Hakkasan’s arrival in Dubai adds yet another name to the city’s ever-expanding inventory of glittering restaurants. If you detect a hint of cynicism, I’m sorry. I’m grateful that these big names are being exported to my doorstep, because flying back to Hanway Place in London for an 8pm booking is, quite frankly, ridiculous. So why am I not more excited? Is it the food? Not at all – I’ve just finished a very satisfactory meal. The decor, then? No, the tried-and-tested contemporary Chinese chic of the restaurant looks fantastic.

‘Tried and tested’, you say? Maybe this is it. Hakkasan Dubai looks nearly identical to Hakkasan Abu Dhabi and, dare I say, very similar to the other five Hakkasans currently in operation around the globe. Yes, there are three times as many Nobu restaurants in the world, many more Ramsay restaurants, a handful more Rhodes restaurants, and so on and so forth, yet from my experience it seems that Hakkasan lacks the variation from restaurant to restaurant enjoyed at these other high-end franchises.

This isn’t a problem, it’s simply an observation, and people who know what they like and like what they know will love Hakkasan. In many respects, I am one such person, which is why my date and I ordered the
dim sum platter, featuring six pretty parcels of plump scallop shumai, prawn with chives, and black pepper duck (as long as these heavenly Hakka gems keep coming out of the kitchen, I don’t care if there’s a Hakkasan on every street corner). There followed a flurry of dishes – squat baby bok choi with a light showering of oyster sauce (too many Chinese restaurants feel the need to drown dishes with the stuff);
a clay pot bubbling with gently braised tofu, aubergine and slender shiitake mushrooms bathed in light chilli black-bean sauce; and another clay pot brimming with fat prawns and scallops. We had also ordered the stir-fried ostrich out of curiosity. How and why an ostrich was unlucky enough to find its way onto a Chinese menu is beyond me (the Asian ostrich became extinct around 10,000 years ago), but while the lean, chewy meat was interesting, it was ultimately unexciting. It’ll teach me not to veer away from the ‘tried-and-tested’ Hakkasan favourites.

By the time we’d licked every last plate and clay pot clean, I noticed that our mild-mannered waitress had become marginally less attentive now that the restaurant was beginning to fill up with sharp suits and short skirts. This isn’t to say the service at Hakkasan is bad, it just lacks the charisma of The Ivy or the attentiveness of newly-opened Gaucho. But the biggest surprise came at the end of the night, when I decided to take a look outside, only to discover the marvellous terrace divided by Ming-style partition walls and lined with comfortable sofas and low tables. When I booked my table, I hadn’t been offered the option of sitting outside. Perhaps the al-fresco tables were all booked that evening, but even if this was the case, the terrace should have still been brought to my attention one way or another, because it’s the highlight of Hakkasan Dubai – the one surprise of an otherwise unsurprising dining experience, and one that sets this restaurant apart from the rest of the Hakkasan empire.

The bill (for two)
1x Sparkling water
1x Dim sum platter Dhs95
1x Tofu claypot Dhs55
1x Seafood toban Dhs120
1x Stir-fry ostrich Dhs185
1x Jasmine rice Dhs15
1x Pak choi Dhs40
1x Chocolate pavi Dhs45
Total (including 10% tax and 10% service charge) Dhs708