Posts Tagged London
Pure, fascinating, appealing ….those would be the words I would use to qualify the Hakkasan in London. Above all mysterious. The end of an alley lost in Firotzvia and always those big cars and those security guys… “do what to sneak a peak?
Then the smilling bouncer with her guest list. Here forget it…….not in the list or table booked hence this is hard door. And then this suspicious black front door, like the hole leading to a cavern……very intriguing and chic. Here we are at the Hakkasan.
Also this long dark staircase. Black colour seems to be a “leitmotiv” in Asia. Some alcoves garnished of huge and stunning strong lilac-purple orchids. Then this reception desk which could remind some trendy Hollywood stars clinic directly coming from Troy & McNamara…..also this double glassing door…some movement on the background….you cross some glamorous people once you open the door….what’s happening behind??
Hakkasan, a Japanese nirvana dedicated to the Asian “gastronomy” of the Rising Sun country, in the heart of London. One of the most famous table in the world granted of one star on the Guide Rouge*. You’ll be “lost in translation” in this place!! Noisy…swarming with people…but overall exciting. The walls, daintily decorated of flower shapes could give the impression of being transported to an Asian food market (hawkers) like the Newton Market in Singapore, or maybe a simple bed room in a nice house in Kyoto…..
I’ve to say, among anything else, the Hakkasan is one of the most famous bar in London, and got one of the most uncommon cocktail list in the world. All the cocktails are just divine. I would advise the Pink Mao Mao, refreshing and light, but above-all this stunning mix of Vodka, Watermelon and Sake (genius!).
At this stage you enter into a universe of feelings and flavors. Don’t expect here the standard french level of one star…”duh!!”. All is about forgetting where you are for a moment in your life. People are shouting all around you, the waiters parade like a procession in a street of Tokyo….this is like any market (trendy) in Japan.
To make the long story short, the owner of the Hakkasan is more than well known from Londoners, as he is is not only running this restaurant, but he is managing the vast empire of Wagamama (noddle bar) and Bussaba Eathai and more recently Cha-Cha moon. Mister Alan Yau plays himself as well in the high quality food restaurant as such as the Hakkasan and the Yauatcha, both awarded of one star on the Michelin Guide. Without any doubt there is a reason for that. The restaurant is currently conducted by the chef Tong Chee Hwee*.
On the “a la carte” menu, you can enjoy various nice things. To my attention we tried the Stir fry venison with water chestnuts, Thai celery and black fungus. I was mostly attracted by the “water chestnuts”, I never heard about it before. It’s called water chestnut mainly because of his shape, which I have to confess, once cooked, could look like a proper roast chestnuts. Those ones would remind somehow the flavour of some turnip, i.e. between something particular and very plain at the same time, but the texture of it is totally different, almost crunchy. The association with the venison is a perfect match. The overall is cooked on “sautée” style and added some oyster sauce and reduced with some kind of “lack” style, certainly strong dark honey. The result is somewhat nice and would surprisingly taste like one of our “European stew”. I would not compare it to one of our French wild board “daube”…but I must admit this is not far away. The water chestnut brings some character to the dish, maybe was I appealed by the round vegetable though.
If you’re adventurous and “gourmet” you’ll certainly want to try the Japanese abalone. Those seafood are very prized in Japan and very exclusive. It could be compare to the french delicacy e.g. sweetbread. This very beautiful shells, when they’re alive are commonly serve to really hype clientele in japan. It is along road to prepare the superb animal. You first have to excavate the inside of the shell, i.e. the mollusk. But this ones are very hard, so you have to beat them to tender their muscles. Once all done, you can cook them.Here it was simply stir fried with chili and soy sauce, and some thin morning glory. the texture of the abalone would remind, after a nice cooking time the texture of our european sweetbread indeed, surprising.
Another one was the Jasmine tea-smoked pork ribs. I maybe never said to you how much I’ve got some favourite meat I love on earth, and among any other meat, I’ve to confess, I couldn’t leave without eating pork. Pork is one of my favourite meat for the flavour and the texture of it. And among any cooking of pork (which I like to prepare with beer and, cloves and cauliflower, cooked for ages to juice absorption – I’ll write a recipe section one day – I have to) I really like the BBQ spare ribs. At Hakkasan you can enjoy the pork ribs steamed in a Jasmine vapour and then lightly roasted with soy sauce. This is just superb. You can really appreciate the smell of the jasmine flower surrounding the meat. The meat itself is cooked perfectly to just literally fall into parts into your fork. Over all it’s a divine creation.
