Few people who walk past HKK, the city branch of Hakkasan, will stop. There is no sign, just a softly lit door you could easily miss or mistake for a high-end stripclub. Once inside, you might, initially, think you actually were in a high-end stripclub, with its walls of muslin curtains, soft grey walls and staff who nod discreetly as they take your coat.
This is the first tasting menu joint for the Hakkasan group, born of Alan Yau – Wagamama and Yauatcha – and like many other things in London now owned by an Abu Dhabi group. Hakkasan’s branches in Mayfair and the West End are flashy good-time girls, serving untouchably good Cantonese in glitzy surroundings. HKK near Liverpool Street – presumably aimed at people who haven’t the time to say Ha-ka-san – is more like the older brother, grown up, more corporate. And brother is it good.
The food spans eight regions in China to Hakkasan’s one, including Szechuan and Shanghai, and head chef Tong Chee Hwee’s changing menu has already earned HKK a glittery Michelin star and a listing for top 30 UK restaurants. Lunch is a la carte for four to 15 courses, dinner just set courses, and I opted for an eight-course menu. It was £50, and for what you get it’s well worth it.
First out was a chicken puff, so pretty and a perfect mix of crunchy outside and creamy inside. A dim sum trilogy was again beautiful – three colourful dumplings of lamb and prawn, lobster and fois gras, and a paintbrush for your soya sauce to complete the picture. The duck was a bit embarrassing, because it involved having to walk to the middle of the room and watch the chef pull the meat off the bones, but a small price for the fragrant and juicy mouthfuls smoked over cherry wood and an almost inappropriately delicious piece of skin you’re told to dip in sugar. Ginseng soup with soft tofu to follow, then a classic oyster sauce number and a wagyu beef finale. I’d have punched the air if everyone else didn’t look quite so sensible.
The fantastic food is matched by a fantastic wine list, fantastic in that you don’t have to know about wine to choose one you like. The list is helpfully divided into genres – age and grace, curious for example – and you get three half glasses per theme. We opted for a £30 age and grace selection, just wonderful. The cheapest house white was £9.80 so well worth a punt.
The desserts were a firework ending to an already stunning meal: scorched mandarin with coconut sorbet and a light, crunchy pineapple fritter. This is a very, very good restaurant, low key but formal, perfect for private meetings or liaisons where you don’t pay for style over substance. And while it may look a little sombre, don’t underestimate its ability to seduce. I was all over it.
by Vicky Paterson
HKK, Broadgate West, 88 Worship Street, London EC2A 2BE
Tel: +44 (0)20 3535 1888