Wednesday, March 26, 2008


I was so looking forward to eating at Hakkasan – Liz took me as a delayed birthday treat last week.

The restaurant is tucked away in an alley just off the Tottenham Court Road/Oxford Street junction. One’s name is checked off on a list by a doorman; a back slate-lined stairway leads down to an incensed-perfumed reception hall and the restaurant. The decor is mostly black with backlit blue walls. Laser-beam spots punctuate the gloom, and geometric Chinese screens divide the tables. It manages to reference an art-deco Shanghai opium den while being very modern, luxurious and comfortable.

Waiting for Liz at the bar, I had something called a “Purple Emperor”: a wonderfully smooth, but actually yellow mix (a base of rum and sake). The purple was supplied by a massive orchid the bartender popped on top for decoration

My preconception was that a Michelin-starred trendy restaurant would offer small portions: however the opposite was very much the case, with every dish seemingly sized for two hungry eaters. A starter of Sechuan chili crab was enormous and completely fabulous; my dimsum selection was pretty good too and contained 8 large dimsum. My main of jasmine tea smoked chicken was amazing (but must have contained at least half a chicken). Liz had another massive pile – of ribs this time. Side orders were a very generous plate of pak choi and and a canister of steamed rice. Neither of us actually fancied the rice but our waiter insisted.

He was a funny one – all the staff were charming and friendly except our waiter, who was quite aloof and dismissive and really couldn’t be bothered to answer questions (all the staff are very beautiful – the restaurant could double as a modeling agency).
We got complete fireworks when we asked for a doggy bag for the large quantities of leftovers. “We don’t do takeaway! We don’t do takeaway!” our waiter insisted emotionally, as if the very suggestion was mortally insulting. OK, this is a very smart restaurant and obviously they want to distance themselves from fast-food joints: point taken (and obviously, Hakkasan is a world away from a takeaway). But there were HUGE amounts of leftovers of very delicious food I was loath to leave behind. However, I am completely averse to making a fuss in restaurants. Not so Liz, who made them very aware that on this occasion they would be doing a doggy bag! So, eventually, I climbed the stairs out clutching my precious hamper of leftovers (much admired by an American tourist). Even our waiter seemed to find the funny side at last.

Worth it in the end – I reheated the food for a sofa dinner the next night, snuggled up under a blanket watching Rageh Omar’s absorbing Turin Shroud documentary on TV. I even got out my chopsticks.


Anonymous said...

interesting account. i m chinese but i doubt i shall be eating at hakkasan,so this is an experience by proxy for me. strange that about the waiter not agreeing to provide a doggy bag. if the food is all as good as they say it would be a shame to waste it, and if the price is as high as they say, it would be a double waste...haha.

Hedgie said...

I absolutely agree! If you get a chance to go, I highly recommend it; the food is great. While some things are very expensive others are more reasonable. The tea chicken was £15 and was definitely sized for 2.