Ling Ling is an upmarket latest experience from the Hakkasan Group, a company renowned for Michelin stars when it comes to Cantonese fine-dining. Ling Ling is a little different, a younger and funkier brand, one where the drinks are front and centre and food acts as a support tool.
As big fans of the Hakkasan brand (click for our reviews of both the Abu Dhabi and Dubai locations) we were excited to check out Ling Ling during a recent stay at the luxurious Mandarin Original Marrakech.
The unique bar and nightlife experience has worked so well in party-centric locations such as Mykonos, but why mystic Marrakech? Affectionately referred to as the red city, Morocco’s captivating capital city lies close to the Atlas Mountains, the Sahara desert and the coast. A city steeped in history and culture and one that is forging ahead as a cosmopolitan city, attracting tourists and the luxury sector alike.
Situated in the West Wing of the Mandarin Oriental property lies Ling, Ling. A venue announced only through some rather subtle gold lettering. As a nightlife venue, Ling Ling Marrakech is only open during the evenings and gets livelier as the night progresses into morning.
If you’ve ever dined at one of Hakkasan’s worldwide locations then you’ll notice some of the brands DNA spread throughout Ling Ling Marrakech, from the sleek bar beautifully lit in amber tones, to an expansive cocktail menu representing the very best in mixology. In keeping with the Ling Ling concept, the dining room is skewed more towards a lounge environment where the food is used to complement the drinks, rather than vice versa.
Ling Ling’s expansive terrace is where you’ll want to be, emanating the life and soul of this particular party. The terrace offers pleasing views over the manicured gardens and water filled pools of the Mandarin Orientals expansive grounds. A view that is further heightened with nightfall, when the pathways and trees are illuminated by candlelight.
Being a special occasion on the evening we visited we decide against ordering a la carte and instead opted for the ‘Ling Ling Experience’ tasting menu priced at 780 MAD (approximately AED 305) per person. Promising to provide a selection of Ling Ling’s signature dishes.
While the concept prioritises the drinks over the food (at least that’s what the marketing materials state) our initial cocktails were a little underwhelming. The Mandarin Drop (rum, pineapple, apple, lime, ginger cardomam and cinnamon) was very light and fruity but the consistency was weak, almost as if the drink had been watered down. Our Passionfruit Millionaire (Jim Beam Black Whiskey, passionfruit, grenadine, lemon and egg white) suffered the exact same fate resulting in a rather nondescript beverage with no identifying flavour. In retrospect we should’ve perhaps opted for the signature Ling Ling Collins, a firm favourite at Ling Ling’s Mykonos and Oslo locations.
During the course of our evening at Ling Ling, the food easily surpassed the drinks on all levels. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of dining at Hakkasan, the cuisine at Ling Ling deviates somewhat from Cantonese and into more varied Asian specialties, such as sushi and gyoza.
Inspired by the izakaya concept of Japanese dining our tasting menu began with the supreme dim sum tasting platter featuring steamed parcels of crab, scallop, chilean sea bass and prawn. Each individual dim sum piece is intricately constructed with subtle and well balanced flavour combinations and the visual appeal matches the taste with the steamed parcels arriving in vibrant colours of orange and green, adorned with gold leaf and caviar that really helped to emphasise the five-star location.
Both the crispy duck salad supreme and the Mongolian lamb gyoza continued the run of impressive dishes with the duck salad prepared table side and adorned with pomelo and bejeweled pomegranate seeds, bringing a hint of sweetness and a varied texture thanks to the incorporation of pine nuts into proceedings. The poultry really shone through with the duck given the same treatment as the Peking dish found as a signature dish on the à la carte menu at Hakkasan.
The gyoza, a substitution for the vegetarian black truffle maki which was unavailable on the day we dined, were another highlight. Half steamed and half fried, the gyoza shell gave way to a beautifully spiced lamb mince that came across as more Middle Eastern than Asian.
The main courses didn’t quite match the quality of the starters with the exception of a sticky and gloriously tender Seared Mongolian lamb rack presented in a generous portion. The Dover Sole with XO sauce was uneventful, with the fish under-seasoned and the sauce lacking the expected punch. The Seafood toban was a sweet curry style dish that rounded out the main courses nicely.
Diners are given free reign of the dessert menu and while we admired the ambition of the chocolate dim sum and its ties to the concept, trying to make a dessert out of a savory staple suffered in texture, with the cinnamon and orange infusion overpowering the chocolate. That said the chocolate and hazelnut parfait was a real winner, thanks to the near perfect combination of salted caramel and hazelnut croquant.
Considering the price point, notoriety of the Hakkasan brand and Ling Ling’s position inside one of the worlds most luxurious hotel brands, we expected a little more attention to detail. Napkins with holes and missing cutlery, combined with service that ranges from hesitant to robotic didn’t quite live up to the promise of the food.
While Ling Ling revolves around a nightlife concept, the food is what caught our attention. With a number of standout dishes (the crispy duck salad and Mongolian lamb rack) we’d go so far as to say that the food at Ling Ling actually surpasses that of the Hakkasan branches we’ve tried – no easy feat considering the calibre of the food and notoriety of the brand!
Location: Mandarin Oriental Marrakech, Route Du Golf Royal, Marrakech, Morocco
Social: Instagram / Facebook / Twitter
Hours: 7pm – midnight (1am on weekends)
Phone: +212 5 24 29 88 88