To sum up, what can we say about the Hakkasan? Certainly we can confirm that this is a sensational moment in time. We can also justify the score below to be average for the noise. In Fact if you’re looking for something quiet and romantic, pass your way. This Hakkasan is among all a travel in Asia, more than a quiet and romantic dinning room.
But if you fancy some experience in the best Asian food market in the world in the heart of Europe, there is certainly no other place. Some can argue the one star Michelin. I would, but I can understand why we could put one star on an other hand.
One think to mention as well, the Hakkasan was 19 on 2008 World Best Restaurant list, but I don’t even now how to interpret this such this list is random.
For the service, don’t be surprised if you’ve been told that you have the table for 2 hours only, it’s what we had. It’s actually not too bad as your diner will certainly not last more than that time slot…..it’s very good, quick and loud.
In fact, you should just book a table and go, and have your own opinion.
8 Hanway Place, London W1T 1HD
Reservations +44 (0)20 7927 7000
My ratings :
Food = 7/10
Decoration/Ambiance = 8/10
Service = 6/10
Noise = 5/10
If London has definitely catch up Paris in the last ten years in bringing one of the best french food establishments, it is still difficult to admit that the pure english food has been really brought up to tha same level. Some arrogant french people will just tell you that is simply because there is not english food, and will stay on the conception that “mint lamb” is not good. How pity is that. I’ve understood the english food since I arrive in the UK and I think that I can now confirm that UK concept of food in focusing on the quality of product and the usage of many unknown or forgotten vegetables.
When I first arrive in the UK I was amazingly impressed by the variety of vegetables you can find in a department store. Some old marrow, small ones in different shapes, and colors. Squash, Jerusalem artichokes, turnips, and other else varieties of vegetables that we don’t see very frequently in France. He sounds like in the UK you can find more variety of products?? paradoxical? nope …..recent studies¹ are proving that UK citizen are better than french at cooking…..no surprise on my side, and especially after 5 years in the country. I think is also come essentially from the mixed culture in this country. If we take only London, it’s amazing how you can jump from the best Indians restaurant, to the temple of Iranian delicacy, towards the proper Chinese dumpling, and obviously without missing some of the best french empires. Hence the UK has now reach his high quality level of cooking and here the Ledbury is an example of how British food can be just sumptuous. In 2010 Brett Graham won his second star on Michelin and after a full diner there I can confirm it worth it.
From that nite I can remember some really good stuff, but I had to select only few as I can’t give you to read the Bible.
When we arrived, while we were enjoying our aperitif we had the pleasure of testing the beetroot macaron with foie gras mousse. What can we say here, I’ve tested loads of macaroons from the most exquisite places in Paris e.g. Laduree and Pierre Herme, but this ones are just totally delirious. You can’t imagine how light they are. When you eat them, they just literally melt down into your mouth like a cloud. The beetroot flavor first, lightly sweet and then the foie gras mousse….how can it be richer than that. This was like eating a bubble full of air, and the sweetness of the beetroot was the perfect alliance. “Mise en bouche” or dessert…..I could eat more of those….anytime. Just “Yum”.
At this point in time, I’ve identified some perfection and extravaganza in this first start and I was expecting more to come. I’ve seriously not been disappointed by the second course which seriously confirmed the two stars here.
Squid Risotto!! what could you expect? another hit of course. When the plate been served, the first impression is that we were looking for the squid!! Usually you know how squids are presented, as those long and elastic white tubes (common, boring, tasty, but nothing really exciting, like a piece of plastic). Here nothing like this at all. When I started to eat the risotto, I was already impressed how creamy and delicate the rice was. But at some point I was wondering where was the squids!! and then we all look to each other around the table.
Stunning, and as simple as that, the squid was cut so thin that we didn’t even realized that the risotto was in fact made not with rice, but with really thin and cubic pieces of squid. I can’t even tell if there was, or not, any rice in the recipe. Unbelievable. Stunning, surprising and clever. How can you expect to have a risotto without rice? Just come and try at the Ledbury.
