As a fan of Hakkasan, I was delighted to be invited to an 8 course tasting menu at the Hakkasan Group’s latest venture HKK , by Square Meal a couple of weeks ago. Described as ‘bespoke Cantonese fine dining’, this isn’t a place I would normally be able to afford on an average night out, so I as eager to check it out.
Just a short walk from Liverpool Street station, HKK is located on Worship Street. Keep an eye out though, the nondescript doorway is very easy to miss. Once inside, I was shown to the private dining room where I met the other food bloggers I’d be spending the evening with, as well as the lovely Ella from Square Meal and the events manager from HKK. After a couple of glasses of champagne we all sat down and were presented with an amuse bouche of deep fried prawn & foie gras croquette placed on a pickle Japanese yam bean. The croquette was coated with black & white sesame and topped with a black truffle sauce.
This was a beautiful start to the meal, and a good indication to how the rest of the evening was going to play out. It was perfectly crispy on the outside and rich and juicy on the inside. My only complaint was that there was only one of them as I could easily have scoffed 3 or 4. However, I had to pace myself and just as well I did as our next dish was soon before us…
Duke of Berkshire pork belly mantou: Fried mantou (chinese bun) with braised duke of Berkshire pork belly, pork juice, black truffle, pickle lotus root, amaranth and coriander cress.
I loved this. The pork was so soft and juicy it melted in my mouth, the flavours were so complex and rich, it was just a pity it disappeared in two bites. I reckon they could open a pop-up or a van selling nothing but these and Londoners would be queuing up daily for them. I know I certainly would.
Next up was the Chrysanthemum supreme seafood soup…
Double boiled for 8 hours with chicken stock, pata negra ham, prawn, fresh scallop, dried scallops, fish maw, sea cucumber, bamboo shoot, Potato starch, Shao shin wine, salt sugar and seaweed, this soup had a very delicate flavour to it. As pleasant as it was, I must admit, its the one dish I wasn’t crazy about.
The Dim Sum Trilogy appeared looking like three beautiful jewels…with a paintbrush to paint on the accompanying soy sauce.
The pink one was a Dover Sole dumpling with Imperial caviar and a beetroot juice skin. Light, delicate and well balanced. The green one was Jade Lobster dumpling with a skin made with Chinese chive juice. Full of flavour and so deliciously juicy. The fried one was filled with Waguy Beef and a flower and pork lard crispy coating. Divine. Crispy and wafery outside, soft and tender inside with rich, melt-in-the-mouth beef.
We were then invited to step outside the private room to see the ducks handing in the wood-fired Beech oven, and a huge glossy Peking duck being sliced up in front of us by their chef. That man sure knows how to handle a cleaver!
I was then presented with my Cherry wood roasted Peking duck served 3 ways…Crispy skin from the shoulder served with sugar | Breast served with salad & hoisin sauce | Leg served with sesame pancake, cucumber and leek.
This was a stunning dish. The cherry wood smokiness delivered a subtle sweetness to the duck, and the flesh was so succulent, again, I was wishing I had a bigger portion as this disappeared all too quickly. I could have happily devoured a plate of just the crispy skin on its own, it was incredible. Probably the best duck I’ve ever tasted actually.
Still on a high from the Peking duck, I thought the meal could only go downhill from here but then our next dish came out… Wild seabass with black truffle and pomegranate balsamic vinegar, topped with wok-fried courgette, black fungus and pumpkin.
There was a collection of moans around the table as everyone tucked into this dish. It was sublime. The sea bass was perfectly cooked and so light and delicate, it worked perfectly with the truffle balsamic vinegar.
Last of the savoury dishes was the Grilled Japanese Wagyu beef with king sanpei sauce…
I know I’ve used this phrase a lot in this write-up but ‘melt in the mouth’ is the best description I can use and it did just that. The Wagyu beef was just so tender and the sweet and spicy sanpei sauce was the perfect accompaniment. I could have done without the potato croquettes and puff glutinous rice to be honest, but I’m sure this has all been well thought out in terms of balance of flavours and textures. I just loved the beef so much, I would have liked a bit more of it. Its well seen I haven’t eaten much meat this year…my body was LOVING all this incredible meat!
Our first sweet dish came in the form of Black sesame cream with sesame tuille, lemon sorbet and blackberry coulis.
I love sesame so this was the perfect dessert for me. It was so soft and creamy, with the tuille adding a much needed texture and the lemon sorbet added zing. It was a delight.
Our last dessert was Pumpkin cake with five spice and carrot ice cream…
A waiter walked around the table, pouring pumpkin and orange sauce over each of our sponges. This tasted pretty much like a carrot cake and the carrot ice cream was a pleasant surprise as I’ve never tasted that before. I must admit though, I preferred the first dessert and could have happily finished the meal with that. Maybe after eating 7 courses beforehand, I was kind of done for the evening. I’d like to go back and try it again without having had all the other dishes previously as I’m probably not doing justice to it.
HKK is not normally the kind of restaurant I frequent on a regular basis, mainly because in terms of aesthetics, it’s a bit ‘City’ for me, plus I don’t earn a City wage. However, in terms of the food, each dish was so well thought out and so beautifully presented, I would certainly recommend it to anyone. The service was attentive, efficient, friendly and courteous. At the end of the evening, one of the chefs came around with a red ink stamp for our souvenir menus to take away which was a really nice touch.
The stand-out dishes for me were the Peking duck and the sea bass. Oh, and the pork belly mantou. My tummy is actually rumbling as I type this review and seeing as I’m sitting in the Ace Hotel writing it, about 10 minutes away, I’m almost tempted to run back into HKK and go for another round.
HKK, Worship Street, London EC2.
Tel: 020 3535 1888