I’m ashamed to admit that for a second year running, Chinese New Year has somehow managed to slip my radar! If a friend hadn’t asked me what I had planned for it, I wouldn’t have known it was just around the corner… while we’re at it, which charming animal are we celebrating again?! This is quite an embarrassing confession considering I’ve celebrated this for as long as I can remember.
Five year old me was probably most excited about getting dressed up in a new outfit, most likely an attention grabbing red number, to ring in the new year. Ten year old me would have been eagerly anticipating the feasts my parents would put on, inviting all the aunties and uncles, both real ones and pretend ones (those of you from Asian families will know what I mean) for an evening of indulgence. Fifteen year old me would have definitely been hanging out for the little red envelopes filled with cold hard cash for that nice little shopping spree or day out with friends.
Then from about age twenty onwards, it was back to being all about the feasts… but unfortunately with the family halfway across the world and in the opposite timezone, there’ll be no feasting again this year. Thankfully, if and when I do feel like fulfilling my cravings for some quality Chinese grub, and in style, I know Hakkasan have got my back all year round. They’re good like that. They’ll be there for you when you’re desperate for dim sum or in the mood for some Peking duck… or if like us, you want something a bit more luxurious for your Sunday lunch, you can try their Dim Sum Sundays!
Hakkasan is a far cry from the Chinese restaurants I usually have dim sum in; there are no white tablecloths and paper placemats, no large lazy susan on the table, no red and gold trinkets adorning the walls, no, this place is way too chic for that kind of carry on. It’s black on black sexy, dim, and has a DJ blasting out tunes during service… not sure dad would be into it but I kind of liked the over the top swankiness. Dim Sum Sunday starts with cocktails, followed by champagne which is topped up throughout the meal, also unheard of in the usual routine but we’re embracing the luxury… a certain someone did well to try and drink more than his fair share!
The actual eating begins with a crispy duck salad, mixed at the table for added drama, but still a punchy little salad with nice sweet and sharp flavours, and a decent amount of duck. Next were the dim sum; every bit as pretty as the ones I’ve salivated over on Instagram, these were my favourite part of the meal. I usually prefer steamed over fried dim sum and it was no different here. I liked the platter of royal king crab and truffle roll, venison puff, smoked duck and pumpkin puff, and golden radish crab meat pastry, all the fillings were full of bold flavours but sometimes I find the pastry can be all a bit too dry.
No such issue with the steamed dumplings though, I could go on eating those for hours… Hakkasan’s version of my favourite har gau was perfectly filled with large chunks of prawn and their scallop shumai was also generous and juicy. Chive dumplings are not usually my favourite but these were rather pleasant, as were the saltier and richer duck and yam bean dumpling. I was considering off piste and ordering seconds but was reminded that there was more food to come so I pouted a little and gave in…
Next to grace the table were the mains of XO seafood and water chestnut lettuce cups, and black pepper rib eye beef stirfry, served with ginger and spring onion fried rice and a side of asparagus. All very tasty but nothing particularly adventurous; the lettuce cups were crisp and fresh, the beef was wonderfully tender, fluffy fried rice is always good, and the vegetables still had a bit of bite in them. Nice but not hold me back from clearing the plate nice.
Our feast ended with dessert and, now that the champagne glasses were cleared and our supply cut, another cocktail, again not something I do on a usual dim sum lunch but let’s live a little. With a choice of apple tatin with vanilla ice cream or the mysteriously named ‘Jivara bomb’ the table was split; the boys made light work of the elegantly layered tatin while us ladies ploughed our way through the bomb. It was far from pretty to look at and not at all graceful to eat but this giant ball of ice cream covered in rice krispies, hazelnut praline and more chocolate was decadence at its best.
With the cocktails all sipped and our waistlines expanded, we sauntered out of Hakkasan all smiles and a little bit tipsy. I had heard a lot of praise for the food at Hakkasan, their London restaurants don’t have a Michelin star for nothing I suppose, but was always a little skeptical. I thought it might be a case of style over substance but I’m pleased to say that while the style factor will always be part of their selling point, the food was also worth making the effort for. Dim Sum Sunday is an excellent way to whittle away the afternoon, so go on, don those gladrags and make your way to this sexy den!
I know you’ve been to Hakkasan, so go on… tell me, did you love it or loathe it?!