with truffles and serving it in an upscale setting make it better then trad mac & cheese server and the local bbq counter? I’m more interested in the food so i usually say no, but sometimes you want the atmosphere so you have to pay for it. I feel the same way about this place. The food was not loads better then a divey chinese place, obviously a dive place would not serve venison or ostrich so that’s a unique point here. Enough of the disclaimers, how was the overall experience?

In general I’d rate it as good, the food was all tasty, none of them were duds. The sea bass had interesting flavors (and was the most expensive, 30 pounds/$60! so we splurged some there), the meat dishes were all cooked perfectly–not overdone or tough. The space is dark and loungey, easily equal to a modern lounge/bar in NYC–which was what i thought when i walked in. The presentation of the food was surprisingly austere considering the pedigree of the place.

So overall i was happy with the dinner–i cringed when the bill came, but not much you can do about that when you eat in London. It’s tough because you have a tendency to compare prices to the US, and for $120 a person you can get an interesting experience in the US!

A few warnings if you want to eat here, make a reservation or eat after 10pm when it clears out, the food is all served super hot, bring a map–the restaurant entrance is in an alley and the restaurant itself is in the basement. And while the space is beautiful it can be loud when crowded (again go later) and since it’s so dark it ends up being more cold/a turnoff then warm and inviting. They also allow smoking (including cigars), i’m not sure if there is a non-smoking section but there was no separate room.

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