I'm so enjoying trying new restaurants and bars in London. I'd say I was definitely one to get stuck in a little bit of a rut and tended to go to the same handful of places each time a night out was arranged. Which is crazy really when one of the huge bonus points that London has going for it is the variety and quality of places to eat and drink.
Tonight I was catching up with Mary who I'd not seen for a few weeks due to respective holidays. We had dinner booked for 7pm at HKK so had a couple of cocktails in their sister restaurant, Chrysan, beforehand.
This is a new and very modern bar which is a little hidden away from the bustle of the city.
My cocktail of choice, a Himitsu, was citrus vodka, blackberry and raspberry liqueur, maple syrup and Marmite. An interesting and rather punchy combination!
I don't normally wear t-shirts on a night out but today was Red Nose Day and I wanted to wear my little Marilyn number, designed for Comic Relief by Stella McCartney. So I dressed it up with a pencil skirt and heels and I think I got away with it.
As you may have seen from past posts, I do like to give a rating to the ladies toilets. I hate a bad toilet especially terrible low-lighting that most modern loos seem to have these days (obviously designed by men...). But a special mention has to go to the toilets at Chrysan. Automatic lid, heated seat...and this massive control panel!
I'd never seen anything like it! A massage, on the toilet? I made the executive decision not to play with all the buttons and go to dinner.
HKK is a new Cantonese restaurant near Liverpool Street and the latest venture by the Hakkasan Group. There is no menu as such - it's a 15 course tasting menu format only (an 8 course option for lunch). We weren't aware of this when we booked but, convincing ourselves it was a special occasion (we'd not seen each other for almost a month!) we decided to proceed. This was exciting! Although not for our bank balances...
And so it began with a Four treasure Iberico ham wrap - ham wrapped around homemade tofu, yam and a nameko mushroom served with wolfberry sauce. I wasn't blown away but I'm not a big lover of ham generally. But look how pretty it looks!
The chef carved the duck in the middle of the room with an enormous cleaver and it was arranged beautifully on the plate.
The dish arrives with the suggestion to eat the skin with the sugar and hoisin sauce, some breast with more sugar and then the pancake.
Mary and I are huge fans of a duck pancake and this one was in a class of its own. I could have eaten so much more but there were still 12 more courses to come!
Now I'm not going to talk about every course - my food reviewing skills aren't the best and I don't want to bore you - so I will just show you the highlights of the rest.
Here is the Poulet de Bresse and dried scallop soup which came with the garnish - four goji berries, five petals of Chinese chrysanthemum and a Chinese squash - placed on a separate spoon for us to infuse the soup at the table.
The following was one of my favourite courses - the trio of dim sum. One, because they were so delicate and tasted amazing and two, it came with a paint brush...
The artist in me got very excited about this concept! Have you ever painted your food in sauce?
Gai-lan is a crunchy Chinese broccoli served here with shimeji mushroom and lily bulb - a kind of onion - in XO sauce (I only know all this because they gave us a dated copy of the menu to take away, stamped by the chef). Who'd have thought broccoli could taste so good?
The wok-fried Scottish lobster served with yellow bean sauce and noodles was another highlight.
The lobster was so tender, the sauce delicious and the noodles delicate.
This was the best palate cleanser I have ever had
Osmanthus flower jelly, water chestnut cake served with Da-Hong-Pao tea (a rare tea from the mountainous region in South-East China). Suitably refreshing.
Four more mini main courses came and went - fillet of monkfish in Louis Roederer champagne sauce, homemade pumpkin tofu (Mary wasn't a fan), Jasmine tea-smoked Wagyu beef (winner) and the steamed razor clam with chilli, mui-choi glutinous rice.
By this time, I was definitely ready for something sweet. We were served two dessert plates.
This was the pineapple fritter with salted lime jelly, vanilla ice cream and a poppy seed wafer
Deliciously crispy fritter and the ice cream was beautiful and creamy.
And finally, a selection of petits fours.
The service here was extremely good which I understand is usually the case with Hakkasan restaurants. As we had a further reservation later on, they were kind enough to slightly speed up the service for us so we were on time. The full 15 courses took about two hours in total.
It was a remarkable meal and a real experience. The balance of dishes was great and even after all that food you don't come away feeling too full up. If you like your Chinese to be spring rolls, duck wraps and chicken and cashew nuts then this is probably not the place for you (try New World in China Town!). But for a special occasion or a real gastronomic adventure, I couldn't recommend it here enough.
The full menu:
Wax Jambu was once a lively cocktail bar on Upper Street, Angel. Only a few months back we had these incredible cocktails there
Sadly, it closed down a few months ago - I'm not sure why. But they are back!
Hogo Shake Up is a pop-up bar above the William IV pub on the backstreets of Old Street. The pub itself is surprisingly nice (you wouldn't think so from the outside) but we headed up to the first floor where Hogo Shake Up will be holding fort for the next couple of months.
The room is small and dimly lit with around ten or so tables. Candles flicker and a jug of water is already waiting for you when you sit down. I immediately loved the laid back but buzzy atmosphere and the guys played a great mix of music from their Ipods. The service is incredibly friendly and informal.
The menu is predominantly rum and whisky based but there is something there to suit most tastes.
I felt compelled to order the Nixon's Nefarious Goblet: El Dorado 3 and 5 year old rums, fresh pineapple syrup, grapefruit sherbet, Vanilla de Madagascar, fresh genadine, lemon and lime juice.
Just look at this little baby
It was as delicious and fruity as it sounds.
Mary went for the Ladies Sidecar - Monkey Shoulder whisky, triple sec and lemon juice topped with rose champagne. Another winner.
This place has a delicious cocktail menu in a unique and personal setting. The perfect place to chat the night away and we ended up staying until closing - about half past midnight.
It's only here until 1st May though so don't leave it too long to pay them a visit!
All in all, a cocktail and Chinese feast of an evening.