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In anticipation of the opening of Hakkasan Mayfair, Square Meal caught up with Niall Howard, CEO of Hakkasan Group, and Christine Parkinson, the Hakkasan Group wine buyer, to see what customers can expect from the new restaurant:
What were the motives in opening a second Hakkasan?
We have not really targeted the Kensington and Chelsea set before, and they are important guests for us. With this new location off Berkeley Square, we hope to reach many more Londoners. In addition, we have to turn a lot of people away from Hanway Place at peak times because we are so busy and we already turn the tables over quite quickly, something we often get criticised for. So, there is definitely the demand to open another Hakkasan in central London.
Has the glamour faded at all at the original site? And will this be a shot in the arm for the Hakkasan name?
Not at all. The original continues to buzz and delight, and we will be investing further in its future next year, when it will be 10 years old. When we develop the brand globally, I envisage that guests will always want to see the original which has proved so inspirational.
What differences can fans of the original Hakkasan expect to find in the new Mayfair site?
The main difference will be the ground floor which provides a luxury lounge, which will be more conducive to lunch. Hakkasan lovers, however, will recognise the basement, with the addition of a private dining room.
Will the new site feature any dishes exclusive of the original Hakkasan?
The menu is based on the original with additions created by our executive head chef Ton Chee Hwee. These include black-truffle roast duck and sliced blue abalone in hakka sauce.
Hakkasan is known as much for its glamorous interior as its menu; have you left it as a one-off and gone for a different look, or tried to recreate it?
We have very much kept the spirit and ethos of the original but we have been able to modernise the design where appropriate. Iconic features such as the wooden ‘cage’, the electric blue glass and the long bar all remain.
Will the Hakkasan Mayfair wine list be a straight copy of the original's?
No, not at all. About half the wines are the same, but there are lots of new additions. Many of the wines we buy in tiny quantities, so it simply wouldn’t be possible to have them in both restaurants. The list is organised in themes, so it’s clearly recognisable as a Hakkasan list, but some themes are new and there are some subtle changes to the old ones.
What are the challenges of
finding wines to match spicy Szechuan cuisine?
Most spicy dishes are good with slightly sweet wines, but that’s less important with Szechuan cuisine. Szechuan pepper has a more herbal, floral character than black pepper, chilli or ginger, and makes the tongue tingle. We’ve found that wines need to be fresh with plenty of acidity, otherwise the Szechuan pepper can make them feel a bit flat and flabby. Crisp acidity also helps with the oiliness of some Szechuan dishes.
Are there any styles of wine you've deliberately left off the list?
We try nearly every wine with our food before listing it, and there are definitely some styles that don’t work. We have very little left-bank Bordeaux, although St-Emilion works well, and unoaked Chardonnay is usually hopeless with our food unless it’s Chablis, which goes beautifully.
What will your by-the-glass selection be like? We’ve kept to our philosophy of a mix of favourites (for example Rioja and Chablis) and unknowns (eg Marselan and Godello), so with 17 dry and 10 sweet wines by the glass, there’s plenty of variety. We’ve also added a selection of five styles of sak é by the carafe for the first time.
Hakkasan Mayfair, 17 Bruton Street, London W1J 6QB, 020 7907 1888. For more information on the restaurant, click here.