Posts from the “Candy” Category

Zinfandel’s, Zagreb: Tasting Menu

Zinfandel’s, Esplanade Hotel, Zagreb – 6.10.2012

Adriatic langoustines, bloody Mary Granitte, coconut rolls.

Fois gras terrine, wild berry semifreddo, Istrian summer truffle brioche.

Langoustine consommé, fresh Adriatic shrimps and coriander.

Risotto, asparagus disc, frog legs and truffle juice.

Sole fillet, truffle, roasted asparagus pie, brown nut caper butter.

Veal, ox tail croquettes, horseradish foam.

Lemongrass panna cotta, tangerine sorbet and orange bisquit.

Extra course:

Rabbit roulade, artichokes confit, broad bean paste.

Quay, Sydney Tasting Menu

Quay Tasting Menu – 6 January 2013

Sashimi of local lobster, bergamot, green almonds, grapefruit,   elderflowers

Salad of preserved wild cherries, albino and chioggia beetroots, radish, crème fraiche, violets

Line caught iki jime Tasmanian squid, squid ink custard, society garlic, pink turnips

Smoked and confit pig cheek, shiitake, shaved scallops, Jerusalem artichoke leaves

Hawkesbury free range chicken cooked in Vin Jaune and cream, steamed brioche, egg yolk confit, truffle

Poached Rangers Valley beef, bitter chocolate, black pudding, morel, ezekiel drubs, shaved mushrooms

Andalucia citrus and almonds

White nectarine snow egg

A Good Thai in Kowloon City: Saeb-E-Hleelub Ped

Review:

There are so many Thai restaurants in Kowloon City (hence its epithet Little Thailand), that it’s a bit pot luck which one you end up at. Faced with so many, you wander around and end up just plumping for one that catches your eye, most of the time. Open Rice is not much help as there are about a gazillion reviews for hundreds of restaurants, and no handful of restaurants stands out.

After a couple of disappointments using the zen navigation-technique of choosing restaurants, I finally struck gold in the form of Saeb-E-Hleelub Ped (?!).


Food:

thai_kc

First off, the restaurant serves Thai sour sausage which immediately puts it in the top 10% of Thai restaurants in Hong Kong.  If you’ve never had these slightly fermented, coarse and garlicy pork sausages, trust me, you are missing out.

Secondly, all the food we had was really tasty and authentically hot. It’s standard Thai food, nothing fancy, just well executed.

A solid menu that’s not too long, but includes all the staples and favourites.

Drinks:

What you’d expect in a simple Thai restaurant; lots of juices and sodas on offer plus Thai and international beers. Loved the preserved lemon and honey hot tea that I had, and Mr H had the same but iced.

Service:

Reasonably quick service, with each dish brought out separately. Very friendly female staff – Canto and Thai – sporting some flamboyant sartorial choices that added a certain panache to the proceedings. Ordering using English was not a problem, and the menus are bilingual.

The Space/Ambience:

It’s a Hong Kong canteen style restaurant: plastic stools, laminated tables and melamine crockery. Loud and jovial.

Price:

Mr H and I had four dishes between us with a couple of drinks each. The bill without service came to a ludicrously reasonable HK$222.

Location:

You’ll find the restaurant at 27 Nam Kok Road, Kowloon City. Tel: +852 2716 2938

Summary:

I’ll happily go back here until I’ve exhausted the menu before going out and searching for an alternative Thai in Kowloon City. Fabulous value, friendly atmosphere and most importantly good food.

Berowra Waters Inn Menu

Berowra Waters Inn Menu – 5 January 2013

Sydney Rock Oysters, Cucumber, Ginger & Dill

Confit of Ocean Trout, Smoked Milk, Dashi & Wild Rice

Vegetable Garden, Pumpkin & Licorice

Roasted Duck, Peach, Lavender & Fennel

Slow Cooked Rib of Beef, Potato Terrine & Braised Cos

Gippsland Triple Cream, Caramelised Red Onion Sorbet, Celery & Walnut Crumb

Tropicana

Monachyle Mhor Hotel: A little slice of Scottish heaven

 

Review :

Chances are that when you rock up at an unassuming boutique hotel on the edge of a Scottish loch far from civilization and there’s a helicopter sat on the lawn, you’ve probably found somewhere worth the journey.

Loch Voil is just an hour away from both Glasgow and Edinburgh airports in the less visited part of the Trossachs National Park. It’s a stunning landscape of glens, babbling rivers and forests, and is steeped in the history of Rob Roy McGregor, made famous by Daniel Dafoe and Sir Walter Scott, who lived, fought and died here.

Far down a single track road, which is barely marked on the map, the Monachyle Mohr estate has been owned by the Lewis family since 1983. It’s a real family run business that has been built up with hard graft over the intervening years to bring it to where it is today – a lovely boutique hotel, a working farm producing quality meat and veg, an award winning restaurant, and owner of a host of other business in the area including Mohr Bread (a bakery), Mohr Fish (a fishmongers and restaurant), and Mohr Tea (a tearoom).

 

Monochyle Mohr

On our visit, we stayed in one of the feature rooms in the old granary on the ground floor across the courtyard from the main, rather startlingly pink house. It was a spacious and warm, wooden-floored bedroom with a homely gas fire, a steam-room, and a very comfortable bed. It didn’t have much of a view, but that was hardly a deal breaker as it was the only bedroom available when we booked just the day before.

When we arrived, lunch had already finished but we were offered door-step sandwiches and huge mugs of tea in the cosy lounge in the main house instead. Just what we needed after a long, wet drive from Grantown-on-Spey way up north in The Highlands.

What we had really come for though was the promise of a great evening meal, as it was the award winning restaurant that attracted us in the first place when it had appeared in Mr H’s internet search for “best Scottish restaurant”. The subsequent discoveries that the hotel itself was rather wonderful and the location so stunning were purely bonuses.

Using local game, the farm’s own grass-fed, dry-aged angus beef and lamb, and vegetables grown in the garden, Tom Lewis prepares wonderful food from the ingredients available on the estate, and from the best fish and seafood Scotland has to offer.

