Dinner at Hakkasan was planned as a quasi-Chinese New Year celebration, but really more of an excuse to work my way down my (long) list of London 'must-eat' restaurants. In the beginning, the forbidding entrance had me on guard - there were a couple of black-clad bouncers and a snooty door bitch with a clipboard, blocking the door to undesirables ie those without a booking. But then I tottered down the steps of the former underground carpark into an impressively glamorous interior.
I think the restaurant is the best of West and East. From what I could tell, the clientele were mainly moneyed, glamorous Westerners, as probably no self-respecting Asian would pay double the price for food they could possibly get in Chinatown. The gently attentive service was definitely Western trained. On the other hand, the dim light, intricately wood-carved screens and overhead fans were reminiscent of the decadent opium dens of Shanghai, and the menu was authentically Chinese (with a few random Thai and Malaysian dishes??).
Martin and I shared deliciously delicate vegetarian dumplings, sticky tea-smoked ribs, a perfectly crispy flattened pi pa duck, the 'vegetarian' chicken stirfry (made of beancurd, but so convincing!) and a claypot of the silkiest tofu imaginable with aubergines and bitter melons stuffed with pork and prawn. We continued our conversation at the busy bar (and a special mention to the ultra friendly service from the bar staff) and tried some excellent cocktails - lemongrass for him, a non-alcoholic one called 'Washed Potatoes' (why?) for me. All in all, an immensely enjoyable experience, and this restaurant is well deserving of all its accolades.