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Monthly Archives: September 2012

17 Bruton Street (Mayfair Branch)
London W1J 6QB
020 7907 1888

8 Hanway Place (Tottenham Court Road Branch)
London W1T 1HD
020 7927 7000

Welcome to the wonderful world of Hakkasan

When people think of dim sum in London, the places that immediately pop to mind are the restaurants along Gerrard Street in Chinatown; Shanghai Blues at High Holborn with their Sunday half-price offer; one-star Yauatcha at Soho; and (horror) Ping Pong on your neighbourhood high street. Admittedly, some of those places are decent for a budget-conscious diner, but pssst, we’ve got something better for you now.

Hakkasan is better known as the more expensive and up-scale cousin of its dim-sum dinky little brother Yauatcha. That’s true for its ala carte and dinner offerings, but with a little strategy you can get away with minimal damage on its very very tasty dim sum (from 11am – 3.30pm) menu. Hakkasan has a more limited selection compared to Yauatcha, but whatever they have, they do better. Their venison puffs are a case in point.

We were going to write you a list of all our favourite stuff that you had to order, but were a little sad to find out they overhauled their menu in August. Some dishes like the excellent King Crab Noodle Roll and the Fried Mango and Prawn Salad Roll had been taken off the menu, much to our dismay.

Thankfully, other stalwarts survived the cull. Before we give you a pictorial guide to our must-eat dimsum at Hakkasan, here’s a tip: visit as a trio/trinity/threesome, or in multiples thereof. Most of the items are served as such, so it’s easier to share that way. It should add up to around £20 a person for conservative eaters, and £25 for gluttons. Also consider ordering from their selection of fine teas. The Classical Beauty brew is our favourite.

The Scallop Shumai and Har Gau are excellent. The full-sized scallop topping the shumai is particularly indulgentChar Siu Cheung Fun is smooth, fragrant and the meat is tender. Also try the Three Mushrooms Cheung Fun if you have the chance (and stomach space for it)Chilean Sea Bass Mooli Roll – a triumph. The balance of flavour in its soya sauce base is near perfect, complementing the succulent seabass chunk and the mu-er’s crunch’s exceedingly well Venison Puffs – Sweet, salty, fluffy, lovely.Corn Fed Chicken Soup – Gloria’s favourite for good reason. Dense and fragrant. The result of many, many hours of boiling and distilling stock. We salute the many chickens that died to make this soup.

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Went back to Dinner by Heston for lunch, and tried their relatively affordable £38 set menu. We shan’t go too much into the details, except to say it is an attractive price-point for people on a fine-dining budget. The mains of the Blackfoot Pork Collar and the Cured Salmon were conventional taste-wise, but excellently prepared.

We’ll just leave you with the photographs for now. For a fuller review of the ala-carte, you can find our previous entry here.

Salamagundy – basically raw tomatoes and vegetables. The tomatoes were fine, but we found the purple radishes a little weird…Ragoo of Pig Ears – sticky, stewed, with a bit of a cartilaginous crunch. Not for everyoneMeat Fruit, not on the set menu, but made for a really pretty picture under the lunch-time light.On to the mains – cured salmon with samphire and peas – delicate and moist, a result of 2 hours of slow cooking, as opposed to the more traditional and expedient pan-searing/frying methodBlackfoot Pork Collar with Meat “Ketchup”. Tastes the same as the Blackfoot Porkchop on the ala carte, with a lovely salty-sour tang to itRoasted white peaches with yoghurt, meringue and peach sorbet – didn’t find it exceptional.Tipsy Cake – not on menu, but definitely worth ordering to share round the table anyway. Might be too sweet for some.Waiter and the Heston’s Awesome Liquid Nitrogen Hand-Crank Vanilla Ice Cream Machine of Doom (our name)U-Jin and his cone of ice-cream

127 Ledbury Road
Notting Hill,
London W11 2AQ
Tel: 020 7792 9090

The Ledbury made its name this year when it stormed to 14th place on the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, behind Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner and The Fat Duck in the UK. Whilst we still believe the list is essentially a contest of who has the biggest budget to drink reviewers under the table with, the top 25, maybe 30 restaurants are a good guide to some of the best up-and-coming dining venues right now, if not of all time.

The restaurant has delivered outstanding quality and consistency on every occasion, with glowing reviews all around. Australian chef Brett Graham has brought his exquisite Sydney palate to the table, and we very much agree with the brightness and boldness of flavour in his dishes. Lobster with fennel and elderflower? Who would have thought, but yum. Venision of fallow deer with a massive dollop of bone marrow crowning each slice? Double yum.

Roast Scottish Scallops with Brassicas and Seaweed –  probably the best value starter on the menu that day. Juicy!

Hampshire Buffalo Milk Curd with Saint-Nectaire, Truffle Toast and a Broth of Grilled Onions

Heritage Tomatoes with Fresh Goat Cheese, Green Tomato Juice and Herbs

Notably, Brett does vegetables really well. The heritage tomatoes with fresh goats cheese and herbs is the restaurant’s signature, deceptively simple but good enough to trick the taste-buds of our tomato-phobe friend Freida momentarily. We also admired his ability to wrangle goats cheese into a form palatable to non-cheese connossieurs, re: mostly everybody in the world.