 

Mhor CourtyardI can understand why people fly in from the city by seaplane or helicopter for lunch to enjoy the likes of Perthshire spring lamb, mustard celeriac remoulade, chantenay carrots with juniper jus, or crispy hen’s egg, new season’s white and green asparagus, with lemon sorrel – we certainly weren’t disappointed with what we were fed.

As ours was a bit of a whirlwind tour around Scotland we only had one night to stay in the Mohr, so we left wanting more. You could spend days wandering the countryside, fishing the loch or birdwatching, and the estate manager Alan will take you on safari to tell you the history of Rob Roy and to spot the local wildlife – well worth the money for a morning of exploring.

Sent on our way at noon the next day we were given a hearty packed lunch of sandwiches, fruit, local cheese with homemade oatcakes, and even a butter knife each from the restaurant. As we drove away and came to the end of the loch we spied a for-sale sign on a piece of land, so promptly took down the details for further investigation. One way or another we’ll definitely be back to Loch Voil and The Mohr to experience this little slice of Scottish heaven again.

Price: Rooms start from US$312 per night.

Location: Balquhidder, Lochearnhead, Perthshire, FK19 8PQ. Tel: 01877 384622.

Website: http://mhor.net

Nahm Bangkok – food to get on a plane for

Review:

I don’t need much of an excuse to bob down to Bangkok for a weekend from Hong Kong. Who does when you have great shopping, awesome food and cheap massages just 2.5 hrs away?

However, the excuse I’ve been using most for the past couple of years, is that when a movie I particularly want to see opens there before Hong Kong it is permissible for me to go to my favourite cinema to watch it – the wonderful Enigma Shadow Lounge in Siam Paragon.

Now though, I have a new excuse: I have to go to Bangkok because I need to satisfy my addiction to David Thompson’s food.

I ate in Nahm at the Halkin in London a few year’s ago and enjoyed it, but wasn’t blown away. However, having found out more about David Thompson since then and on discovering he’d be opening a restaurant in Bangkok, I had an inkling that with access to the full range of fresh indigenous ingredients, he might do wonders.

After an abortive attempt to go to Nahm in early 2011, twice this year I’ve been to Bangkok, and twice I’ve flown earlier in the day so that I can get to Nahm for dinner. Yes, it’s one of the most expensive restaurants in Thailand, and yes it’s in a hotel (the Metropolitan), and yes, the chef is a farang, but by crikey he puts together some mouthwatering food! This guy has really nailed it.

Now, we all know that the delight of eating in Thailand is that you can get the most wonderful food from the most humble of restaurants and food-stalls. But for a long time it’s been exasperating that there hasn’t been a really exciting restaurant in the capital pushing the envelope of Thai cuisine. The only difference between a good cheap restaurant and a good expensive restaurant was the decor, the wine list, and the lighting.

The chef and the magic:

Thompson is an Aussie who first visited Thailand some 20 years ago and moved there a year later after being utterly seduced by the place. He was very lucky to meet a lady called Sombat Janphetchara whose family worked in the palace, and who had somehow been taught the intricacies of palace cuisine.

The basis of Thai cuisine is its pastes – the marrying together of the vast array of herbs, spices and aromatics in ideal proportions to produce the taste you want, is an art not a science. This is why you will see many of the same dishes on the menu in the north of Thailand as down in the south, but the flavours are very different because they use different ingredients in different proportions in their pastes.

David Thompson seems to possess an extraordinary gift for creating wonderfully complex flavour profiles in his dishes that reveal themselves in stages through each mouthful, and it’s all because of Sombat Janphetchara teaching him how to use herbs and aromatics with extreme care, presence of mind and unending patience.

And that’s it really. That’s what makes eating his food a startling pleasure. I don’t think I’ve eaten a meal where I’ve wanted to concentrate on each mouthful as much as I have at Nahm.

The best chefs in the world almost universally place a number of different elements on a plate that together create a balanced flavour profile for the dish. You pick a little of this, with a little of that and a bit of another to put on your fork to eat, or you have to eat the different elements in turn in a suggested order to experience the flavour that the chef wants to impart.

Not so with David Thompson’s food. The most you will have is a dip, the rest of that flavour profile is just sitting there in the bowl or the plate, innate in the curry, the salad or the parcel before you. That’s the clever part. That’s the magic.

The decor and ambience:

There’s not much point in going into details about the restaurant’s styling. You come here for the food not for the very standard, could-be-anywhere-hotel-breakfast-room decoration.  The ambience can often be rowdy. There are many people who dine here for celebrations and it can get rather noisy on weekend nights, so ideally I’d suggest going on a weekday.

Service:

The initial front of house service can be maddening. Once the food starts arriving it’s been absolutely fine, but to begin with you can easily be forgotten. Stay on the waiters if you feel you have been overlooked just once, and persevere as the food is worth it.

Having said that, the service the last time I went was impeccable, but that might be because I noticed the note “Take Care!” by my name in the reservations book. Why that’s there is another story, but one with ultimately a happy ending…

Choosing your food:

There are some intense flavours in the menu and to get the best out of the meal make sure that you choose dishes that will balance each other.

We were so excited the first time we ate at Nahm that we ordered a lot of the more unusual, pungent and rampantly hot items, and ended up a little overwhelmed by the flavour punches, (there is no manipulation of heat here; if a dish should be fierce with chilli, then fierce it shall be). The second time we went we chose more carefully and created a more satisfying overall meal, rather than just opting to try as many new things as possible.

There is one starter that absolutely no one should go without and sets the tone for the rest of the meal, and that’s the grilled mussel skewers.

Drinks:

There’s a good list of interesting cocktails and a very adequate wine list. I’m used to just plumping for beer with most Asian cuisine, but the sommelier was informed and helpful and we ended up with a Thai wine from Monsoon Valley, which was very decent.

Price:

You can eat à la carte or opt for a menu that gives you the option of choosing one dish from each of the sections – a relish, a salad, a soup, a curry and a stir fry along with a taster of every one of the starters. This menu costs 1700THB++ (US$55) per person which is a complete bargain in my book, but drinks prices are up there with every other 5* hotel in Bangkok, so it can add up. Overall I think Nahm is great value given the quality of the food.

Location:

Ground Floor, The Metropolitan Hotel, Sathorn Tai, Bangkok. Tel: 02-625 3333. It’s next to the Banyan Tree, so if it’s your first time in Bangkok go to Vertigo before or after for drinks.

