Posts from the “Candy” Category

Classified – beware the cheese room on your way out of M1NT

Review:

I’ve lost count now of the number of times I’ve stumbled out of M1NT ruined on Ruinart and decided what I really, really want is 1/2 a pound of cheese, some quince jam and a tin of duck confit.

general cheese, not classified cheese

general cheese, not classified cheese

Fortunately, it has been a very long time since I discovered the fruits of such a mission lying ravaged in the fridge whilst groping for my morning grapefruit with no recollection of the actual purchasing process, and thankfully, have only woken up once to discover beluga caviar smeared into my counter tops.

What I have recently discovered though, is that I am not the only idiot to succumb to Classified’s late night temptations. A recent house-guest from the UK left a little note for me one morning telling me to help myself to the cheese in the fridge, but not to wake him unless he hadn’t surfaced by 3pm.

I’m sure there are more of you out there.  Own up!

I’ve never been a regular user of Classified’s café, although it seems popular enough (and they can also do you private dinner parties in their wine storeroom), but I do quite often run down there when I’m off to a dinner or house party to buy vino and other treats.  No one is ever going to peeved that you turned up with a tub of olives, a few slices of Serrano ham or some pâté de foie gras to go with the Pomerol you just bought them. It’s a great little deli for naughty treats.

But, it is their dim and musty cheese room that captivates me. It takes me about half an hour usually to buy un plateau de fromage, as it takes that long for me to try every single one.  Staff are most accommodating and suitably knowledgeable, and the only thing I would add to their inventory is Belazu’s Smoked Chilli Jelly which is the ideal accompaniment to hard cheeses, rather than quince jelly which, when I’m not pie-eyed, I actually believe is a particularly pointless preserve.

Take note HKTB – it’s speciality shops like Classified that will help Hong Kong to one day deserve the epithet of Asia’s World City (brr, sends a shiver down my spine just writing that…), not geegaw shops stuffed with the gimcrackery of solid gold loos.

So next time you are in NoHo and have had a few to drink, satisfy that urge for a hearty kebab with a platter of cheese instead.

Location: 108 Hollywood Road, Central. Tel: 2525 3454

Dynasty Restaurant- great for Dim Sum business lunch

Review:

When I worked in Wanchai, we would always go for special occasions and take visiting colleagues and clients for Dim Sum lunch at Dynasty in the Renaissance Harbour View hotel. I think it’s a Cantonese restaurant at night, but I’ve never been.

This was our expenses lunch venue of choice!

hkghv_phototour06

Food: Dim Sum dur. Beautifully executed with a wide-ranging menu. The right mix of richness, freshness, textures and flavours. Top quality vinegars/soy and chilli sauces. Crisp seafood and crunchy vegetables.

I often come out of a dim sum lunch with my mouth feeling claggy, and the dishes have been a bit mushy, mealy or greasy. Here, the dim sum is somehow best described as precise. Really, really good.  My favourite place for dim sum so far in HK.

Drinks:  I’ve only ever had tea with lunch, but they have a lovely menu for this – a big range of top quali infusions.

Ambience:  Such a stunning dining room. I love it. It’s 2 stories high, with humungous floor to ceiling windows looking down the harbour to Lei Yue Mun and beyond, completely bathed in light.

The tables are set incredibly wide apart so it is the ultimate place for a business lunch. Nobody can overhear you no matter how large your group.

The beautiful porcelain tableware is specially commissioned (I always want to steal it cos you can’t buy it anywhere), and the flatware is is terribly ornate too. The carpets are so deep it’s a danger to walk too quickly in your Giuseppe Zanottis. What with the soaring ceilings and shag pile all noise is mopped up, so all you end up hearing is a background of reverential murmuring as though you are in some high church of dim sum worship.

Service:  Impeccable.

Price: $200-$300 per person for lunch.

Location: 3/F,Renaissance Harbour View Hotel,1,Harbour Road, Wan Chai. Booking for lunch is recommended, as it’s a popular joint. Tel: 28028888

Cococabana Review – Caustic or Candy?

Review:

Cococabana is a tough one.  It’s in a fantastic location in Deep Water Bay on Hong Kong’s South Side, and you can’t help but feel relaxed when you arrive.

However, the success of the dishes can be erratic, the service usually haphazard, and the price is fairly steep. But, if you hit the right dishes, and make sure you deal with the manager or the head waiter or JP himself then you can look forward to some of the best times you have had in a restaurant in Hong Kong.

cococabana

Phot from Coco's website

It is super chilled. My favourite time to come is during the week at lunch time (especially if skiving off work, or taking clients new to HK, it always bowls them over).  There are usually a couple of regulars, it’s great to get stuck into the wine and feel like a naughty child, and to sit on the comfy cushions in the shade looking over Deep Water Bay is truly satisfying, and can only induce a feeling of being at peace with the world.

Food: French Mediterranean.  JP has Corsican blood in there somewhere, not just French! For me, his Nicoise salad and Bouillabaisse in particular are outstanding, and I very much enjoy the bacon wrapped goat’s cheese with honey dressing, as well as the John Dory. I tend to stick to his seafood dishes and have more luck there than the meat.

Drinks:  He has an eclectic wine list, that veers to the expensive, but if you do know a bit about wine (as fortunately my partner does), then you can pick something good at the lower end and if JP is around then he is happy to guide.  I also really enjoy the homemade lemonade.

Ambience: On top of the public changing rooms at Deep Water Bay, doesn’t sound very sophisticated, but it’s all white table cloths, big banquettes and huge cushions.  It can get very hot and sunny during the day, so always ask for somewhere in the shade if that’s your need.  The view over the beach and Deep Water Bay make it quite an idyllic spot for Hong Kong island, and you quickly start to ignore the traffic noise and tune into the French muzak. A lot of French people eat here which adds to the Med vibe, and it’s always got a holiday atmosphere because you are on the beach.

