The concept of travelling vicariously through food isn't new. I often look up recipes from exotic places that I long to explore but am unlikely to visit soon. Travelling across China is one such dream but it is a little low on the priority list. When HKK (part of the Hakkasan Group) offered me an opportunity to experience China through a ten course taster menu created specifically for the Chinese New Year, I simply could not refuse. The menu promised to take me on journey across the eight provinces of China that were most influential from a culinary perspective.
Up until now, my experience of Chinese cuisine was limited to food cooked by Chinese friends, and the sometimes westernised recipes that I'd tasted at restaurants across the UK and Asia. My mind and my belly were open to more authentic epicurean experience. As with most 'invitations to review', I was a little concerned that my judgement could potentially be clouded by the focused attention I would receive and that feeling of gratitude for being offered the experience. I took my objective thinking friend Raahil along as I knew that even if it was rubbish, she would give me an honest view.
We started off by ordered cocktails, I chose the Floating Goddess and Ra ordered Red Lotus. They were both tallish drinks that lasted us through most of the meal. You also have the option of going for a wine pairing course to go with the menu. As it was school night, we gave that a miss, as well as the temptation to have another cocktail.
We sat down to eat just before 7PM and finished well after 10PM. Each course was beautifully presented, with the steward recounting the history of the dish and its culinary origin. Ra chose a semi-vegetarian option which meant we got to see two different versions of the menu. Everything we tasted was new and different to anything we'd tried before, and they all had a certain element of showmanship. Think colourful dimsum served with a paintbrush to 'paint' sauce on and a teapot containing a yuzu infusion to pour over chocolate dumplings. The Roast Peking Duck was one of my absolute favourites; the skin of the duck was perfectly glazed and crisp, and the meat cooked to perfection. It was definitely the best Peking Duck I'd ever had.
By the time we'd got to the fifth course, I was *stuffed*. Despite each course being quite small, they were surprisingly filling. I had to ask for a bit of rest period before we went on to the next course. The staff gently encouraged us on saying the best was waiting for us at the end. And they were right, that final item on the menu was Sheep's Milk Mousse and Pandan Curd with Caramelised Puff Rice which didn't sound like something I'd like at all but turned out to be exceptional (and not strongly milky as I'd expected it to be).
By 10:15 PM, I could have really done with a cherry picker to take me back to my hotel, I was so full! So was Ra. And she loved the entire experience as much as I did. As with many grand things, this experience does not come cheap. But at £98 for ten courses, it works out to less than a tenner per course. I'd highly recommend it for a special occasion or a celebration. And when you do book, make sure you eat very little all day!
The Chines New Year menu is available until the 28th of February and full details can be found on the HKK website.
P.S: All photos courtesy HKK as mine simply didn't do the food justice.
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