Summary:

Ignore the service and the decor, insist on a table in a quiet corner when booking and concentrate on the food.

I have no hesitation in saying that Nahm, without doubt, serves the best food in Bangkok at this point in time, and it’s because of David Thompson’s intense passion and deep respect for his adopted home’s food and culture.

Liberty Private Works – Hurry before he becomes the next big thing

Update:

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.

Review:

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: info@libertypw.com

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.

The Grand Stage – Dim Sum in Sheung Wan

Review:

I’ve had lunch at The Grand Stage on the 2nd floor of Western Market twice in the past couple of weeks, and I’m pretty impressed, and only have one quibble.

Photo snatched from their wedding club website

Food: Fairly comprehensive offering of trad Dim Sum. Beef balls, siu mei, wanton, turnip pasties, radish cakes, cha siu bao, sticky rice in lotus leaves – you get the picture.  The execution is also exceedingly good, and I think that it’s some of the tastiest Dim Sum in Hong Kong. It had a certain freshness and crispiness which was very pleasing.

However, and this is just stupidity – it arrived at the table barely warm which really took the edge off for me, and was frustrating – otherwise I’d have been jumping up and down on sofas and declaring a love of Katie Holmes.

The first time I went and experienced this lukewarm fare I put it down to being part of a large group and never being the first to dip into the baskets, but the second time I went we were just a party of four, so the sad fact is their service process must be all screwed up. It just goes to show how good it is though that the taste and freshness shone through the lack of warmth.

Ambience: The Grand Stage must be one of the biggest spaces in Hong Kong. It is fantastic to be under such a soaring ceiling.  It’s all a bit Mainland nightclub what with the red walls and the neon lighting, but it’s a lot of fun and I love the chandeliers. The great thing about the high ceilings is that even when you’re surrounded by 400 other people, the sound gets whipped away into the rafters so you don’t feel that it’s super noisy.

Service: Pretty typical Hong Kong. I’m a gweilo with non-existent Canto skills so I’m used to being misunderstood in Dim Sum restaurants. It was always easy to catch someone’s attention even if it was difficult to convey my meaning, so the fact you got swift service was good enough in my book.

Price: Not much more than $100 per person for a really decent amount of food, so good value.

Location: In Western Market right at the end of Des Voeux Road in Sheung Wan.  Best to book ahead as it seems to always be busy. Tel: (852) 2815 2311.

As I’m often in Sheung Wan I shall return to The Grand Stage again I’m sure. If I had holidaying visitors coming to Hong Kong I would probably take them here over Luk Yu Teahouse and the Dynasty in Wanchai’s Renaissance Harbour View just because it’s a bit more fun in the case of Dynasty and better food and service in the case of Luk Yu. For business lunch though, I would definitely opt for Dynasty.

I was vacillating over the category of The Grand Stage – Mama/Huhu or Candy, but even though the temperature wasn’t spot on, the food was very good and the overall experience has tipped it into the candy category for me – maybe it’s the New Year spirit that is making me feel generous!

Lot 10 – Tiny and Tasty in NoHo

I don’t know about you, but sometimes the inspiration to commit paws to typewriter is difficult to catch – but having looted the wine corner, I’m now armed with a large glass of a rather wonderful Argiano Brunello, and if that doesn’t inspire me – then shoot me now (well when I’ve finished drinking it…)

Right – on to Lot 10.

Review:

Thanks to a couple of comments posted to Caustic Candy, and a scour of Chowhound I decided to give this much ignored (by me, deliberately) little bolt hole a try.

I don’t know why it’s never made me want to give it a go – I’ve seen it for years, and walked by it hundreds of times, but I suppose I’ve been rather tired of “French” restaurants in HK. I know it’s not fashionable, but I just don’t (or didn’t in the case of Plats) think places like La Bouteille, Plats or Le Blanc were really any good (too much dodgy foie gras and low quali steaks), so when I saw Lot 10 open during that gold rush of private kitchen styley establishments I just wasn’t interested (Lot 10 has apparently changed hands since those early 2005 days but who’d have known?)

*Of course the shining example of private kitchen’s for me used to be Frank Ching’s Tribute when it was on Cochrane Street, but that may have been something to do with the wonderful evenings I spent there with some friends of his, where we used to ransack his kitchen after-hours and he’d let us taste all his latest creations. The sooner he’s up and running again the better – Go Frank!

And so to supper:

Food:  French inspired, locally sourced fish where possible, local produce used where possible – yes, yes, yes.  This is what we want Hong Kong.

Companion had French onion soup to start – very good, tasty stock base.

For mains, I had the crispy pork shoulder on a bed of lentils.  For those of you who like bbq pork neck at Thai restaurants, this pork shoulder had a similar texture – incredibly tender with slightly crispy edges. And Oh My Lord the Lentils!  If you think lentils are for hippies, too Robert Carrier 70′s or only fit for dal, then you are very wrong – Lot 10′s lentils were a revelation. They were so subtly seasoned and spiced, they were wonderful (how geeky is that?!).

My wonderful (and in no way erstwhile) dining companion had a steak with a macaroni gratin  - steak was good quality: a well cooked slab of flesh. Macaroni gratin added a very light accompaniment, but was a bit too oot of the ordinary and not a winning combo for either of us – but hey, worth a try.

We did though have lettuce with peas and bacon (grrr, yum, yum) and duck fat roasted potatoes (almost…almost…as good as my own), so overall the food was very well received.

Drinks: Reasonable and well thought out wine list.  We had a very decent Torbreck for around $400.

Ambience: A bolt hole. There are only 3-4 tables downstairs (and it’s a push past the kitchen to sidle into the washrooms). A couple of tables outside on Shing Hing Terrace, and another larger room good for private parties hidden upstairs. Clean lines, white linen, white walls (slightly small tables and chairs, but then it’s a slightly small restaurant).

Service: Quiet and competent service.

Price: We paid around $1200 for a meal for 2.  Mains were around $250 on average. Food was quality, and wine a good price, so I think good value for the experience. Will return.

Location: On corner of Gough St and Shin Hing Terrace, so nice and quiet.  34 Gough Street (NoHo), Central, Hong Kong. Tel 2155 9210.

UPDATE:

Went for lunch last week and had a lovely meal.

