HKK (Hakkasan Kitchen)
Broadgate West II, Worship Street, London EC2A 2DQ
“Bespoke Cantonese fine dining from the Hakkasan Group” is the claim from HKK, the second Hakkasan venture to open in The City this year. Does it deliver? Most definitely!
Hakkasan Group has been busy lately. Opening two venues in just over two months. Japanese neighbour “Chrysan” opened in September and is now joined by ‘HKK‘, reported by Bloomberg to be a contraction of “Hakkasan Kitchen”. HKK showcases Chinese cuisine from Head Chef Tong Chee Hwee, former head chef of Hakkasan, Hanway Place, and executive head chef of the Hakkasan empire.
HKK does not offer a la carte dining. There are only two options, an 8 course lunch menu (£48), and a 15 course dinner menu (£98) (available on request at lunch).
I’m not sure sure what the ratio of kitchen space to dining space is in a typical restaurant, however this is the first venue I’ve visited where the ratio appears to be 1:1. The kitchen is huge and is appears to be the same size as the main dining room (which seats approx 50 guests). The centre of the room is dominated by a large table where several of the dishes are arranged and presented. Chef Tong Chee Hwee personally carves the ‘Lychee Wood Roasted Peking Duck’ from there and just to make sure you don’t miss it, his arrival is announced to the intended diners as he emerges from the kitchen.
Put simply, there isn’t one! In theory you have a choice between a 8 course lunch menu and a 15 course dinner menu. (I have confirmation that the 15 course is available on request for those with a generous lunch break!) Naturally dietary restrictions are taken into account but you don’t see a menu until the end when Chef Tong comes from the kitchen to present and literally rubber ink stamp a copy of your meal at the table. A nice touch.
This is probably the best service I’ve experienced, not just recently, not just for London, but anywhere. Staff are extremely attentive and always appear to be at hand. The sommelier was friendly and not pushy, the wait staff were excellent at describing your dish and very smooth in their monologue. Unlike some other venues this year, I didn’t feel that they were reciting a script ‘parrot fashion’, they seemed to know the menu intimately and when they couldn’t answer a question they actually admitted they didn’t know and came back to me with the answer… no guessing!
Too often I find many high end venues are far too attentive with someone literally peering over your shoulder, which is annoying but better than being ignored. HKK was near enough perfect in this respect. If you want to see the epitome of good polished service this is an excellent place to start. Full marks!
As expected, HKK had a list of Oriental inspired cocktail menus. I opted for the “Bitter Fortune” which was fantastic. (Tanqueray 10, rhubarb liqueur, Aperol and grapefruit). It had an interesting flavour combination which occasionally reminded me of a cross between tangerine and nectarine. I unsure if HKK are currently serving drinks to non-diners, but if so I would gladly return to sample the others. For my meal I let the sommelier guide me to a light sake. This arrived in a clever no-dilution carafe with a separate chamber for ice. These types of devices aren’t new, but strangely I don’t see enough of them.
(“Four Treasures Iberico Ham Wrap”; “Dim Sum Trilogy”; “Lychee Wood Roasted Peking Duck
Poulet de Bresse and dried scallop soup”)
All of these were excellent but I must point out the fantastic “Lychee Wood Roasted Peking Duck” which is cut from a whole fresh duck for each diner by the Head Chef himself from the large table in the centre of the dining area. Although the rest of the duck isn’t on the menu, the management have assured others that it is not thrown out! (Source: Foodiemom). The duck itself has a fantastic crisp skin, incredible soft meat and nicely full of flavour. This knocks the socks of anything you can find in Chinatown!
(Jasmine tea smoked Wagyu Beef; Steamed Razor clam with chilli, mui-choi glutinous rice)
The steamed razor clam was served chopped mixed with the chilli and on a bed of chopped translucent vermicelli. A lovely dish, but completely overshadowed by the wagyu beef. Absolutely incredible, smoked with green tea and then deep fried. It had a fantastic sweet glaze and great flavour. It was served with water-chestnut and a wafer thin slice of crispy sweet potato. Excellent combination of texture as well as flavour. Obviously wagyu isn’t typical of a Chinese restaurant but this was executed spectacularly and definitely my favourite dish from this menu.
(“Lychee tapica, passion chiboust, passion jam”; “Pineapple fritter, salted lime jelly, vanilla ice cream”)
Desserts didn’t disappoint. The chiboust was prepared with a light crisp crust to break through. (The photo is ‘post-breaking’ of said crust). Lychee tapioca worked well with a light flavouring complementing the two passion fruit components. Excellent. The pineapple fritter dish appeared wrapped in thin ‘knafeh-dough’ style pastry (think of the thin strings of pastry used in some baklava). This gave a nice crunch and a perfect way to end a meal. However I was surprised to be given a trio of petit fours, one of which contained the ‘marmite of far-eastern fruit, the durian!
For the uninitiated the durian fruit is hard to fathom. The Chinese have a saying which describes durian as a fruit which “Tastes like heaven and smells like hell” and wikipedia accurately describes it as distinctive for its “stomach-churning odour” From first hand experience I would liken the smell of a durian to the ‘aroma’ of an open sewer. However, the “king of fruits” is extremely popular across the continent for its creamy flesh. Most either love it or hate it, so I was surprised to see it on the menu, in fact it’s a brave decision to include it at all! Fortunately it was just a touch of the flavour, more than enough to be certain that it was there but not too overpowering!
Oh yes, in fact I would say that the experience was nearly faultless. I didn’t expect to be full from the menu, however I was wrong. It was a good sized meal for lunch. Every dish is clearly Asian influenced, and yet uses some very non-Asian ingredients. The service was great and the little theatrical touches like the ‘duck-carving-ceremony’ and the Chef Tong arriving at your table to present and personally stamp a menu of your meal top this off as one of the best culinary experiences I’ve had for a very long time. As I understand from the general manager, dinner for the evening of opening day was fully booked. From what I’ve experienced I’m not surprised. Highly recommend that you try this!