Monday, September 1, 2008

Hakkasan vs Yauatcha - review on London dim sum kings

The next time you chance upon a London guide book, flip to the recommended section for Chinese food in London and you will almost certain to find the two biggest dim sum names in London : Hakkasan and Yauatcha.

Incidentally, both of these restaurants are opened up by the same person (Alan Yau) and have a single Micheline star (the last time I checked). There's where the similarities end. So how do these two Chinese culinary titans measure up? Are they really as good as they are purported to be? Well, this Singaporean finds out.



8 Hanway Place, London, W1T 1HF - Tel: 0871 2238002

Reviews of this restaurant have always mentioned that it is hard to find. I didn't know how bad it was until I spent around twenty minutes milling round the area until I realised that I had walked past the place thrice before. I am (extremely) proud of my navigation skills and that was a huge setback indeed. You can't really blame me, the restaurant's exterior is laid out in such a manner that it's as if it doesn't really want itself to be found. Perhaps it has something got to do with fengshui.

Hakkasan-londonWalking into the main restaurant itself is like entering a dungeon and the entire restaurant is lit up by a handful of strategically placed down lights. With the dim lighting, you can't really see much beyond the food being served to your table, which looks kind of inviting with two 40W spotlights trained on it.

The 'Hakkasan' experience ends prematurely when the food was served. Though it is way better than the Chinese restaurants along Baywater and Leicester Square, it is by no means out of this world. We were surprised that some dishes arrive in melamine plates instead of porcelain or at least ceramic ones.

Hakkasan-londonHowever, there is one dim sum that you must absolutely try - the vegetarian cheong fun. Normally, we would have ordered the char siew (roast pork) variety but we ordered this instead when the former was sold out… at 1.30pm. But the vegetarian variety got us clamouring for more. If only the same could be said the rest of the dim sum.

The typical dim sum goes for £4-5 per serving, which was a bit pricey compared to the many dim sum restaurants that dot the capital, perhaps with the exception of China Tang, which claims to serve msg-free dim sum. We ordered some staple dim sum and a couple of dishes that the waitress recommended. The bill came up just over £90 (inclusive of service charge) and that was without wine.

Hakkasan-londonAll in all, Hakkasan is more about the presentation rather than the food. Unless you are someone who values ambiance above taste, Hakkasan should not be your top choice dim sum restaurant in London.

So how does Yauatcha compare with Hakkasan? Look out for it in the next post.

Read also...
Yauatcha - review on London dim sum king
JoM Makan - the true taste of Malaysia
Melati Restaurant - a mix mesh of sorts

Update: Hakkasan has removed its sharksfin dish (£40 per serving) from its menu following concerns about animal cruelty. ~ 4th Sep 2008

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Anonymous said...

I love this site great thoughts

Anonymous said...

I am one person who appreciates my food rather than the ambience...from your review of Hakkasan, I guess our local dim sums are likely to outdo theirs..:)

eastcoastlife said...

Wah! That's expensive for a plate of dimsum. :P

C K said...

Thanks for stopping by. Cheers!

C K said...

@my bug life,
You'll be surprised. Seriously, I don't think S'pore's dimsum can compare with London's. A number of top HK chefs have migrated to Vancouver and London after 1997 so that helps a whole lot.

Hmm... thinking of writing a whole series on dimsum restaurants in London. Haha...

C K said...

Agreed. Just ignore the ridiculous exchange rate and enjoying my food for now.

Anyway, the pound has fallen quite a bit after the Chancellor remarked that the UK's economy is seeing the worst in 60 years... darn him.

Yang said...

Like all typical Singaporeans, we are constantly looking for look food. Even when we are overseas.

eastcoastlife said...

It's expensive to eat out in London. Buying vegetables and meat to cook a meal is cheaper. Care to do a post on homecooking and show the cost? I want to compare it with Singapore.

Eaststopper said...

Wha! the cost of a meal in the Hakkasan restaurants is enough to put me off. I can't stomach such expensive dim sum.

C K said...

That probably has to do with the fact that there nothing very much else to do in Singapore other than stuffing ourselves silly.

But that'll change when the (two) casinos open up in a couple of years' time. :)

C K said...

True, true. But unsurprisingly, cooking with fresh and healthy ingredients isn't cheap as well.

Got it, will be writing a post about how much it takes to prepare a meal for two in London. Thanks for the inspiration. Cheers!

C K said...

It's not exactly the prices that we're familiar to back home. Anyway, the £90 bill is for three persons if that helps. :)

Come on, you should give yourself a treat after the full marathon at Iceland!

Dutchie said...

ck, eastopper's comment made me laugh out loud ! I do understand his sentiments.

However, food is one's little pleasure, esp when one is far away from the usual source.

Btw, r the eateries in London doing brisk bizz ? In my town it's often very empty n we do wonder how they survive ? I do see my neighbours having take-aways as a treat in the weekends but that is hardly considered fine dining, isnt it ?

I agree with u that ingredients r expensive to come by n making snacks is my only option since China Town is 80km away from our home. Besides, most Asians married into European homes r advised to live with thrift at all times :( !!

C K said...

If only you can send of those snacks that you made over to London... oh well..

Londoners love their food. In fact, they're very willing to fork out astronomical sums for a meal if it's of some standard. A meal at Gordan Ramsey's flagship restaurant cost £80 pp (exclusive of service charge).

Unless you leave in a purely residential district in Outer London, it really easy to find decent eateries here.

80km!? Gosh, that's more than the length of Singapore. :)