Just $98 for two courses + tea or coffee – fantastic value.

I had home cured gravlax and a local caught snapper, grilled which were both very good, and my companion had a good sized, tasty Caesar salad and a very decent steak.  We sat outside on the street terrace and were thoroughly entertained by the guys playing shuttlecock (Jianzi in Mando, not sure what the Canto is), one of whom must have been about 80 and was the very definition of spry.

A perfect break from the office in the middle of the day, and such good value for money (we even succumbed to sharing a chocolate pot for desert for $30 extra – delish). Will become a regular haunt.

Thai Farmers’ Restaurant – Wanchai

Reivew:

There were four of us for supper last night in Wanchai, and we fancied showing our new friends the delights of Thai Hut.

As previously explained, there are only a tiny number of seats there since the Po-leece stopped them from setting up tables outside, so you do take your chances.  Unfortunately, last night  we were unlucky, as there was an old gweilo dude slumped on a stool taking up 3 precious seats, chin on chest, snoring drunkenly away (it was only 11pm), so we had to find an alternative.

That’s how we ended up at Thai Farmers’ restaurant across the way on Lockhart Road, sandwiched between The Bell Inn (which seems to have become the pub of the moment for all the International School kids) and some low dive strip-joint.

Food: All the usual Thai staples. Large menu, pretty much as home-style as Thai Hut. Everything we had was very tasty, although not quite as punch-your-lights-out hot as Thai’s usually like for themselves.  Portions were very generous, and the dips they provided with the pork neck and spring rolls were really good, as were those items themselves.

Drinks:  Standard drinks list for Wanchai – beer, canned softs, a few juices. Cheap and cheerful.

Ambience:  Very simple. Love the bold tablecloths. It’s a little shoebox of a place with seating for not more than 30, clean and simple, if a little rough around the edges.  The only others in the restaurant were a Thai couple, one of whom was a decidedly pre-op lady-boy, in desperate need of a stylist.

Service:  The food came quick, and the staff were friendly and attentive.

Price: We spent just over $400 for four of us, and we were only drinking soft drinks.  We had 6 dishes plus rice. So, really rather good value!

Location: G/F King Tao Building 98 Lockhart Road Wanchai Hong Kong. Tel 2520 6607. Almost opposite Agave.

I hadn’t been to this restaurant for years, and was really wondering why after this meal. Chili Club, which is actually almost upstairs from this place, and  seems to be so popular still after all these years, despite having zero ambience and mass produced tasting fare is a poor second to Thai Farmers’. This little restaurant has more authentic food, a more intimate atmosphere and is great value for money.

“The Turkish” – homestyling in Mui Wo, Lantau.

Review:

Went to The Turkish a couple of nights ago (real name Bahce Turkish).  No idea why I don’t go there more often, as it serves seriously good food.

Food:  Well….it’s Turkish.  Very home cooking feel, well presented. Fresh ingredients, with the impression  that everything is lovingly prepared.  All the dips and sauces are fresh made, and they roll dolmas neater than Cheech rolls joints.

Very tasty marinated lamb and chicken, and the special eggplant dip is so smoky and sweet you won’t want to eat normal baba ghanoush ever again. The haloumi was great as well.  Not squeaky and hard, but served with gerkins and dill, it was really good.

Drinks: wide selection of fresh teas, coffee and soft drinks. Couple of beers on tap and the rest in bottles.

Ambience: Simple, sturdy, and has tables outside which is a boon.  Emphasis is on food not decor, and you’d be nuts to spend a bunch of cash on that kind of thing in Lantau, as you will never make your money back.

Service:  lovely service. Humble, friendly, efficient and thoughtful (shame they don’t take over the Stoep!)

Price: Dinner  was $350 for two, and they don’t charge service, so it was a pleasure to leave a big tip.  We shared a mixed mezze, a separate halloumi dish and a lamb kebab, and it that was far and away enough between two of us.  Good value for the quality of the food and the service.

Location: Mui Wo Centre, Lantau Island. Tel: +852 2984 0221, very close to the 7/11 opposite the bus station.

By far the best restaurant in Mui Wo.  There are a couple of tasty canto places, but they don’t show as much care and attention to their food as this.

Cecconi’s, Mayfair – mullets, gout, pearls and Birkins

Review:

The three things I like most about Cecconi’s are the jade green leather chairs, their rabbit ragu, and sitting at their bar drinking Proseco on tap.

Cecconis

As I mostly stay in Mayfair when I’m in London, Cecconi’s is always on the list for lunch. (The Wolseley is for breakfast/brunch, Cecconi’s is for late lunch/post-shopping glass of vino), always somewhere else for dinner.

I’m not sure why I don’t think of Cecconi’s as somewhere I’d eat dinner, but it’s never even occurred to me to do it.

Since so many hedge funds have gone pop in London, I can only assume that it’s not quite so crowded for lunch, but I still prefer to go post-2pm so it’s a little less busy, and I know I don’t need to book ahead.

Food: Italian. They serve a very wide variety of dishes, breakfast through dinner. There’s something for everyone, and the ingredients are top notch.

They have a tapas bar that serves Venetian specialities all day, and the carpaccios are real good too.

When it’s cold outside nothing beats a bowl of their rich, gamey rabbit ragu, and I have to admit to usually asking for it with mash rather than pasta, and was pleased to find out the first time I asked that I am not alone in this rather Irish request.

Drinks: Their wine list has a strong bent towards Italy. There are near 20 wines/champagnes served by glass and 10 served by carafe which is very useful. Bottles of wine are all over £25, and as they are catering to the Hedgey crowd they do have a long and wide list.  My usual lunching companion also very much enjoys their Bloody Mary’s.

Ambience: Lunch is always packed, and it’s best to book ahead. There are generally two types of people who come here at this time – finance bods, and ladies who are shopping on Bond Street – so it’s a mixture of mullets, gout, pearls and Birkins.

My favourite place to perch is at the bar. A wonderful solid marble affair where you can chat to the staff, see them preparing the tapas and I just like the general sociability of it all.

Service: Waiters are very friendly and accommodating in my experience – not even a sniff when I ask for mash in an Italian restaurant.

