When choosing a restaurant for a dinner, I always try to think what would be different than the usual London circuit of the Ledbury, or the Square? I enjoy both of these restaurants, and the food is usually faultless, but something refreshing, something exciting was in order. In step Hakkasan Mayfair. We first came here several months ago with plenty of bottles – none other than a perfect bottle of Armand Rousseau Ruchottes Chambertin 1983 stole the show that night, together with the exquisite signature tasting menu.
After that last time, we had to come back again. The food so greatly impressed us, and the ambience and service made for a perfect evening.
So, modern Chinese cuisine with Burgundy? Sounds like a usual night out in Hong Kong! It was a lot better than any usual night in Hong Kong. This dinner at Hakkasan was the type that made you feel all warm and grateful for the job you had.
We started off with what is my favourite grower Champagne. I am still not accustomed, or more correct in favour of using ‘grower’ before Champagne, but you get the picture (they don’t say ‘grower’ Burgundy do they?). Marie Courtin makes several different cuvees that will knock your socks off. We drank the Concordance 2009, a 100% Pinot Noir (blanc de noir), with no dosage or sulfites. I opened it six hours before dinner and it was tight, but by evening it was all velvet and depth. Fascinating fizz. I am happy that we will be importing from this small but brilliant Domaine. Let’s see how much will get to my own cellar and how much to our customers…
I thought of Champagne and the bad image it has of popping a bottle for a party, which is completely unjust to all the small wine makers there. The big houses and their aggressive marketing is the cause of this. The ‘growers’ make Champagne that is to be drank with food, and not enough wine lovers do this. Choosing a Champagne for dinner should have the same consideration as a normal wine.
The ‘Concordance’ nicely matched the vegetarian dim sum plate – crystal dumpling, vegetable shumai, yam bean and shiitake dumpling and vegetable beancurd roll.
We then moved on to a white wine I had been waiting for, the d’Auvenay Meursault 1er Cru Goutte d’Or 2001. D’Auvenay is the heaven of the heavens, and this wine was no different. It’s concentration was ridiculous. It was a wine that was so good it was humbling. Blind it was unmistakably a Grand Cru, and an epic one too. Our guest correctly guessed the producer and the vintage – big bravo! He also said it must have been either the Chevalier or the Criots. Ah the Goutte d’Or. In a class of it’s own. This wine goes into my top few whites ever drank, and the others are Coche Dury Corton Charlemagne 1996, Coche Dury Meursault 1er Cru Les Perrieres 1990 and DRC Batard Montrachet 1996, so big company.
We drank the Auvenay with the Peking Duck and Beluga Caviar – which has to be the definition of hedonism! I think only a scribe of the likes of Byron can really describe what it was like.
I have fond memories from Beijing of eating the real Peking duck. I frequented several times a particular eatery in Chaoyang next to the 798 Art District, with my Chinese friend Hao Yu. That simple eatery provided me with some of the greatest food experiences I’ve ever had, together with another small eatery in Qingdao and a micro sushi joint in Kyoto. To describe what I ate in these places is another story, but basically I am excited if anything will tingle a memory from one of them. The Peking Duck at Hakkasan is modern and brilliant in it’s own way. Try it.
Leaving a bit of each wine in the glass James the brilliant sommelier brought out the next bottle, none other than the Trimbach Clos St Hune 1990. This wine was faultless, and had bundles of energy that captivated you. At age twenty two the wine seemed like it had a long life ahead, and evolved so much in the glass. It really was spectacular. We drank this with a delicious dish of roasted Silver Cod in Champagne and Chinese honey.
Other dishes from the tasting menu that came out were: Grilled Chilean seabass in Chinese honey and Three style mushroom stir fry with gai lan, lily bulb and macademia nut.
By the time the Grilled Wagyu beef with enoki mushroom arrived it was time for the big gun, the DRC La Tache 1996. The aromatics had never ending complexity. The depth of this holy wine was unimaginable. And amazingly it was still very primary. This was a great experience, but honestly I would only open a bottle in at least ten years, to fully experience what the bottle has to offer. I would love to feel what the wine would be like when wooing and alluring me with it’s secondary and tertiary, but that will take some time.
The last dish to come out was perhaps my favourite, together with the Peking Duck & Caviar combo. It was Jasmine Tea smoked chicken. Devastatingly good.
After much swirling and revisiting the earlier wines, desert came and so did a bottle of Tokay. I couldn’t give it much attention as I was wholly focused on the other, heart stopping show of wines. It did match the deserts rather well – Baked egg custard tart with roasted banana, rum and raisin ice cream and Chocolate orange pot with bitter chocolate mousse, spiced oranges, orange sorbet and salted chocolate cardamom sauce.
So did the food match the wine well? Yes it did. It was certainly not your usual French style affair, it was wholly different and certainly unique. Everything was in fine tune at Hakkasan Mayfair – the food, atmosphere and service – especially perfect wine service, which was the best I’ve ever had in a restaurant. It truly was a memorable evening.