What? Part of the Hakkasan Group, HKK opened at the tail end of 2012 and was awarded its first Michelin star less than a year later. Leading the kitchen is Executive Head Chef, Tong Chee Hwee, who revives and modernises classic dishes, telling the story of Chinese culture through fine dining with a touch of drama and lot of flair.
New? No, opened back at the end of 2012.
Where? 88 Worship Street, Shoreditch, EC2A 2BE, www.hkklondon.com
On the Menu: The 8-course menu is an interpretation of the ancient and extravagant Emperor’s feasts, which used to last several days. Here several days is concentrated into several courses instead – this isn’t one to drop in for, you’re going to want to set aside an evening to savour it. The menu starts with the Emperor’s Bite of Spring – a spring roll filled with king crab, white truffle and winter bamboo shoot all in a glimmering gold roll. It finishes with the Century Egg; a take on the Chinese thousand year old egg, made with a sesame mousse, hazelnut and coffee.
First Impressions: From the road, HKK is unassuming, just another glass panelled wall, it could quite easily be walked passed without realising what is inside. Inside the mood is much more relaxed than Hakkasan which has an excitable energy running through it. For a Tuesday evening in the City the restaurant was busy though, albeit most of the diners looked as if they were on business trips or holding meetings.
The Look: With straight lines and big open spaces, HKK is minimal and slick, if a little neutral and verging on corporate. Tables run around the edge of the room, with a bar at one end, whilst white pendants hang above a station in the middle where dishes were given their final touches. To celebrate Chinese New Year, Wuon-Gean Ho, a British Chinese artist-printmaker has designed a series of bespoke banners which tell the tale of the emperors and their elaborate feasts. Printed on Japanese shoji paper, the jade-coloured banners (the colour synonymous with Chinese emperors) are decorated with gold leaf which has been applied by hand.
What We Ate: Following on from the Emperor’s Bite of Spring, was the Monk Jumps Over the Wall – a soup named after a story in which a monk jumped over the wall in order to try the soup, which is made with abalone, sea cucumber and ginseng – good but not as memorable as many of the dishes to come.
Entitled Touch of the Heart, (I think ‘The Way to my Heart’ is probably more appropriate for me) the dumplings were plump, meaty, gelatinous parcels of sheer joy – the favourite being stuffed with sea bass and shrimp. The fourth course saw a chef preparing Peking duck in front of us, before it reappeared with a lick of hoisin sauce. Crisp skin and breast meat topped a mix of silky foie gras beneath and the other sticking to the more classic cucumber sticks and sliced onion. It worked beautifully with a sweet 2010 J.J Prum Riesling.
Served atop dry ice, the Eight Treasure Chicken was a parcel of guinea fowl, ginko nut, mushrooms and mangalica ham – heavier than the other dishes, it had a rich, woody, almost autumnal flavour. A Kumquat carrot cake provided a sweetness from whipped vanilla cream, whist also refreshing the palate with tartness from the kumquat. The feast finishes with the elegant Century Egg; a light, purple-grey sphere of sesame mousse, hazelnut and coffee, decorated with gold leaf. Dishes are exquisitely produced, each coming out more artistically presented than the next – it’s just as much a feast for the eyes.
What We Drank: The menu can be accompanied by a beverage flight or an orchard flight – so can still work with Dry January, although if you’re going to fall off the wagon then you might as well do it spectacularly with an eight-strong list. Particular favourites were the pisco served with honeydew melon, celery and ginger – a fresh drink with zing that worked wonderfully with the dumplings and a 2015 Moscato d’Asti, which was sweet yet light the perfect accompaniment to the Kumquat and carrot cake.
Go With: Given the location, HKK is ideal for business dinners, when you have someone you want to impress – in that sense it is great for a date too. The 8-course menu is running until the 11th February so get booking!
Final Word: Other restaurants in the Hakkasan Group are celebrating Chinese New Year; Yauatcha will be celebrating Chinese New Year through the colour red, the colour that symbolises good luck and joy. You’ll find 10 different petits gateaux each decorated a vibrant shade of red, alongside a red cocktail using the Chinese spirit baijiu and a red dim sum dish. Hakkasan will celebrate the Year of the Rooster with a limited edition menu, exclusive cocktails and puddings, they’ll also be inviting their guests to write their hopes for the year and to hang them on the lattices.