We have received short shrift when we’ve turned up without a booking bang on lunchtime though. The receptionists can be a bit jaded when they are busy…

Cost: It’s Mayfair, and it’s part of the Soho House group, so it’s not cheap. We don’t usually get out with paying less than £50 for lunch for two, and that’s keeping it to a drink and a pasta. Easy to rack up the bill if you are there drinking and snacking for a couple of hours, as it just puts you in the mood to kick back and enjoy yourself.

Location: 5 Burlington Gardens, Mayfair. Tel: 0207 434 1500

Le Bouchon aux Vins, Lyon – chilled and informal

Review:

Wondering up and down rue Mercière in Lyon around 3pm on a Sunday looking for a late lunch saw my companion and I ending up at Le Bouchon aux Vins, one of Jean-Paul Lacombe’s more informal eateries.

lyon_bouchon_causticcandy

Food: Trad Lyonnais dishes, but lightly executed. I keep reading that people find Lyonnais food rather stodgy and heavy, but this wasn’t my impression at the restaurants I went to. Although, I was there in winter, so hearty food was what I was after.

In fact, I was delighted by my pot-au-feu. The broth was crystal clear, very flavoursome, with the beef and vegetables cooked to perfection. I can only deduce that the elements were constructed separately. Total simplicity, executed perfectly.

We had St Marcellin cheese here again for afters, being that it had quickly become my new addiction since arriving in Lyon. It was good, but didn’t come close to that of Auberge Rabelais.

causticcandy_bouchonauxvins

Drinks: What I love about France, is that you can order wine by carafes. This meant that I can drink wine at my own pace whilst the companion has a beer.

There is something eminently civilised being given a carafe of wine and a small glass to fill as you like. In HK, if you order a large glass of wine, then you basically get a balloon as big as your head, with as much wine in it as a normal carafe in France, it’s just cumbersome for the tiny-handed like myself.

Ambience: Mix of decor, lots to look at, very cosy, tables quite close together, has two rooms, one a little more glam than the other more informal side we ate in.

Service: Service was efficient – by this stage in Lyon I wasn’t expected much in the way of warm and friendly service, and here it was fine. No brusqueness, swift, unobtrusive.

Cost: Prix-fixe menus and a la carte. Very reasonable, I think we ate for around €15-€20 each.

Location: 62 rue Mericère, 69002, Lyon. Tel: 04 7838 4740.

Open: Usefully it’s open every day from midday to midnight, and serves food all the way through. Many restaurants/bouchon in Lyon don’t serve food all day, so this is a useful little place to know about.

All in all Le Bouchon aux Vins was a great place to spend a couple of hours. It certainly lived up to what a bouchon is meant to be – informal, convivial, serving hearty food for travelers and merchants. We could have gone there just to sit, drink and while away the afternoon, or have something to eat, we were welcome to be there and lounge about as long as we wanted.

Auberge Rabelais, Lyon – seriously addictive cheese.

Review:

Considering we arrived on a cold Saturday in January, slap bang in the middle of what was meant to be the worldwide economic Apocalypse, finding somewhere to eat in Lyon was a complete nightmare at short notice.

We couldn’t get into any of the restaurants our hotel concierge suggested and having been led to expect a 15minute wait at Brasserie Georges by him, we arrived to find that wait would be an hour and half, and the queuing would be outside.

Being rather hungry and pissed off at this, we decided to return to Vieux Lyon and try one of the other restaurants the concierge had recommended, only to be shown the hand and a nose in the air when we enquired (in French) if they had tables available.  We went through almost the same ritual at 4 other restaurants until we were so hungry and fuming that when we found one that said we could wait 40 mins we decided to take that option.

This restaurant was Auberge Rabelais, and was managed front of house by a firm but friendly proprietress.

Happily, the wait was worth it, but frankly I’d have eaten the crumbs off the floor I was so hungry by that stage.

Auberge_Rabelais_causticcandy

Food: Very trad with lots of Lyonnais staples.  My companion had snails to start and a steak for main, both of which were very good (although the accompanying veggies were overcooked).

I had Pâté de foie gras and Lyonnais sausage (a slightly fermented tasting affair, wonderfully reminiscent of the Laotian variety), both of which I thoroughly enjoyed, and the rice and lentils served with the sausage were, for me (food philistine that I am), a delightful 70s throwback.

The apogee of the meal for both of us though was the St Marcellin cheese we had for dessert.

It is a small (8-10cm), round cow’s milk cheese whose degree of runniness increases with age.

I am a cheese fiend, and frankly the smellier and runnier the happier I am. St Marcellin is not a really smelly cheese, but it has that nutty, fresh, acid complexity that aged, runny cheeses have, and the way it was served – whole, very cold, with some barely dressed lambs leaf and some beautiful, aged, sweet and syrupy balsalmic vinegar – was “a work of pure genius” my dining companion has declared.

After this we ate it at every opportunity during our brief stay in Lyon, and every cheese was very different. This first outing was definitely the best though, by a good long way.

Wine: Typical of Lyon the vast majority of wines were available in carafes or by bottle, we just went with one of the house reds, which was a local Côtes du Rhône. Very reasonably priced.

Ambience: This is a small restaurant, having maybe 10 tables in the main L-shaped restaurant, and then another couple in a small dining room by the kitchen.  We were sat in the corridor leading to the kitchen, but I was happy with that as I got to see the hustle and bustle of what was going on.

There is not a lot of space between tables, and it’s all ageing red velvet, heavy wooden furniture and red tablecloths. Very old fashioned, bit worn round the edges, but on a cold winter nigh it was most cosy and inviting.

The restaurant was packed from when we arrived around 9pm (for our 40min wait) to when we left around 11pm, and people were still coming through the doors.

In fact a table of 10 turned up on a whim as we were leaving and the proprietress was more than happy to serve them.

I have no idea if all Lyon’s restaurants serve this late into the night, but good to know we found one. I can only imagine that they don’t otherwise surely other venues would have told us we could come back later, or maybe they just didn’t like the cut of our jib – who knows?

Service: Once we were seated the service was efficient. Madame took all the orders, the waiters did everything else. She was happy to spend time explaining a couple of dishes whose French names we didn’t know, which was the height of hospitality in Lyon as far as we experienced.

Cost: There were various levels of prix-fixe menu, we had mid-priced one which was about €25.

