Hakkasan opened up another restaurant in Mayfair on November 18th, 2010 – capitalising on the magnificent success of their flagship in the West End. The West End Hakkasan, incidentally, is one of the top highest grossing restaurants in London (Zuma is number one at £24m+ per year, followed by Cipriani and, of all places, the Wolseley).
If you have trouble finding it, it’s sandwiched between the Barclays car retailer and the Regus office rental… at No. 17 Bruton Street… just off of Berkeley Square.
It’s hard to imagine that it’s over ten years since the original Hakkasan opened. But, at the time, it was the beginning of a new culinary revolution in London. The cobwebs of the past were dusted away – gone were the memories of tepid tea, stale bangers and mash – ushering in a decade of uber-cool, destination restaurants with fabulous menus and talented chefs.
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[s2If is_user_logged_in()]I preface this review with a reminder of the past, because the new Hakkasan is, quite frankly, so much like the other Hakkasan as to be unremarkable. Something of an anti-climax. It has the same Wenge-gasm interior (which is now available in IKEA, compared to a decade ago when it was really cool), rough slate walls and Chinese tea-room decor.
The food is really good. Greasy but flavourful. Not great but it hits the spot. The menu ranges from Dim Sum to Abalone flown in from Japan (24 hours notice required at £320 for a 10-person portion). The drinks menu is insanely long – particularly for spirits. There are 25 Tequilas, over 20 varieties of Rum and the same goes for Gin. So, if you are a baraholic, this will be a great venue for you.
The pork belly dish is outstanding and it haunts my dreams. The soft shell crab is good, too. Scallop and prawn cake claypot is yummy.
Overall, this is a solid restaurant and a nice addition to Mayfair. Not original – because they already broke the mould.
Okay, I went there again the other night (that’s twice in one week!) The food was decent but heavy (I probably ordered the wrong things…) But the staff were rude and inconsiderate. Not the waiters but the front of house staff. They made us walk up and down stairs instead of calling their colleagues on the house phone, screwed up our reservation, weren’t apologetic and acted generally as if we were lucky to be patrons. The sommelier told me that the Nechi Otokoyama sake on the menu was exclusive to them but I had just had it at Zuma two weeks before. The bar area upstairs was heaving with overcrowded tables, plus lots of grumpy people waiting for tables.
BTW, eating at the long tables upstairs is probably cute for lunch but not dinner. You will end up getting elbowed by bar patrons. Downstairs is definitely preferable to upstairs. That is where they put all the riff raff!
As with many restaurant openings, the first few weeks are populated by beautiful and Jetsetting people… but… at some point… the out-of-towners and tourists come and clog everything up. This is when the locals leave and, probably, the restaurant sales improve… but the halo dims. Looks like this cycle happened a lot faster here than I’ve seen before. But, then again, this is not the first Hakkasan in London and, perhaps, is on its way to becoming a chain. You can’t please all the people all the time without becoming a little bit mediocre inside. Chains specialise in predictability, not surprise.
[UPDATE: JULY 2011]
I have been to Hakkasan roughly 8 times now. The food is definitely the highlight. The menu has become very innovative. The drinks menu insanely varied (especially the Rum and Tequila section). The ambiance has gone slightly down hill – the wrong kind of clientele and much rowdier than before. But it’s a good night out. A very, very expensive night out… I should add.
Front of house continues to misplace reservations and get things wrong but the wait staff have improved a lot.[/s2If]