Ling Ling is synonymous with Hakkasan. Its presence is in every Hakkasan restaurant across the globe, from Hakkasan Hanway Place in London, where it originated, to Hakkasan Shanghai and Hakkasan New York. However, the late-night lounge still retains its mysterious atmosphere, with much of its history at Hanway Place an enigma.
While much of the original Ling Ling remains – it is still cloaked in darkness, just as it was at Hakkasan’s inception, with leather furniture, black and gold traditional Chinese panels, and flickering candlelight – the design has changed exponentially over the years.
When Hakkasan Hanway Place opened in 2001, Ling Ling, situated within the belly of the basement restaurant, more closely resembled an exotic, seductively lit Chinese library than the sophisticated lounge it is now, with shelves lining the walls packed tightly with books written by Vivienne Tang, bright red in colour.
It was lit with a blue light, which bathed everything in a deep oceanic hue, although it was dark and the many cigar smokers that frequented the Ling Ling contributed to its sultry, underground atmosphere. The floor was wooden, and a large mirror lit behind with red light hung from one of the walls. Music from Shanghai played in the background, and the Chinese-style leather furniture – grey as opposed to the black it is now – was decorated with authentic Chinese sewing, in one case a depiction of a huge dragon that curled around the back of the sofa to reach up with its tail around the armrests.
The waitresses, known in Hakkasan as the ‘Ling Ling girls’, catered solely to the occupants in that area, serving guests a late-night menu of dim sum and expensive after-dinner cognac and whisky. They dressed in Issey Miyake red dresses, upon which were stitched the Chinese symbol for ‘Double Happiness’, an auspicious sign meaning ‘joy’.
Every Hakkasan has an area that is referred to as the Ling Ling, each emulating the first: lively yet secluded, frequented by people who want to enjoy the night to its fullest and most complete.
Ling Ling, a new experience by Hakkasan, launches this July in Mykonos, Greece. It has evolved while remaining resolutely close to its hedonistic and decadent roots. It is inspired by the izakaya made so popular in the East – neither restaurant nor tavern, bar nor nightclub, but something deliciously in between – with a dedicated menu of smaller plates of Cantonese cuisine, an innovative cocktail list, and an eclectic soundtrack, mastered by Hakkasan’s resident DJ in London, Pathaan.
To celebrate, Hakkasan restaurants around the world are offering a taste of Ling Ling with limited edition menus and a signature cocktail.