Try the REAL taste of London at HKK in Shoreditch

05 Jun 2016

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears and I’ll let you in on a little secret about London’s vibrant food and drink scene. When it comes to top-billing restaurants nowadays, there seems to be very little ‘middle ground’. It’s either simplistic minimalism in extremis, or at the other end of the spectrum, full-blown theatre.

HKK, flagship of the Hakkasan group, with Michelin-starred Head Chef Tong Chee Hwee taking a starring role however, strikes the happy medium rather well.

There is no a la carte option here, and the whole premise is based on tasting menus. For me, I like to mix and match my dishes depending on the mood I’m in, so I was slightly dubious at the outset. Nevertheless, HKK was the stage and Tong Chee Hwee and his team were the players. It remained to be seen whether they would receive a standing ovation at the end.

The said minimalism comes in the form of the décor at HKK, which unlike Hakkasan, has a calming yet City-like edge to it, making it right at home in its EC2 postcode. This does not however, detract from the warm and cordial vibe that greeted us on a chilly winter’s day.

The theatre element can clearly be found in the eight to 15 course tasting menus comprising of intricate and elaborate Chinese dishes, both in the structure of the food and the way in which it is presented at your table.
On this occasion, we were there to indulge in the Duck & Champagne menu (available Saturdays from 12pm – 4pm at £49 pp) and before too long, my somewhat negative tasting menu preconceptions were all but a distant memory as Act One’s moreish Blue Crab Salad paved the way for the star attraction, the Cherry Wood Roasted Peking Duck.
The first serving comes with steamed black truffle mantou and Imperial caviar after which the sesame pancakes make a welcome appearance. The surprisingly peppery yet sweet duck skin (to be eaten with sugar and hoisin sauce) and then breast, is carved by the chef in the centre of the room with an old-school cleaver which adds to the performance.

The next cameo is made by the Duck and (ever so tender) Abalone Supreme Stock with Egg Fried Rice, followed by the refreshing duo of Nashi Pear with Champagne Mousse and Champagne Sorbet Cotton Candy. Oh, not to forget the actual half bottle of Champagne itself (Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV Champagne, France 12%).

The whole evening was seamless and the attentive staff didn’t miss a trick throughout. And we even saw the evening’s chef pop out on more than one occasion to talk through his night’s work with some of his adoring fans.
The theatre, the cuisine, the ambience, heck the whole experience, is just a little more delicate and refined than the original Hakkasan. And that’s saying something, as those regular visitors to the London institution amongst us can attest to.


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