Yauatcha then and now
It has been ten years since Yauatcha, located in the Richard Rogers Ingeni building in Soho, London, first opened its doors.
When the restaurant opened in March 2004, Chef Cheong Wah Soon, celebrated chef at Hakkasan and dim sum master, supervised in the kitchen. He still does, in the role of Chef de Cuisine, alongside Executive Head Chef Tong Chee Hwee, the chef heading up all the London restaurants in the Hakkasan Group and the person who has overseen Yauatcha’s menu from the beginning. The interior, designed ten years ago by French interior designer Christian Liaigre – with its blue glass, slim tropical fish tank bar and starry ceiling in the basement dining room – is now synonymous with the restaurant.
The design of the pale green china teacups, chosen by Hsieh Chih Chang, the noted Taipei tea mistress, remains the same as it did all those years ago. As do the teahouse staff uniforms; designed by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon art director, Tim Yip, the uniforms of the teahouse staff are predominately white, with low slung sashes and intricate stitch-work.
One notable change is in the wine glasses. At the beginning, wine was served in beautiful tumbler glasses with yellow rims. Unfortunately, guests didn’t feel comfortable drinking wine from glasses without stems as they were more reminiscent of water glasses, so a decision was made by management to change the glasses to ones with stems. What many didn’t realise is that the glasses now used in the restaurant as wine glasses (with stems) are in fact designed to hold water.
The design of the restaurant has also changed, although not dramatically. The bar on the ground floor used to be the rather large pastry kitchen. This is now located in sister restaurant HKK, meaning that the Yauatcha’s ground floor is larger, allowing for guests wanting to enjoy an evening cocktail.
The restaurant has naturally evolved over the years, with subtle changes to the design, layout and menu. But, more tellingly, a lot of Yauatcha remains resolutely the same, steadfastly staying true to its roots as a contemporary Taipei teahouse.
Tenth birthday celebrations
To commemorate Yauatcha’s 10th birthday, a series of celebrations was held over the four weeks focusing on four iconic offerings of the restaurant: the Chinese kitchen, teahouse, patisserie, and Champagne and cocktails. Four of the resident experts in the restaurant – Executive Head Chef Tong Chee Hwee, Senior Bar Manager Eder Neto, Executive Pastry Chef Graham Hornigold and Group Head Wine Buyer Christine Parkinson – each came up with a secret off-menu item that was publicised over the restaurant’s social media accounts. The industry experts had their week documented on Yauatcha’s Twitter account, with facts, videos and behind the scenes photographs.
Ten limited edition flavours of macarons, each one representing or influenced by a unique aspect of the restaurant, were created and sold throughout September for £10. A digital interactive infographic was created to showcase both the memories and experiences that customers Tweeted and Instagrammed over the four weeks and the social media updates from the restaurant itself.
Secret menu items
In the first week, Executive Head Chef Tong Chee Hwee created a delicious dim sum platter to celebrate the Chinese kitchen. The trilogy consisted of a Wild fungus and pomegranate dumpling, a Lychee scallop puff, and a Spicy lamb and fig dumpling.
Senior Bar Manager Eder Neto chose the Eight Butterflies green tea as the teahouse’s secret off-menu item in the second week. The tea had flavours of cranberry, rose petal and chrysanthemum, and paired excellently with the spicy Chinese cuisine.
Executive Pastry Chef Graham Hornigold and his pastry team created an autumnal patisserie for Yauatcha’s patisserie week, the Pumpkin Caramel. It consisted of soy caramel puffed rice, a roasted pumpkin choux bun filled with pumpkin, vanilla cream and pumpkin compote, with a spiced crunch topping and crystallised orange.
For the final week, Head Wine Buyer Christine Parkinson collaborated with Bollinger to create a Champagne cocktail with a difference, the Shēngri Fizz. Shēngri translates as birthday in Chinese, and this was the perfect cocktail to end Yauatcha’s celebrations with. A glass of Bollinger Rosé Champagne was served with two miniature jugs of mixers – one filled with lemongrass, rose liqueur, lychee juice, liquorice bitters and Tanqueray gin, and the other filled with strawberry and raspberry liqueur and accompanied by a floregano (oregano flower). The Champagne was to be enjoyed first on its own, then with the first jug added to create cocktail number one, and finally with the second jug added to create cocktail number two.
It is the Shēngri Fizz cocktail that tells perhaps the most valuable story of Yauatcha. When the restaurant first opened ten years ago, the only Champagne served by the glass was pink. The pink complemented the royal blue of the interior, and very quickly the colour became associated with the restaurant. While the Champagne list has grown exponentially, it still remains that pink is very significant – immediately evident in the logo, the cutlery and the cocktails amongst other places. The addition of the two jugs of mixers signifies the gentle growth of the restaurant.
It is a cocktail that evolves, created for a restaurant that is continuing to evolve.