Ritz Carlton, Tosca: An unholy mess of a restaurant
The poor chef at the Ritz Carlton’s Italian eatery Tosca must have been gutted when he first saw his restaurant space.
Usually a chef will at least be able to rely on the decor and ambiance of his restaurant to enhance his diners’ experience, and help balance out any glitches in the food. Here at Tosca, the food was going to have to be unfailingly excellent to keep patrons’ eyes and minds off the shockingly awful interior design.
Unfortunately, the food was not quite able to stand up to the task.
First things first.
The Space: There is no way you will every forget you are in a hotel restaurant here. It’s a giant hall of a place. The one feature I did like was an absolutely enormous silver chandelier. However, once you see the chandelier you then have to look at the ceiling above it, and you realize that whomever the designer was, they forgot about the ceiling and left it looking like the roof of a conference centre. Sloppy.
Interior Design: I am just not eloquent enough to describe the sheer atrociousness of the restaurant interior. The closest I can get to is that it resembles the absolute worst of China’s super-sized sauna lobbies. Everything is an assault on the eyes. There is not one thread of coherence running through the entire space.
There were blue neon lights, red standard lamps, turquoise glass water features, turquoise glass wall panels, brown marble floors, wooden paneled fascias, fret-work ceiling panels, chromed wine-fridges, black banquettes, red and gold striped chairs, purple glass tableware, spangly reflective ornamentation and grey linen table cloths.
The number of different textures, colours and materials used was just mind boggling.
Pet Peeve: The seats. There a number of banquettes running the width of the restaurant serving around six tables each. Because they are not attached to the floor and are lightweight, this means that when any of the other people sitting on it tap their feet or push against it in any way, every other dinner has to endure their seat moving too. I spent my entire meal lightly vibrating because the woman sitting on the next table was continually tapping her heel on the floor whilst pushing back into the banquette.
Service: Efficient bordering on over-efficient. After ten minutes I had to stop the waiters from topping up our water glasses after every single sip.
Also, even though my companion and I were in the full flow of conversation, every time they put a dish down and we’d thanked them for it, and then re-started our conversation, the waitress would proceed to talk over us to introduce the dish – she showed absolutely no discretion in deciding whether it was an appropriate thing to do.
If I’m having a tasting menu multiple courses long, then this kind of thing can be useful. When I’ve chosen what I’ve ordered and it amounts to two dishes, I don’t need to reminded what it is as though I have the mind of a goldfish. Just back off.
Unfortunately, my starter was rubbish. It was meant to be artichoke velouté with a crispy egg and black truffle shavings. Not one element of it had been seasoned and the whole thing was just a cloying gruel. I suspect that the truffle was either not ripe or old as it had no scent and no flavour. Not a good start.
My sea bass main came, and was raw. Don’t get me wrong, I often enjoy fish rare, but literally half the fish was uncooked and stone cold.
The replacement fish arrived after my companion had finished his main course, but was very tasty and beautifully cooked when it finally did come. Served on a spring onion fondant and with buffalo mozzarella, it was an unusual combination that I enjoyed.
My companion was luckier: he had a tasty onion soup to start and a very good piece of steak for his main.
So, unfortunately the food was rather a mixed bag.
Drink: There’s a good selection of wine by the glass, and the Sardinian red that my companion had was very good.
Price: We paid $1688 for two with the only booze being one glass of wine. I expect those prices in a 5-star hotel, but then I also expect the food to be faultless and the decor to not be channeling Katie Price’s subconscious.
Location: The Ritz Carlton, above Elements Mall, part of the ICC building in West Kowloon. 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Tel: (852) 2263 2263
Summary: Wild horses wouldn’t drag me back for dinner.
Note: I’ve realized from looking at photos on the internet what the issue with the interior is. The design is actually fine in daylight (although those water features are still vile), it’s just at night that everything falls apart. Look at the photo in daylight through the link here and you’ll see what I mean.