Hakkasan (Brunch), Emirates Towers, Dubai

Oh boy, oh boy. This should be a good one.

Hakkasan is one of the many places that has been on my “must-visit” list for years. Its restaurant in London holds a Michelin Star and I see the name in the same light as the Nobus, the Zumas and the Coyas – high end, solid representations of the original, wherever they decide to open.


I went as a plus 1 on a press invitation with my good friend and fellow-food writer Courtney but a collective groan went round the table when we discovered that it was a “special” menu for the press (this {for some odd reason} usually means it’s a watered down, low-budget version of their standard offering, speaking from experience) – still, we were assured that the food would be a representation of the brand so we went with it.

Normally when I get invited to “event” things, I don’t see the point of reviewing them, but this place failed to live up to expectations so spectacularly, I’m going to break that rule and tell you all about it anyway.

We arrived and were led to the bar where we were offered some prawn crackers and a couple of cocktails to start – I went for their take on the Mojito and it was generous, strong and attractive to the eye. We were told upon entering that there were no reserved tables and to just “sit where you want”, so we found a nice table in a corner and sat down – only to have somebody run up to us and move us as “this area is reserved”. Okay.

We found a table that we were allowed to munch on and got ourselves comfortable. Although the venue is extremely lavish and opulent, there are signs of wear and tear – the seating looks to have been reupholstered a few times and in its current state, it was looking rather scratched and damaged. Also, the banquet seating is way too deep, so both of the guests on our table in those seats requested cushions so to reach the table, which was brought over without a fuss.

The timing for the brunch was 12-4pm and being the good eggs we are, we got there bang on time and it was around 12:15 when sat down after a drink at the bar. At 12:40 we were still munching on our prawn crackers and continued to wait for some kind of food to be presented. When the first dishes started to arrive from the kitchen – it looked good, from gazing around the room – whatever it was, it came in a cloche filled with smoke and you could hear the “oos and aahs” every time it was opened.

By 1PM, the tables to the left and right of us were tucking in and we were still waiting for ours. 5 minutes prior, we’d been presented with champagne glasses and were eagerly awaiting them to be filled, as we’d all been sat without a drink for a good 10-15 mins by this point. The guy with the champagne bottle came round, filled the table next to us – skipped us (!) – then went to the next table then spent the next 10 minutes floating around our table, teasing us with the bottle. We asked the wait staff several times about why we’d not had any food or drinks and even checked with the PR company if we were on some kind of “tier 2” package compared to others, but apparently everyone was supposed to get the same experience, so none of us knew what was going on. Our request to speak to a manager was also denied.

Finally, at 1:20pm we were presented with our champagne and what was under the smoky cloche of mystery – by this time we were all pretty hungry, having all had a light breakfast to fit in 4 hours of supposed eating, so when the cloche was lifted, we were all exasperated at the size of the dish to share between our table of 4:


It was a slice of duck with crispy skin. I say crispy, it wasn’t really; quite rubbery and flaccid. The duck was cooked beautifully though, melted in the mouth and was cohesive with the wrap, scallions and the hoisin – but to serve this, 1 hour and 20 minutes into a brunch where you’ve still only had one drink, is terrible. We complained again about the lack of food and they brought another cloche over, but we were kinda over the first one.

The next dish came around 20 minutes later and was dim sum. The first was “har gow” which is a traditional Singaporean shrimp dumpling and the other was a scallop dumpling. Maybe I’m just ignorant, but any time I’ve ever had dim sum, I’ve always had a condiments to enjoy with it – usually soy sauce. Unfortunately, we weren’t given any with the dish so had to request some and wait another while for them to arrive. When we did sample, they didn’t taste particularly fresh – quite fishy in fact.


I’d asked twice for a beer to no avail whilst waiting for and eating the dim sum to no avail, so I went up to the bar and ordered a round of drinks myself – not something you’d really expect from a restaurant with Michelin pedigree! It was a constant anathema all day – sloppy, slow, unhelpful service and a baffling lack of understanding of English from a few of the staff. Try ordering a “rum and coke” in a Yorkshire accent and you’re in for a bad, bad time.

The next set of courses arrived and we finally looked to have been served up a few decent portions of food. There was a scrimpy portion of octopus that was sweet, crispy but a little uninspiring – tasting of honey and not much else; a Thai prawn curry (I thought it was a Cantonese restaurant?) that was probably the highlight at a solid 7/10; a crunchy bean curd wrapper which to be fair was actually crispy and enjoyable; a hugely disappointing “Sanpei Chicken Claypot” that had little depth of flavour or spice and a poor attempt at a wagyu and truffle pastry roll that was over-baked with overly-thick, oily pastry.

The worst dish by far was the “Chili and Pepper Golden Pumpkin” though. One of the rare occasions where I’ve literally had to spit it out into a napkin to stop me from retching – chemical-tasting and revolting.


After giving up on trying to get any more drinks, we decided to wait for the desserts then head for the bar. There had been some dreadful service and food on show over the course of the afternoon, but I think the biggest insult to the press attendees was saved until last. An absolute embarrassment. The dessert was described on the menu as a “Chef’s Selection” but turned out to be nothing but a few mediocre, non-Asian desserts, most likely picked up from the hotel’s buffet upstairs. Brownies and Macarons? Pathetic.

Photo courtesy of atozaatar.com – inspirational selection of Cantonese desserts.

And that’s that. At 1223 words and counting, I don’t have the strength to write any more.


FOOD: 4/15 – A host of dishes lacking in flavour, sophistication and love.
SERVICE: 2/15 – Slow, arrogant and incompetent.
DRINKS SELECTION: 2/5 – They had a list of drinks available but failed to mention that bubbles were limited to one glass. Just one beer, no spirits and a couple of cocktails that were almost impossible to obtain.
AMBIANCE: 3.5/5 – Music a little too loud but the place was packed and people were queuing to get a table.
DESIGN: 3/5 – Opulent, grand design but showing signs of wear and tear.
VALUE: 1/5 – If the menu really was a true representation of the brunch offering (I fail to believe it was), then it was a joke. Sup-par food, limited drinks and snotty service.

TOTAL: 15.5/50 – Genuinely one of the worst dining experiences I’ve ever had the displeasure of being a part of.

Hakkasan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Leave a Reply