8 Hanway Place,
London W1T 1HD
Tel. 020 7297 7000
Food type: Chinese
Food rating: 4/10
Nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road
A friend of mine once tried getting a summer job at a Chinese takeaway. Pretty straight forward you would think – after all he is a medical student (and thus has half a brain) and is Chinese. He did not get the job. You see, when he showed up for an informal interview with the owner, they soon realized that he could not speak a single word of Cantonese OR Mandarin. He was after all a British born Chinese (or BBC). The moral of the story here is that communication is important – with your clientele and with the kitchen, so speaking only English was simply not good enough.
So why have I bothered telling you that story? You see, coming to Hakkasan I was pretty shocked that none of my servers could speak a word of Cantonese… or Mandarin… or any Chinese dialect for that matter. I am not referring to the pretty blond Polish girl serving us, but the Chinese waiters (yes there was more than one). This is honestly a first for me, and I dine out quite a lot. Perhaps I have taken this language thing for granted. I mean, every French restaurant I have been to, there will be a waiter who speaks French (or at least English with the charming French accent). The same with an Italian, Japanese, Indian restaurant.
But is language very important? Well, in my opinion it is. It struck me when we were sat down and wanted some tea. Our waiter offered us a tea menu written in both Simplified Chinese and English. The problem is that the name of Chinese teas are as exotic as the leafs themselves and don’t translate well into another language. At best the hidden meaning of the names are lost, at worst, they are incorrectly translated. Not an actual example, but the tea Tie Guan Yin is often translated as ‘Iron Goddess of Mercy’ – sounds pretentious and poofy. Imagine the pain I was in when trying to order a pot of tea spouting words along the lines of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (Ok so I’ve exaggerated a bit). Oh and before I forget, you order tea by the pot – no free hot water top ups.