'An out-of-this-world baked Chilean sea bass with kumquat glaze'

Hakkasan Mayfair

Open Monday-Wednesday midday–12:30am, Thursday-Saturday midday-12:45am, Sunday midday-12:00am

The blurb

With a whole constellation of Michelin-starred chefs and eleven locations worldwide (in chichi cities such as Doha, Shanghai, and Dubai), Hakkasan is a global brand with a well-deserved golden reputation for serving modern Cantonese dishes in dark and sexy dens.

To pay tribute to its ripe and ever-present food influences, Hakkasan Mayfair is celebrating Chinese New Year with an eight-course, limited-edition signature menu (£88) created by Hakkasan’s collection of international chefs. Until 4 March, guests can enjoy an overabundance of dishes specially designed to bring you good luck and prosperity in the upcoming Year of the Dog.

The style

Hakkasan is sexy. Even from street level, where doormen stand like terracotta warriors, there’s a mysterious subterranean pull that leads you down the dimly lit corridors and steep staircases. No matter how many times you visit, the dark lure doesn’t lose its lustre. Tables are close together, but instead of coming off as cramped, you feel part of something; there’s a stylish camaraderie.

Around your head parades a never-ending flurry of steaming bowls and teetering cocktails ushered forth from an alluring bar, where rows of bottles glow eerily and span the considerable length of the restaurant. It’s all about the mood lighting here, and each design element—the carved teak screens, granite steps, leather booths—seem darkly glamorous in this setting.

Marking the Chinese New Year sense of occasion, Selim Buyuk, the attentive and warm Assistant General Manager, came to our table with gold-traced red ribbons, on which we were encouraged to write our wishes for the new year, before we hung them on the wood panelling. This earnest festive ritual is inspired by the ancient traditions of Lam Tsuen, Hong Kong, where villagers would visit sacred wishing trees to hang their wishes. The effect on Hakkasan—where hundreds of scarlet-and-gold ribbons ornament the chic interior—adds to the restaurant’s already transportive sense of place.

The crowd

No matter how many locations spring up, Hakkasan perpetually remains in fashion. On Saturday night, there’s no table left unoccupied. The crowd is well appointed, the see-and-be-seen type, largely young-ish and notably devoid of the mid-week bankers (but not the air of wealth).

The Instagram-ready Golden Fortune dessert

The Instagram-ready Golden Fortune dessert

The food

Sure, the ambience is vibrant and the vibe swanky and smart, but does the food deliver? In a word: yes.

To be fair, Hakkasan is always good. It formed its status from being new and cool, and is dependable for staying that way: there’s always going to be a new cocktail or a new dish, and it’s always worth trying. That said, this limited edition menu is truly extraordinary, wildly fun and festive without being gimmicky.

Eating fish during Chinese New Year is said to bring fortune, and so it features heavily on the menu. The meal commences with an unctuous Szechuan oyster with lotus root and crispy rice in mantau (a Chinese steamed bun); silky braised beef tongue set off by the crunch of caramelised walnuts; and crispy scallops in sweet plum sauce with mango in bite-sized golden cups.

Service is impeccable, and the mains—served together—include an out-of-this-world baked Chilean sea bass with kumquat glaze; Abalone fried rice in bean curd wrap with Chinese sausage and shiitake mushroom; lamb in seaweed soy; and the star, the expertly cooked wok-fry native lobster in a golden stock with edamame and caviar. Each raw ingredient can be discerned without overwhelming the other notes in the dish, and this equal balance among choice elements demonstrates the mastery of the chefs.

To close out the feast, there’s the Instagram-ready Golden Fortune dessert, in which smooth ginger caramel is lifted with lemongrass and a nice bite of roasted macadamia nuts.

The drink

The Happy Daisy—an exclusive Chinese New Year cocktail comprised of Tanqueray No.10 gin, Chartreuse Yellow, lemon, spiced mandarin jam, egg white and soda water—is a refreshing way to start the meal. But Hakkasan’s wine list isn’t to be skipped. Standout sommelier Paola Giraldo will expertly guide you through its pages.

To complement the special menu, her choice of the 2008 Spanish Can Ràfols dels Caus Gran Caus has a long finish and good heft of dark fruit to handle the spice and chargrill flavours in the cuisine.

In a nutshell

An expertly translated, modern interpretation of a Cantonese Chinese New Year Feast.

Hakkasan Mayfair, 17 Bruton Street, London W1J; 020 7907 1888; www.hakkasan.com

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