Mille Feuille with Mango, Vanilla and Kaffir Lime

Blueberry Cheese Tartlet

Passionfruit Souffle with Sauternes Ice Cream

For desserts, we sampled everything, and everything was good, but the standout for the night was the passionfruit souffle topped with sauternes ice cream – soft, delicate and very very airy. Brett is touted as a mean maker of souffles, and ours tasted superb. The preceding season’s raspberry souffle was ranked by the Fortnum and Mason’s guide as the third best dessert in Londontown (1. Marcus Wareing’s custard tart; 2. Dinner’s tipsy cake).

We like the Ledbury. Its location away from the bustle of central London was really welcome. We appreciated their flexibility in letting us have the largest table on the main dining floor. Ordinarily a group of our size would have had to pay significantly more to use the private room. They were also nice enough to prepare a chocolate tart dessert with the words “Congratulations” written on it to celebrate my graduation that evening. Service was warm, if a bit forgetful (they neglected to clear the crumbs on our table after the bread appetisers), but on the whole that didn’t detract from what was after all a wonderful meal.

30 Avery Row
Tel: 07740 952015

Everbean is an independently run cafe on Avery Row, a pleasant and cultured walking alley just off Bond Street (psst, the Paul Smith outlet store is here too). The cafe has an impressive selection of salads and sandwiches, which our friends tell us is quite splendid. We made a pit-stop last week and had a latte, which had a delicious nutty taste to it. It was a pity the milk was a bit thin, probably the result of inaccurate steaming. We’re inclined to give the coffee another chance, and will try to pop by again soon.

The cafe is blessed with high ceilings and tall glass windows

301 Old Street  
London EC1V 9LA
Tel: 020 7729 8662

42-43 Dean Street 
London W1D 4PZ
Tel: 020 7317 9118

Cay Tre received a makeover since we visited 3 months ago. Baby pink wallpaper now adorns the walls of this Vietnamese stalwart along Old Street, and the new menu looks less grubby than it did before. Service is smiley and friendly (if a bit frenetic), marshalled by a man who could have been a triad-bruiser in his past life, dressed for the part in his dockworker’s cap and orange tweed jacket. All very atmospheric, in our opinion.

Apart from the usual appetizer-main-dessert offerings, the restaurant also has a separate pho menu. £9 gets you a basic bowl of pho with sliced beef or chicken, with additions of sliced beef, fatty flank, tendon or meatball at 50p each. If you’d like a little variation in dining options, Cay Tre is a good place for pho in London.

45 Brook Street
London W1K 4HR
Tel: 020 7499 0099

Lest one be confused from the glut of choices available within London’s fine-dining scene, a way of cutting to the chase is to choose a restaurant with the chef’s name in it. This might not necessarily guarantee he/she is cooking in the kitchen but it does serve as a stamp of quality of sorts. Lunch at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant at Claridge’s Hotel was pleasant, with front-of-house service well worthy of its two Michelin stars.

Smoked Haddock Tartlet and Poached Egg, Creme Fraiche and Caviar

We had the set-lunch (£30) that day. There wasn’t anything terribly wrong with the way things tasted, but the execution was slightly shaky. The haddock tartlet and poached egg starter came out with the egg “well-done”. Some of us had it sent back. It came back in a much better shape, with the richness of the cream and molten yolk blending superbly with the smoked fish.

Gloucestor Old Spot Pork Loin with Primavera Vegetables and Apple JusPan Fried Fillet of Bream with Mussels, Courgette and Saffron VelouteLeg of Cumbrian Lamb with Tomato Tart Tatin, Swiss Chard and Onion Jus

The rest of the lunch went on without a hitch. The pork loin and apple jus was a marriage of classic flavours and the fillet of bream in saffron veloute was rich and indulgent. The Cumbrian lamb spoke for itself in terms of freshness.

Lemon Tart with Creme FraicheDark Chocolate with a honeycomb sphere and milk chocolate sauceLavender and White Chcolate Creme Brulee with Lemon Madeleines

Dessert was more spectacle than food. The lemon tart was garnished with pretty summer flowers, and the dark chocolate sculpted into an orb, melted down by pouring hot milk chocolate sauce onto it. The creme brulee sported a rather nice touch with the lavender accent in it. Otherwise, the dessert tasted like you would expect them to taste, so don’t expect anything too innovative! Go to Dinner by Heston for that 😀

20 James Street,
London W1U 1EH
Tel: 02074911178
1 minute walk from Bond Street tube station (Central Line, Jubilee Line)

We’re a little reluctant to divulge our tasty little secret close to the Selfridges departmental store along Oxford Street, but in the spirit of sharing, we shall. Atari-ya is a hole-in-the-wall sushi takeaway bar that serves quality sushi at affordable prices. To put things in perspective, 3 slices of otoro sashimi goes for £5, chu-toro at £3.80 and sake at £2.20. The place is perfect for a quick bite after a hard day’s shopping, or if you’re male, waiting on your girlfriend to finish up in the H&M changing room.

These were the rolls we had along with the sashimi – California Roll (£4.80), Prawn Tempura Roll (£4.90), Spider Roll (£4.90) and Rainbow Roll (£6.90).

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