Liberty Private Works – Hurry before he becomes the next big thing
I had an email from LPW to confirm that the kitchen will continue to operate after the Exchange Square restaurant/bar opens. Thank the lord.
A complete stranger felt compelled to tell me about the fabulous meal he’d had at a new chef’s table back in September 09. I was at a gallery preview of some rather self-indulgent black and white, semi-porno photograhs and this chap was the most interesting thing about the whole affair.
Unfortunately I was about to go deep field for a few months and so have only just had the opportunity to go to Liberty Private Works. And thank the lord I did! Renovation work is already underway in a space in Exchange Square and chef Makoto Ono is not sure whether he’s going to be able to keep Liberty operating as well as the new mega-resto.
On to the experience:
Food: Set menu, which suits me perfectly. I’m a busy, harassed bee and have to make far to many decisions every day already, so the mental overload that occurs when I have to then tackle the choosing of what I want to shove down my gullet sometimes diminishes the whole experience of enjoying my food. I’d much prefer to leave it in the capable hands of a trained master, and believe me, Makoto Ono is that.
Unpretentious, well-executed, super-tasty, pleasingly surprising, playful food. He looks proper pleased when you like his food, when you appreciate his taste and texture combos. The guy and his team are genuinely and seriously good.
What did we have? Home-cured gravlax, plumptious scallops, beautiful beef, local sea bass, asparagus, fruit compote, tomato jelly, all sorts, and all beautifully balanced.
Drink: Doesn’t get better than this. They do have a wine-list and bar, but you can bring your own wine and don’t have to pay corkage! Bloomin’ marvelous.
As it was gorgeous boy’s birthday, I snaffled a bottle of Ruinart Rose champagne (HK$498 and maybe the best widely available punk out there folks) and a wonderfully good value Torbreck Woodcutters 2006 Shiraz (HK$288) into the restaurant earlier in the day – some of his favourite vinos and perfect choices for an eclectic 6 course meal.
My wonderful Coutt’s concierge had these put by at Rare&Fine Wines on the edge of Queen’s Road West, so I just swooped in, was strong-armed (!@*&?) into a swift tasting of some lovely New Zealand wines and then barreled off down the road to deposit them at LPW pre-meal, with boyf none the wiser. Brilliant party trick that. Many brownie points garnered and lovely to get one over on “He-Who-Usually-Stores-Surprises-Up-His-Sleeve”.
BTW – I do highly recommend Rare&Fine Wines – check em out.
Ambience & Service: Usually I would review these two aspects separately, but because the only people you interact with are the team of Makato Ono and his sidekicks Albert and Claire, I have to consider them together. Liberty Private Works is super small and intimate. The space is maybe 400 sq-ft in total. That’s it: 14 bar stools, bar area/kitchen, team of 3 chefs and a blackboard.
The chefs are respectful, sweet, attentive, easy-going, bloody talented, happy to chat and tell you exactly what you’re getting. Makoto even started doing the washing up whilst waiting for the actual washer-uppers to arrive – and I don’t think he was indicating that it was time for us to leave, I think he just has pride in his kitchen and isn’t worried about getting stuck in.
Just a really chilled, welcoming, happy atmosphere of people making good food and other people enjoying that food. We were a real mixed bunched that evening. Me and the boy, another HK couple, a gweilo/HK business foursome, and an HK/mainland business six-some. Nice.
Hope I’m not boring you with the gushing praise…Anyhow, more good news to come.
Cost: $620 per person. Jeez, you could go to most outlets in So-Lo and spend that on three courses. I would have paid double. Couple that with the $0 corkage and it’s worth the 3 storey climb.
Location: 3F, 12 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong. (Opp California Fitness). Tel +852 5186 3282. email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Liberty’s future is uncertain my dear readers. The night we went Ono-sama told us that they’d swung the first sledgehammer of the renovation of Aria. Yes, this chef who left Beijing because our Northern Friends still aren’t quite able to let go of historical umbrage and shunned his Japanese restaurant (woop woop HK’s gain), has the backing to take over a large, prime piece of banker/lawyer territory in Exchange Square. And, whilst I agree that this town could do with a restaurant that crafts its French onion soup over an 8 hour period, and that knows how to produce a decent Caesar salad (both stated aims), I can’t help crying into my bubbly and raising my hands and eyes to the sky in exhortation that this surely isn’t the only ambition of the man? In Hong Kong. At the moment. Ono is one seriously hot property.
Readers: Dine with him before he hits the big time and you potentially lose him to soup and salad.
Makato Ono: Do not sit back and drown in a vat of HK mediocrity: let the 5* hotels concentrate on comfort food. You sir, need to keep pushing the envelope.