The next one was I’ve to say somewhat “theatrical”. After few minutes left to relax from the “risotto without rice”, then mister waiter came back to the table with a ball of pastry on a wood plate. Surprise!!! I was not expecting that. Then he started to explain what was on the plate. This rounded piece of pastry, just golden by the yoke, just came straight from the oven. Then we’ve been told this has been cooked for 40 minutes slowly at 160 C°. At this stage we were wondering what it could be!!?? hopefully the waiter broke the silence and explain as well that the chef decided to drop a nice size celeriac in some wood ashes and to cook it into a simple pastry. From there the celeriac will not be the usual one you usually dislike or put on the side of your dish. No no no ….this time you’ll love celeriac.
The dressing was exceptional. Once sliced in 5 or 6 leaves for each plate, the celeriac was dressed in a kind of flower frame, then the chef did prepare a nice mayonnaise with horseradish and truffle and some vinegar. The idea was obviously not to cover the nature of the amazing creation. The principle was to obviously get the flavor of the ashes on the celeriac. Once in the mouth it was just a perfect “equilibrium”. The celeriac, being cooked very slowly and long just stayed perfectly firm and reveal his original flavor. Then you feel this “cheminée” flavor, like if the celeriac would have been dropped directly on some coal and cooked on flame. Almost a kind of burning wood essence on the background. And then on top, the truffle with horseradish. The meeting of sweetness and hot, superb with the celeriac.
After this one, I’ve to say, I really confirmed the two stars been reached. This kind of piece of art, even if you think (and you’re right) is not mega expensive, this is just what you can expect from such a high level chef. Just to be surprise by the creation and the efficiency and the combination of the ingredients, as such as the technicality of the cooking.
We followed after with another wonderful Tea-infused venison with roast potatoes, pickled red cabbage and rich port sauce. Same a the previous one, it sounds like the chef like his fire-place and use to cook with ashes. But in this case, of course he will not roll the venison in ashes, but just marinated it into some black tea most commonly known as lapsang souchong. This is giving the incredible flavor of burning to the meat, which I confess is not the easiest choice in a restaurant like this. How dare would you serve some game in such a restaurant, and especially on a testing menu. Just because you know that the lapsang souchong will create a perfect equation to sweeten the strength of the venison, and enhance the dreariness of the cabbage. Just enlighten by some port reduction. Deliciousssssssssss
The Ledbury, a new stunning address in London and I’ve to say the pleasure of enjoying some real english food, prepared in the respect and the standard level of french chefs. I would emphasis that here, by creating and inventing, the English cooking has become an ace and the Ledbury just proved to the rest of the world that english “cuisine” is simply a question of “rediscovery” and that at some point more Ledburys will open. The usage of unused products or forgotten, just as well shows that english food is somehow maybe more diversified and can be therefore maybe be more creative!! Will see how it goes in the next few year though, but I’ll follow closely mister Graham. ;o)
127 Ledbury Road
London W11 2AQ, United Kingdom
020 7792 9090
Another post, another restaurant, and this one has been visited by myself more than one time, for various occasion and I’ll give you my feeling later in the post.
We don’t have to present the master chef Joel Robuchon, most starred chef in the world with currently 28 stars on his own all over the world. He used to run the Relais du Parc in Paris on Avenue Raymond Poincaré. This has been some of the most brilliant rising years of the master chef. I do remember back in the days, the restaurant was like an icon and was very exquisite. Rumours went long and Joel Robuchon started to put his print over Paris by reaching 3 stars in this first restaurant (followed just after by the discrete and nevertheless famous Alain Ducasse). Then Robuchon became the most respected chef in the world and been elected to Best Chef of the Century by Gault & Millault in 1990. I had the chance to go many times to his first London address in Covent Garden.
First of all, I’ve to make a comment about the concept. When you arrive at the Atelier in London, you will feel like if you get into an industry of food and chic. Mister Robuchon literally invaded a full well situated mansion-house in the heart of Soho/Covent Garden area. Perfect location and amazing building. Funny though, the address must be hundred meters from the Ivy – the very hype and famous London old tavern – which can be understood as a French incitement. One ground floor with the Atelier, the 1st floor with the Cuisine and then the roof with the bar. But is there any competition?! I’m not too sure. The restaurant is currently driven by Olivier Limousin.
Barely arrived in the lobby, you feel the vibe of a high standard “food empire”. You notice the Japanese bar kitchen from the Atelier on the back of the main entrance, and then you’re directed to the lift to enjoy one of the most fantastic bar experience. Roof floor, a very cosy and charming bar, quite dark.