Location: 39 rue St-Jean, 69005 Lyon. It’s in Vieux Lyon just north of the cathedral. tel: 04 7837 0743.

There are so many restaurants in Lyon so to pick one as a recommend is almost pointless. We ended up at this one after being turned away from so many others, so that in itself is a recommend.

Auberge Rabelais seems to have absolutely no reputation online (like so many other restaurants there), but we had a great meal – simple, high quality ingredients and reasonably priced.

I’d go back, if only because their St Marcellin flicked my addiction switch, and nothing else now can scratch that itch. Grr, delicious…

Villa Amistà, Verona – Byblos owner has created a ludicrously good hotel.

Review:
I’m going to resist the temptation to post lots of photos of this hotel, and would recommend that you don’t look at the website too deeply (or at all) before you book, leave it as a surprise…
To have somewhere like the Villa Amistà sprung on you after a particularly long and harrowing journey, is disconcerting to say the least. Our concierge service had booked us in earlier that same day after we could only find one rather depressing hotel on Lake Garda that was open in February, and had suggested that Verona was our best bet.
We were told the hotel was in a refurbed villa, and housed a large collection of modern art. What she should have said was, “I’m booking you into this hotel – it’s completely bonkers, but trust me, you’ll love it.”
It’s as if a madman had got control of the Hadron Collider and decided to see what happens when he placed a 15th century Italian villa complete with contents, a bunch of paints and a hiccuping Murano glass blower inside and thrown the switch. The result is startling.
I must admit that when I first walked in, drained and jaded from the schlep from Milan via Garda (many times via Garda in fact, but let us not revisit dark times), I did think “Holy Crap, what the f**k has our lifestyle manager done to us? This place is preposterous.”
To say that it houses a collection of art is an understatement, it is in it’s entirety one carefully constructed installation piece. It’s vibrant, irreverent and whimsical, but there is also a strong vein of elegance running throughout. Dino Facchini owner of Byblos houses a big chunk of his personal art collection here, and he uses the villa to showcase all the pieces of his Byblos Casa operation, so you can walk out with an armchair if it takes your fancy.
Rooms: We stayed on the lobby level of the villa which is the only level that has balconies. These are the best rooms, and they were bloody gigantic. I understand that the standard rooms are rather snug, so would suggest spending the money to bypass these. The bathrooms are some of the best I’ve experienced. All white, with proper lighting so that girls can actually apply their makeup properly (wish other hotels would cotton on to this).
Public areas: The public areas of the hotel are fascinating, every nook and cranny has some weird or wonderful piece of furniture or art. Most of the 15th century style ceilings are intricately painted, there are gorgeous salons to lounge about in, beautiful gardens, a lovely pool and a spa.
Restaurant/Bar: There is a great bar and a wonderful restaurant.  I have no idea why the Restaurant Atelier doesn’t have even one Michelin star. It was miles better than the 2* Il Desco we went to in Verona one night, and the sommelier was fantastic. He introduced us to Ripasso which sees the unpressed grape skins that go into making the wonderful Amarones, added to the already blended and fermented Valpollicella wine to finish it off. This process adds body and character to the simple Valpollicella – and the results are hugely successful. I always buy them now as it’s cheaper and lighter than Amarone.
Service: Really wonderful. During the black hours of being lost in the northern Italian industrial hinterland, they actually sent a car to look for us (how Italian is that? Incredibly chivalrous, but completely illogical). They have shuttle-buses to take you in and out of Verona whenever you need, and they provide faultless hospitality.
Price: I remember we paid around €300 for one of the best rooms in the house in February, and they seem to do lots of specials and promotions at different times of year, including around opera season. Fantastic that it is open year-round.
Location: via Cedrare, 78, 37020 Corrubbio di Negarine (Verona) – Italy. Tel +39 045 6855555, reservation@byblosarthotel.com. Corrubbio is just under 10km from the centre of old Verona.
We loved the hotel. It was completely bonkers, and service and food were truly excellent. Just make sure that you have a map and good directions as it’s a bitch to find. Fortunately there were lots of prostitutes on the outskirts of Verona who we could ask for directions !@?$*
Before we ended up in Verona we had decided that we wanted to stop off at the lakes on our way to Venice, but nothing was open at this time of year. I’m so pleased we went there, as the old town is beautiful, the restaurants are world-class and it’s slap bang in the middle of a wine producing region. I’d definitely go back.

Review:

I’m going to resist the temptation to post lots of photos of this hotel, and would recommend that you don’t look at the website too deeply (or at all) before you book, leave it as a surprise…

villa_amista_caustic_candyTo have somewhere like the Villa Amistà sprung on you after a particularly long and harrowing journey, is disconcerting to say the least. Our concierge service had booked us in earlier that same day after we could only find one rather depressing hotel on Lake Garda that was open in February, and had suggested that Verona was our best bet.

We were told the hotel was in a refurbed villa, and housed a large collection of modern art. What she should have said was, “I’m booking you into this hotel – it’s completely bonkers, but trust me, you’ll love it.”

It’s as if a madman had got control of the Hadron Collider and decided to see what happens when he placed a 15th century Italian villa complete with contents, a bunch of paints and a hiccuping Murano glass blower inside and thrown the switch. The result is startling.

I must admit that when I first walked in, drained and jaded from the schlep from Milan via Garda (many times via Garda in fact, but let us not dwell on the dark moments of our lives), I did think “Holy Crap, what the f**k has our lifestyle manager done to us? This place is preposterous.”

To say that it houses a collection of art is an understatement, it is in it’s entirety, one carefully constructed installation piece. It’s vibrant, irreverent and whimsical, but there is also a strong vein of elegance running throughout. Dino Facchini, the owner of Byblos, houses a big chunk of his personal art collection here, and he uses the villa to showcase all the pieces of his Byblos Casa operation, so you can walk out with an armchair if it takes your fancy.

villa_amista_caustic—candy1Rooms: We stayed on the lobby level of the villa which is the only floor that has balconies. These are the best rooms, and they were bloody gigantic. I understand that the standard rooms are rather snug, so would suggest spending the money to bypass these. The bathrooms are some of the best I’ve experienced. All white, with proper lighting so that girls can actually apply their makeup easily, (wish other hotels would cotton on to this).

