Until recently it seemed that all of the exciting new restaurants opening in London were either so hyped that reservations were essential months in advance or they refused to take reservations at all, resulting in queues a mile long with no guarantee of getting a table. This is all well and good in the right circumstances, I happily made my reservation for Dabbous five months in advance and waited in line at Pitt Cue Co for over two hours, both of which resulted in fantastic meals. However, these restaurants are of absolutely no use when you need a guaranteed table at a set time and at short notice.
As a result, most of the recent openings in London are entirely unsuitable for a business lunch, something which requires a booking and in most circumstances a convenient location, a fairly quick turnaround and a sensibly priced menu. I often find myself stuck for ideas in this situation and end up going somewhere I wouldn’t choose to go on my day off.
Well not any more. I went to HKK for lunch a couple of weeks ago and I absolutely loved it. It’s now my business lunch venue of choice and I would recommend it to anyone. I’m told that it’s equally wonderful for a lengthy relaxed meal in the evening and I can’t wait to find out for myself.
HKK opened in December last year. It sits in a faceless glass building on Worship Street, just a few minutes walk from Liverpool Street Station. The food is Cantonese style and the options include an a la carte menu, a number of tasting menus, a duck menu and a lunch menu. We went for the lunch menu as we were in a bit of a rush and it was advertised to take less than an hour. It was also a bargain at £28.50 for four courses.
There are two lunch menus, meat and seafood (I’m quite sure a vegetarian one would also be available on request) and the waiter was not at all sniffy when I asked to mix the two.
We started with a crispy duck salad. It was exceptional, as was everything else I tasted. The portions were small but perfect for a four course business lunch. The crispy duck was beautifully presented, topped with delicate leaves, shredded beetroot and tiny balls of dragon fruit and melon. It was a great combination and a light hoisin dressing brought it together perfectly.
Next we had the HKK supreme seafood soup, which is a lobster broth with shredded prawn and crispy noodles served on the side. I’m guilty of thinking soup can be boring but this certainly wasn’t, the broth was packed with flavour and the juicy sweet shrimp and crunchy noodles gave it a great texture.
The third course was jasmine tea smoked Wagyu beef with egg rice. I’d never tried Wagyu beef before, it’s always so much more expensive and I’ve been told that what you get in England often isn’t the real deal. It was therefore a nice treat to see this on a set menu. We got four delicate chunks of this delicious tender beef, covered in a sticky Cantonese sauce and served with a potato crisp, two glazed carrot chunks and a perfect sphere of egg fried rice. My regular order Chinese takeaway order is fillet steak Cantonese style and this was the gourmet version. Faultless.
Richard and I have been having lunch in London every couple of months for the last three years and we both agreed that this was the best yet, by a long way. The service had been excellent; fast and unimposing but with care and personality. The venue was also great, it was fairly formal and there were plenty of suits at the tables but the soft seating and muted grey tones made it comfortable and relaxed at the same time.
By the time the dessert came we were well and truly sold. The salted cashew nut & milk parfait was just the icing on the cake. I wolfed it down so quickly I forgot to take a pic!
If you like Cantonese food and work in the City, I think you will struggle to find a better place to take a client, contact or friend for lunch. If you do know of somewhere better, I want to know about it!