Even at lunchtime, Hakkasan feels raunchy. The entrance staircase is heady with incense, making way for a vast basement that’s all ebony screens, moody shadows and clubby booths. It would make a seriously saucy date destination, but clumsies beware - I walloped my head on the table’s low lighting twice, each time executed with an almighty clang. Not the dignified exit I was hoping for.
Having to chase up the lunch menu was a minor bummer, particularly as we’d booked specifically for the £35 Taste of Hakkasan deal. While a nearby party of monied students casually ordered duck with caviar (a mere £270, and apparently no biggie as an amuse bouche), our super-smooth waiter discreetly brought the right promo menu, and saved us overordering when one pot of tea was more than enough for two. There’s no doubt that the service and surroundings make you feel a bit special, in the good sense.
Signature cocktails (included with the three-course lunch deal) were resolutely grown-up; think kumquats, aloe and jasmine cleverly muddled with the likes of matcha, plum sake and jasmine.
Our starters continued in the same sophisticated vein. My veggie dim sum platter comprised pure loveliness in dumpling form: one swathed in grass-green rice noodle; another brain-like in translucency but oddly delicious; one elegant morsel topped with a single goji berry. (Okay, so my partner’s crispy duck roll was delicious too, but way less of a spectacle).
Beef rib eye with merlot was a positively sizzling main, riddled with umami and juicy as hell. Szechuan Mabo tofu was disappointingly meek in terms of heat, but the wobbly beancurd nestled in a nonetheless intriguing sauce. ‘Vegetarian chicken’ also made an appearance on the menu, and shouldn’t be sniffed at; it’s artfully cooked across much of China, and worthy of consideration.
Finally, our puds did the chefs proud; the selection shunned ubiquitous salted caramel in favour of lighter, more beauteous confections and balanced Eastern spice. Those with a cloyingly sweet tooth may not get sufficient sugar fix here, but that's actually a good thing for those weirdos, like me, that aren't very fussed about cake.
All in all, a solid and even exceptional London hotspot that has every right to its upmarket reputation; just be good to yourself and forsake a la carte for the genius set menu.