HKK Chinese New Year


When I first visited the finest fine dining outpost of the Hakkasan empire, HKK, which opened about two years ago, I was hugely impressed. Replacing the slick semi-informality that has become the Hakkasan chain’s USP with a quiet sense of contemplation that might have suited a religious establishment – as suits somewhere located, appropriately, on Worship Street – it offered breathtaking food, not just the best Chinese I’d had in London (or anywhere outside of China itself) but some of the most sophisticated and intelligently ordered cooking I’d experienced. The inevitable award of a Michelin star seemed less of an honour and more a recognition that it richly deserved.

Whenever I revisit somewhere that I’ve had a wonderful experience at, it’s always with slightly mixed feelings. On the one hand, I’m inevitably excited; to remember a place as being exceptional is always a pleasure, and the hope is that it lives up to its billing once again. But on the other, there can be the sense of disappointment; a restaurant resting on its laurels might be very nice for them, but it can let down its visitors in no uncertain terms. I once again asked the Cap’n, my dining partner the previous time, to accompany me; a stern, no-nonsense sort of cove, he would have none of it if things were not shipshape and Bristol fashion.


Well, spoiler alert, but it was every little bit as good as it had been the previous time; better, if anything, because we were sampling a more varied and interesting menu. It had been especially designed for Chinese new year and was a ten-course romp through various Chinese cuisines, ranging from the Lu cuisine of Beijing (cue exemplary cherry wood-roasted Peking duck, one of the specialties of the house here) through the Min cuisine of the Fujian district (the ‘Monk Jumps Over The Wall’ soup, a delicacy that can incorporate shark fin, although here features abalone and sea cucumber) to a succulent Zhe Wagyu beef with Merlot. From an uneducated Western perspective, there was nothing here that will challenge palettes unduly, but plenty that will stimulate and inform them; it does one good to try new food anyway, but trying dishes of this calibre (and, blessedly, the right size – one does not want to feel stuffed like a barrage balloon) is a real treat. The Cap’n and I made merry noises of varying approval and pleasure throughout. We must have sounded like two sealions being fed at the zoo, but it troubled us not.

When it comes to tasting menus and wine pairing, I’ve noticed a growing trend for restaurants to fall into one of two categories. The first – which may, for whatever reason, have some residual doubts about the quality of some of the dishes – offer a gargantuan amount of wine per course, which can lead to gaiety and jollity, or alternatively lead to obliteration around the time of the cheese course. The second, which takes the attitude that the food is the main attraction and that the wine supports it, rather than the other way around, is exemplified by HKK. We were given some utterly superlative wines – the 2013 Stepp Pinot Noir that came with the marinated pork and duck courses was perfect, as was the Wagyu beef’s delectable 2010 Chateau Simone. However what they were not were large measures; in fact, the menu estimates that a wine pairing over 10 courses represents around 380ml per person. Which may or may not be fine for visitors depending on their alcoholic intake, but at £58 each, the temptation might instead be to order a couple of decent bottles and let them accompany the menu as it progresses. Chacun a son gout. 


Yet this does not detract from a truly wonderful experience. HKK is an establishment clearly firing on all cylinders still, serving up breathtaking food with aplomb, and this almost casual demonstration of why it’s the best Chinese restaurant in London is a very fine thing indeed. I look forward to future visits with great glee.

HKK, 88 Worship Street, London EC2. Website.