There I would recommend the Apple Martini which is at the image of the Chef i.e. a stunning revolution. When you see the cocktail arriving, you suddenly realise that you’re not just in a simple bar, but in one of the best address in the world. The Apple Martini is presented as a “declinaison” (eng = declination) of Apple, in 3 acts. A wonderful champagne glass with the Apple Martini, some dry apple slices and then a crunchy of Eau de Vie de Pommes. (fr = granite a l’eau de vie de pomme). And then obviously the waiter explains that you have to proceed in order, starting by a piece of dry apple, then a spoon of crunchy ice, then finally the Martini. Full sensation here, the full on Apple “bomb” is impressive, bursting out all your senses. Sounds like eating a piece of Apple sorbet stuffed with Eau de Vie. Wicked, tasty, very refreshing, and certainly very hype.
Then from the various times I went to the Atelier/La Cuisine, I would recollect 2 main creations.
One was a starter called crab-meat in tomato jelly and avocado. I’ve to say, I was seriously not expecting that. From the description on the menu, what would you imagine? some Jelly cubes maybe from each flavour? The piece of art arrives served in a half-cut egg look-like pottery, Japanese style, dropped on a dark slate. Very modern, very chic, simple. Then at the first bite, you understand the whole concept.
Three layers of pure creativity. First layer of pure crab meat, fresh and tasty. Second layer of tomato jelly, just spiced with “piment d’espelete”, enough to enlighten the crab. Then the wonderful avocado jelly, soft green and slightly pop up with some horseradish (fr : raifort) and little acid from lemon. This combination of three, beyond making as well a sumptuous colour match (green, pink and red), was just an ace in term of simplicity and a remarkable refreshing starter. One point to mention as well, when I say jelly, don’t be scared of having a very firm sensation on the mouth. Not at all, the texture is more like a dessert jelly or a cream (like a “danette” dessert cream) but this time it’s not vanilla or pistachio, but a far more better mix starter….enjoy
The second course which spotted my attention is uncommonly a dessert. Indeed, you may have noticed that my attraction is focusing more on salty courses than sweets. But I think I’m generally never influenced by sweet things in general. It’s generally always the same thing, ……CHOCOLATE.
I’ve to confess, I’m not a fan of chocolate. For a dessert I would seriously prefer the flavour of an almond tart, or the freshness of a fruit mousse. I found usually chocolate nice, but quite repetitive and sometime very boring. From restaurant to restaurant you always find the Chocolate fondant or the chocolate mousse…again and again. But in this case I was drawn by the name of one on the list i.e. Dome Croquant. Firstly the waiter arrives with a soup plate. A simple mushroom shape made of a massive meringue coloured with real gold, with on top two crazy decorations imitating the shape of two snakes unlaced. Then below the body made of home-made strawberry sorbet (of course). I always knew at this point that I’ll be pleased. I love sorbet (more than ice cream) and I was clearly anticipating the perfect merger with chocolate. But where is the chocolate?? ….Then suddenly the waiter come back and literally flush a serious amount of Viennoi Chocolate on the meringue, hot and very creamy. All of a sudden, the incredible happens, the meringue (made of sugar) obviously melt down into floating pieces or in a mixture of white egg. The sorbet previously invisible starts to appear on the centre of a dark chocolate ocean. Don’t need to tell you how the chocolate dating the strawberry can be!!!….it is just unbelievable. As well as the mix of hot and cold at same time which is just spot on. I licked the spoon till the last drop….and I have to confess, I’ve almost hesitated to lick the plate as well….but Vincent…come on….you’re at the Cuisine from Robuchon…..you can’t do that. It’s not CHIC. ;o0
But I would like to make a statement here. After testing the Cuisine more than just one time, I’ve to say despite of the food being really exceptional, I can’t say the same about the service. The head waiter (maitre d’hotel) is really not very friendly. And the atmosphere is very noisy as well, and this is not what you expect from a 2 stars Michelin restaurant. And having discuss about this with many acquaintances, it sounds like this is a generic comment about the place. I would still recommend it, but not for romantic diner, it’s NOT AT ALL a romantic place. For this reason I still wonder why the place has gained the second star in 2009. Maybe some French withstand from Michelin guide!!L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon http://www.joel-robuchon.com 13-15 West Street London WC2H 9NE, United Kingdom 020 7010 8600