Public areas: The public areas of the hotel are fascinating, every nook and cranny has some weird or wonderful piece of furniture or art. Most of the 15th century style ceilings are intricately painted, there are gorgeous salons to lounge about in, beautiful gardens, a lovely pool and a spa.

Restaurant/Bar: There is a great bar and a wonderful restaurant.  I have no idea why the Restaurant Atelier doesn’t have even one Michelin star. It was obviously better than the 2* Il Desco we went to in Verona one night, and the sommelier was fantastic. He introduced us to Ripasso which sees the unpressed grape skins that go into making the wonderful Amarones, added to the already blended and fermented Valpollicella wine to finish it off. This process adds body and character to the simple Valpollicella – and the results are hugely successful. I regularly buy Ripasso now as it’s cheaper and lighter than Amarone.

Service: Really wonderful. During the black hours of being lost in the northern Italian industrial hinterland, they actually sent a car to look for us (how Italian is that? Incredibly chivalrous, but completely illogical). They have shuttle-buses to take you in and out of Verona whenever you need, and they provide faultless hospitality.

Price: I remember we paid around €300 for one of the best rooms in the house in February, and they seem to do lots of specials and promotions at different times of year, including around opera season. Fantastic that it is open year-round.

Location: Via Cedrare, 78, 37020 Corrubbio di Negarine (Verona) – Italy. Tel +39 045 6855555, reservation@byblosarthotel.com. Corrubbio is just under 10km from the centre of old Verona.

We loved the hotel. It was completely bonkers, and the service and food were truly excellent. Just make sure that you have a map and good directions as it’s a bitch to find. Fortunately there were lots of prostitutes on the outskirts of Verona who we could ask for directions !@?$*

Before we ended up in Verona we had decided that we wanted to stop off at the lakes on our way to Venice, but nothing was open at this time of year. I’m so pleased we went to Verona instead, as the old town is beautiful, the restaurants are world-class and it’s slap bang in the middle of a wine producing region – i.e. ticks all my holiday boxes really!

Brantos – veggie Indian canteen. Quick and tasty.

Review:

So I found myself on the Dark Side yesterday at a tailor on Hankow Road around suppertime and it struck me that I hadn’t been to Brantos for bloomin ages. My partner and I both felt we could do with laying off the meat for a day, and so a veggie Indian was the perfect solution.

Food: Brantos is awesome for fast food style snacks. They serve all sorts of puri, idli and wada, as well as having a list of Dosa as long as your arm, which when they arrive are also as long as your arm.

I could fill my boots purely from this left hand side of the menu, but then I’d miss out on the curries, which are really very good. Yesterday we had a yellow dahl which was really intensely flavoured, and a jalfrezi whose vegetables maintained a good bite on them, (which was a delightful change to some of the mush I have been served in many curry houses). Everything was very tasty and satisfying.

You can order thalis and set menus for well under $100, and after I’d stuffed myself to bursting was wishing I’d ordered one of them instead.

Drinks: Non-alcoholic drinks only here, usual sodas, lassi’s and tea.

Service: Service is pretty informal and not particularly attentive, levels of English vary by waiter, but if you need any dishes explained they are very friendly and helpful.

Ambience: Canteen style, rough around the edges, packing in as many tables as possible. It’s about the food here and nothing else. Usually pretty bustling and at weekends you can expect to wait for a table if you hit at rush hour. Caters very much to families and office workers.

Price: It would be almost impossible to spend even $200 per person no matter how large your group or your appetite.  Yesterday the two of us had four dishes, a bunch of chapatis and three soft drinks for $278 before service. We were stuffed to the gills and could easily have done without any one of those dishes. Good value for money.

Location: 1F, 9-11 Lock Road, TST. Lock Road is off Peking Road about 50m from TST MTR exit C1. Look for the more obvious signs of the Red Lion Pub and Branto’s is in the building next door. It looks like you are going into a set of old flats, you have to ring the buzzer for them to let you in – so don’t be confused, you are at the right place. Tel: 2366 8171

Open: Branto’s is open for lunch (11-3) and dinner (6-10:30) 7 days a week.

Korea Garden – Fast and furious in Sheung Wan.

Review:

I’ve been dining at Korea Garden for the decade or so I’ve been in Hong Kong, and although this is lazy, I’ve really never bothered to find an alternative, as I really like going there.

The Korean lady who runs it has been doing so for a least two decades, setting up in what used to be the Korea Building on Des Voeux Road, which is now the Bahunia Serviced Apartments.

Food: Total comfort food.  BBQ, bibimbap (stone pot), Sam-gye-tang (ginseng chicken soup), etc. Tasty and plentiful, your bbq comes with a table full of kimchi and other banchan, as well as rice and daikon soup, and if you run out, just ask for more and they will keep it coming (within reason).  I’ve enjoyed every single meal I’ve ever had here, although I do spend the next day oozing garlic out of every pore.

Drinks: usual stuff, tea and beers (they also sell Hite and OB), careful when you order spirits, as they are likely to just bring you a full bottle and plonk it on the table (got to admire the Korean appetite for getting completely battered, they really are the Scandi’s of Asia).

Service: Sometimes too swift. When they get very busy you just have to shout out the numbers of what you want. If you’re not quick enough they may run off without taking the whole order. As I say the lady who runs it oversees the restaurant as though she’s feeding her own children – if you are looking for a bit of face time, then chat to her rather than the waiters who will give you short shrift.

Ambience: Plastic flowers, dark wood panelling, low ceilings, tables packed in – it’s not going to win any prizes for style, but it’s busy, jolly and steaming. There are always a bunch of Koreans in the place, either expats or out-of-towners which is a good sign. They also have a couple of good sized private rooms where they will put larger parties.

Price: You can really spend as little or as much as you like here.  A stone pot meal in itself is under $100, whereas some of the top end beef rib bbq’s will set you back $200+ a plate. Usually we spend around $200 a head.  They do an array of good value set menus which are, if I remember correctly, around $180 (+10%) per head.

Location: 1F, Blissful Building, 247 Des Voeux Road, Sheung Wan, very close to MTR exit B. Tel: 2542 2339.

Open: Mon-Sat, lunch and dinner.  This place is rammed at lunchtime, so best to book ahead. I’ve never had a problem yet getting a table in the evening for dinner.

