Opulent colours of red and gold and ornate carvings are the usual sights in Chinese restaurants, but this Hakkasan-owned joint came on the scene in late 2012 and changed the Chinese fine dining scene almost immediately, earning itself a Michelin star within a year of opening. HKK is all cool greys and muted colours and it is the touch of bright pink orchids decorating the bar that stop it from being too boringly corporate for words.
I first visited HKK on the date that the sprog was due to make his entry into the world. I was sulking at the fact that he hadn’t arrived and hubby, who truly knows the way to my heart, proposed a slap up lunch and before he could change his mind (or worse, suggest a trip to Nandos!), I had us booked into HKK for lunch! They offer a thoroughly decent 3-course set lunch as well as a far more decadent 7-course tasting menu, but that was something I certainly couldn’t have fit in, so we went for the smaller option, much to the relief of the staff I’m sure!
What I loved is that the set menu showcased some of their signature dishes, too often the signature dishes don’t make it on to the special menu and you’re forced to eat a la carte, but here they know exactly what you want and offer it up! We started off with the Dim Sum trilogy and Seafood soup for starters, the former more of a success than the latter. The Dim Sum were all beautifully delicated created and came with a paint brush and soya sauce, so you didn’t run the risk of a dumpling dunk and overpower the delicate dim sum flavours! My soup was creamy and rich but I couldn’t detect a great deal of seafoody ness in it, it was simply a warming bowl of soup.
The Peking Duck is their signature dish and since we both wanted it, we broke one of the biggest blogger commandments out there and ordered the same thing (I know! Blame the pregnancy hormones!) and I can admit it, I was glad we did as it was fantastic. The skin was crispier than you think it could be and the meat soft and juicy. They tell you to start with the skin with a sprinkling of sugar, the piece of duck and finally the pancake filled with juicy duck and hoisin sauce and it’s all melt in the mouth gorgeous. The side of vegetables and rice is much needed to fill you up and without them, you’d still be feeling hungry as the portions are not all that filling to date.
We end with a very pleasant peanut parfait with lime, which keeps you feeling like you’ve had a light, tasty meal.
Before I even had time to write all of this up, Square Meal invited me to partake in a special Blogger tasting dinner and wanting to get my greedy little hands on the full tasting menu, I of course said yes! All the courses came complete with matching drinks, but with the baby at home, I didn’t partake and stuck to just my glass of fizz that I started off with. How times have changed huh!
We kicked off with a prawn and foie gras croquette which was such an unusual flavour combination, you’d be forgiven for not realising we were in a Chinese restaurant as it totally breaks with what you’re used to. The flavours were perfectly balanced and delicious and I think the perfect size, as I don’t think I could have eaten more than one of these!
The Dim Sum and soup were as I remember it and with the Dim Sum, I did sneak in a few sips of the matching ‘Bitter Fortune’ cocktail, a deliciously sweet blend of Aperol, Tanqueray and Rhubarb liquor. I’d not had rhubarb liquor before and it was delicious, I’ll be keeping an eye out for it to see if I can find it myself in the shops to do some cocktail experimenting of my own!
The pork belly stuffed in a mantou bun was a unique spin on the traditional Chinese roast pork bun and it won high praise around the table for its rich spicy flavour! The starters are all delivered in perfectly sized morsels, all designed to tantalise the senses but not fill you up too much!
It’s all for the best really as there are 3 mains coming up – first of all, the famed cherry wood duck! We watch the chefs make short work of demolishing the duck with their sharp knives to plate up and served with a Pinot Noir, this has the table reeling with the dish and drink’s sheer fabulousness. I feel terribly smug as I’ve had it before so my adulation is reserved for the next two courses – although none of what is to follow seems to be to be terribly Chinese in flavour. The wild seabass is beautifully cooked and flakes apart at the gentlest hint of a fork and the Wagyu must have come from one happy animal as it’s incredibly tender and again, cooked to perfection.
However, I am in a Chinese restaurant and while I may be applauding their creative direction and undoubtedly fine food and service, I can’t help but hope for a dash more of the Asian continent to be making its mark on the dishes.
Since this is a tasting menu, there’s not one but two desserts and the black sesame cream at least seems to be Chinese inspired. It was easy to devour although I did think the sesame cream could have been slightly more chilled and it had a delicate flavour to it, perfectly balanced by the accompanying lemon sorbet.
The pumpkin cake had a touch of spice to it and since this is autumn and pumpkin is very much the fashionable spice of choice, the pumpkin cake was very on trend, although again, I couldn’t detect any hint of Asian flavours there. Asian desserts may not be to everyone’s taste, but growing up in Malaysia and Singapore, I thoroughly enjoy the weird and wonderful desserts (the weirder the better) and I felt that more could have been done to adapt the flavours of my childhood into something palatable to a discerning London audience.
I missed out on the final Ginger truffle dessert as the night was calling me to get home, but I think the meal for me ended at a perfectly good time.
HKK may not be as traditionally Chinese as anything you’d get in Chinatown (and thank goodness for that) but it felt even a bit further away from China compared to its other sister restaurants in the Hakkasan group – Yauatcha and the Hakkasan’s. But it’s been a while since I went, so perhaps it’s time for another visit, just to compare and contrast of course!
Have you been to HKK before? What did you think?