These days we're all terribly concerned about authenticity. To succeed, a restaurant should really only offer the cooking and ingredients of its native country, sourcing locally and seasonally, and naming bits of meat and vegetables alike (provenance, dontcha know?) all over the menu, like we need a relationship with the cow at this stage. The only problem with this quest for ever-more 'authentic', 'real' cooking is that it doesn't acknowledge, doesn't even begin to touch, the average punter's craving for a Chinese. Or an Indian for that matter.
So starting from the premise that variety is the spice of life, that a little of what you fancy does you good and that one can only face so many authentic roast dinners before falling face down in the gravy, Haiku is potentially a very good thing indeed. For those who love a good complicated restaurant concept, here's a humdinger. Haiku originally hails from Capetown. And instead of serving authentic antelope and zebra steaks, you go there for the pan-Asian tapas-style menu. That's right - pan-Asian. We're talking Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian, all in sharing portions. And the South Africans, they loved it. They loved it so much, they brought it over here to the centre of town and said 'Stop buggering about with your ramen bars and lunchtime dim sum - lookie here, we've invented pick-and-mix'. Well, we all know they didn't invent it at all - that was Woolies - but still, you've got to hand it to them. You take four of the most complex, intricate cuisines in Asia, no, on the planet, cherry-pick the most popular, well-known bits and ignore anything too unfamiliar and complicated, stick them all on one menu and invite people to come and have what they want, crossing borders and plates without the aid of a visa and a safety harness.
So the only real question is does it work? Well, infuriatingly for the purists, it does on quite a lot of levels. There's a certain childish thrill to choosing nigiri, followed by Thai fishcakes, throwing in some duck cheung fun and tandoori lamb chops and rounding it off with kulfi and no-one telling you to stop messing with your food. The service is smart, chatty and mostly quite slick, and the wine list is serious, although there are some good house wines, reasonably priced. More importantly, the food works. The kitchen has to be very skilled indeed to be turning out a menu that encompasses nigiri, sashimi, wok dishes, curries, dim sum, naan bread and teppanyaki and robata grills. But all dishes are distinct and mostly well-made: duck cheung fun are slippy chopstick fun, beef teppanyaki is rare and succulent, depth added with the accompanying mushroom mixture. Toro nigiri is freshly made, the rice still warm and the tuna nicely fatty. Wok-fried salt and pepper calamari is reminiscent of monkfish in its meaty, tender texture.
So any negatives? Well a couple. It's easy to get carried away ordering which means the bill can mount quite quickly, and with the average dish around £8, that's quite a bill. The restaurant itself is dark, with the windows oddly, and inadvisably, covered with dark wooden slats - ok the view isn't the most prepossessing, but in the summer they might struggle to lure the punters in. The bar is downstairs - you need night-vision goggles to visit - and consists of a few seats along the bar, rather than an alluring place for a natter and a martini before dinner. But these are minor quibbles when the rest of it is rather fun. And it does solve a lot of arguments over whether to have Chinese or Indian tonight.
15 New Burlington Place
0207 494 4777
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