Dinner for the judges of the sparkling wine review was held at Hakkasan, the famed Chinese/fusiony restaurant. This was my first time here, so I was quite looking forward to it.
By any standards, Hakkasan is an incredible restaurant. It is staffed by beautiful people, who run the place with astonishing efficiency. They have to, because this is a sizeable operation, running a two-sitting dining room (we arrived at 7 pm on the dot, because we only had our table until 9 pm – a polite request for us to leave was made at 9.30), and it’s packed out.
The décor is just about perfect. Clever use of lighting means that it is atmospheric, but not dim, and there’s lots of dark wood and clean lines. The noise is problematic, but then it also serves a useful purpose: the tables are very close together and without it, you’d feel a bit self conscious.
Hakkasan have nailed the three key elements of a good dining experience. First, the staff were impeccable, and service was first-rate, including brilliantly attentive work by the sommelier attending our table. It can’t be easy working a dining room like this, but they did it very well.
Second, the wine list is one of London’s best. Not only does every wine deserve its place (this is a true wine geek’s list, with an eclectic, well chosen range), but it is also imaginatively laid out, with each page containing several whites and reds arranged by a theme (for example, biodynamics, or old vines). This is creative and inspired.
Third, the food. We ordered a dozen dishes between seven, and shared them. They were all wonderful. Even though we had full bellies by the end, we would have liked to continue. I particularly enjoyed an interestingly spiced pork belly, and a sensitively flavoured dish of abalone.
Criticisms? Only the two-sitting policy, really. This isn’t a cheap evening out, and the early sitting is just a little too early, and the late a little too late. And it would be great to see the wines marked up just a little less than they are (a fairly standard high-end London margin is applied, which means they are expensive), but that’s possibly asking too much.
What did we drink?
Reguengos de Melgaço Alvarinho 2009 Vinho Verde, Portugal
Very fresh and pure with white peach and pear fruit. Focused with lovely presence and balance. 89/100
Sepp Moser Gruner Veltliner Breiter Rain 2008 Kremstal, Austria
Beautifully full with bold, intense melony fruit and hints of pepper. Real persistence and nice texture. 92/100
Joguet Chinon Les Varennes du Grand Clos 1995 Loire
This was a bottle I’d bought along, from one of the last of Joguet’s glory years before things went a bit off the boil. Aromatic, earthy, spicy and perfumed. The palate is mature, spicy and earthy with lovely elegance: it may be Cabernet Franc, but it’s almost Burgundian. Nice cherry fruit still there. A fully mature wine that should be drunk now while it offers a great deal of pleasure. Expressive. 93/100
Urlar Pinot Noir 2008 Gladstone, Wairarapa, New Zealand
This is a delicious young, full bodied Pinot Noir with reach, meaty, spicy dark cherry and plum fruit. Lots of presence and admirable freshness with cherries, plums and spice on the palate. 91/100
Fernando de Castilla Amontillado Antique NV, Spain
A brilliant, brilliant sherry. Slightly cloudy, this started life as a Manzanilla. It’s complex, dry and intense with nuts, vanilla and herbs. Mouthfilling and dense with dried citrus peel and iodine, too. 94/100