Just thinking about this restaurant now makes me crave bulgogi – I must rally the troops to go.

San Xi Lou, Central. Lip tingling, tongue twanging Sichuan.

Review:

I am a stupid gweimui.

I used to go to a Sichuan restaurant in Causeway Bay, on the first floor of a building on the corner of Hennesey and Percival, but it didn’t have an English name. It was ludicrous hot, very reasonably priced, had monthly beer bucket specials and was just fun, fun, fun.

So, when it closed about two and a half years ago, I was at a bit of a loss. Filled with sadness, I started hunting for a replacement, and have never been totally satisfied with what I have found.

Yesterday, through the holy power of t’internet and Google translate, I discovered that said restaurant had reopened under a different name (and telephone number…*!$%!) in Mid-Levels.  Coda Plaza to be exact.  Two years ago it opened and two bloody years it took me to discover that. What a noddy!

The new restaurant is called San Xi Lou, (and the old one was called Man Jiang Hong), and such is my fondness for their old restaurant, that I went there straight away for supper, and I can tell you my little chickadees – I was not disappointed.

Food: Big menu, lots of quintessential Sichuan dishes, lots of chilli, lots of hot, lots of cold, good collection of soups too.

It starts off well when they bring you pickles (for free: Hunan Garden…) that can blow the top of your head off. Gets you right in da mood.

Stalwart of Sichuan dining, chicken with dry chilli and pepper (or stupid gweilo chicken as it’s more fondly known by me) San Xi Lou style, is a fully interactive experience.

You have to dig for those nuggets of chicken through mounds of dry chilli and sichuan pepper. Oo, the fights that have taken place to try and find the last bits of chicken, the satisfaction of gnawing round the bones, the sweetness of the cashew nuts and the freshness of the coriander. Just delicious. As soon as my lips began to tingle from the hua jiao, my mind was at peace – certain dishes evoke big, happy memories, and for me this is one of my favourite.

lip tingling, tongue twanging stuff
lip tingling, tongue twanging stuff

Let’s not get carried away though. This is not the most elegant Sichuan cuisine you can find in Hong Kong. It’s a bit greasy (well in fact some of the dishes are just huge buckets of produce stewed in oil), but I suppose it’s even more authentic because of this. I certainly haven’t come out of a Sichuan restaurant in Chengdu without a great, red, oily stain around my chops.

What it is though, is solid Sichuan – silly hot, tasty and fresh.

Drink: Decent selection of beer, lots of good teas (we had a very delicate ginseng oolong yesterday), the usual soft drinks and juices (although no drinking yoghurt to calm the stomach), and a selection of wines – still can’t wrap my head around the idea of red and white wine with spicy, super robust flavours. I think the only wine that might possibly go with Sichuan is a good biscuity Champagne (but then I might have to wear my sunglasses at the table just to complete the ludicrous visual of that idea…)

Service: Efficient, friendly – good service. The level of English varies by waiter, so for non-Canto or Mando speakers double check your order.

Ambience: Understated. Brown and earthy shades – lots of carved wooden panels, straight backed, wooden chairs (but with cushions) and booths. Nothing slick or fashionable. Thick carpet, so the noise is dampened.  It was busy and there was a real mix of Hongkees, Mandarin speakers and gweilos.

Price: We paid HK$450 for two, including tea and beer, which we thought was good value. The food was very tasty, the portions large, the service efficient, and the surroundings comfortable.

Location: 7th Floor, Coda Plaza, 51 Garden Road, Central. Tel: 2838 8811

Open: 11am-11pm every day (they also do dim sum lunch and hot pot. Last orders at 10pm)

So there you have it – if you need a break from Madame Wong’s operatics at Da Ping Huo (I love the food, but I go less than I want to because a couple of her notes made my ears bleed) then San Xi Lou is a really good option.

And who needs more than two Sichuan restaurants in Hong Kong? One is elegant and sophisticated in both cuisine and decor, the other is robust and unpretentious.

That’s Sichuans sorted then.

UPDATE:

Took some first time visitors to HK to San Xi Lou last week (28th Dec 09)and they loved it.  They really like spicy food but had never had Sichuan before, they were delighted by all the different flavours.  Much brownie points for me…

Curry Buffet Lunch – Conrad takes top marks for food.

Review:

There are many options for curry buffet lunch on Hong Kong Island, I must have tried at least 10, but there are old favourites that I go back to time and again.

After a truly good meal yesterday at the Conrad my trusty companion, and long-time Indian restaurant guide (originally from Bangalore), and I have decided that it’s hands down the best for food.

conrad lobby hk

Phot from the Conrad's website (at night...)

Food: Winning factor numero un, is that they have a dosa chef at the head of the buffet constantly primed to take your order.

Winning factor numero deux, is that the head chef at the moment is from Kerala, so the food has a definite southern India bent, but this also means that the dishes are generally lighter in texture than those made by North Indian chefs, so you feel more than able to continue your work day afterwards.

It’s easy to go veggie or carnivorous, there are lots of salads and fresh made pickles and chutneys and you get the added bonus of the Conrad’s pastry chefs whipping up dessert.

Yesterday, amongst other things including 2 dosa, I had the most mouth-watering lemon pilau rice flavoured with kaffir lime leaves, and a beautiful dhal, which on the face of it you would think is easy to master, but the flavours and textures were perfect. It’s not often that simple dishes of rice and lentils make you actually stop eating and discuss the food.

Drinks: What you’d predict at a 5* hotel, plus they do really good chai.

Service:  5* Conrad, so exactly what you’d expect from such an establishment.

Ambience: The buffet takes place in the Lobby Lounge which is a very pleasant, light-filled environment. Mind-bogglingly, the buffet is rarely very busy, so it’s a very good place to go for business lunch, especially as the tables are wide apart.

Only marginal inconvenience for me is eating from coffee table height. Not being able to get your legs under the table makes for slightly uncomfortable dining for girls as you can’t really sit there legs akimbo, so you are always twisting slightly to eat.

Price: $250 +10% service.  Now, this is a good deal more expensive than a lot of the other curry lunches in town, but it is well worth treating yourself once in a while.

Location: Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, Hong Kong. Tel: 852-2521-3838