Service:  The service here can be staggeringly bad. Disorganised and careless are words that spring to mind.  However, it can also be efficient, and it’s always friendly, with apologies and make-ups quickly forthcoming if you tell management your frustrations. They certainly know they aren’t faultless.

Price: Set-lunch $298 per head, set dinner $398.  If you want more than one course then I would suggest going for the sets as they are much better value.  A la carte can see main courses up to $298 a pop. A bottle of wine is going to be at the very least $300.  For two people I usually spend a minimum of $1000 for supper including drinks, and usually that at lunch because I get carried away on the vino.

This may surprise many of you, given my usual rants on bad service especially, but overall, I do really like Cococabana, despite it’s obvious faults. I think as I’ve been a Southsider before and been here at many different times of week and day I’ve seen it at its best and worst, and have come to enjoy it immensely.

Some people hate it, some people love it and I can understand both points of view.

If you stick to seafood, kick back and know to keep on top of your waiters then you will have a great time and will end up returning and falling into the latter category.

Song – good place for a quiet, relaxing lunch in Noho

Review:

For supper Song could be considered a little pricey, so there are other Vietnamese restaurants that come further up my list than here. However, for lunch it has a very reasonable buffet, and it’s a lovely spot to duck out of the mayhem if you’re having a hellish day with Kevin in accounts.

Food: Bit more of a modern Vietnamese feel rather than simply serving the old favourites.  There isn’t a huge choice on the buffet, but I quite like that – sometimes too much choice involves the wasting of too much time and brain power. They don’t put huge platters of food out, so it’s never flacid or stale, in fact they replenish quickly and often. All in all, it’s good, fresh, crisp, well thought out fare.

Drinks: Good drinks list, lots of interesting teas and juices which is great at lunchtime, plus a range of Vietnamese beers and a wine list.

Ambience: This is a small restaurant, but it looks out onto a wee public park that is stuffed with greenery, so it’s very relaxing during the day – it’s down a little alley off Hollywood Road, so you feel like it’s a bit of a secret oasis.

The main reason I don’t come here at night is that when it’s dark outside, the venue feels pokey and cluttered when it’s busy, plus you lose the beauty of the location – I haven’t been for supper for many years, but lunch there regularly.

Service: I’ve never seen it chokka at lunch time which again is one of the reasons I like to come, and the service has always been discreet and efficient.

Price: Lunch buffet is $98 + service, so it’s good value for the quality of the food and the overall experience.

Location: Basement, 75 Hollywood Rd, Central, Hong Kong. Tel 2559 0997. If you are walking west along along Hollywood then it’s the first little alleyway after Peel St, turn back if you get to Aberdeen St. There is a Red sign overhead when you reach the alley so look for it.

La Bouitte – Best Restaurant in the 3 Vallées (with rooms to boot)

Review:

Surprisingly there aren’t that many Michelin star restaurants in France’s les 3 Vallées, but of the two that I’ve been to, La Bouitte is just gorgeous (the other one I’ve been to is the 2 star Chabichou in Courchevel and La Bouitte beats it hands down in my opinion).  It’s in the tiny hamlet of St Marcel between St Martin de Belleville and Les Menuires.

la bouitte

Father and son chef team René and Maxime Meilleur exploit the flora and fauna of the Savoie region and change their menu not only according to what’s in season, but also according to what they are experimenting with in the kitchen. There is nothing pretentious about this place, the staff want you to have a good time, even if you are a bunch of 12 Brits (which lets face it in France, you don’t always get a welcome…). It’s just lovely.

The restaurant is in a beautiful old converted farmhouse (sort of nouveau trad inside, all wood and fretwork, but not twee), the service and sommelier are impeccable, and the wine cellar a joy to behold (you can go and explore down below stairs, wandering along pebble paths – it’s very cool).  They have 8 bedrooms and a great terrace with a jacuzzi as well as a spa so, it’s a fabulous place to stay, and all a couple of km from the ski-lifts.

If you are staying in any of  3 Vallées resorts you could get here for lunch by skiing down to St Martin de Belleville and getting a taxi (bearing in mind the lifts shut at 4pm in St Martin), or if the snow and you are good enough you can ski to the door off-piste. However, the resort it’s most accessible from is Les Menuires – it’s just a 15min taxi ride.

Like a lot of good restaurants, it’s always a great idea to go for the tasting menu, and La Bouitte is no exception. Course after course of beautifully presented and exquisite food, with the odd surprise amuse bouche and palette cleanser thrown in.  This being France and a fromage producing region they have a cheese trolley to die for, and I would always suggest going for the cheese rather than a dessert option with a tasting menu, as you will be served a small sweet surprise anyway as part of it.

The meal rates in my top three of all time.  The food was excellent, the wine was excellent, the service was excellent, the location and venue are just lovely and the company was fantastic (always important!). I spent €93 (HK$1000) which I thought very reasonable as it included a very generous amount of wine, and an appreciative tip (I recall that the set menu was about €55 of that).

Location: Hotel Restaurant La Bouitte – Hameau de St Marcel – 73440 St Martin de Belleville – France. Tél. : +33 (0)4 79 08 96 77.

Open: La Bouitte is open all year round, and I would love to go and stay during the summer as the countryside is breathtaking, the air is crystal clear and the hiking fantastic. (Can I get any more superlatives in this post?!)

Resotel – Super chilled hideaway on the River Kwai

Review:

The Resotel is hidden away on the River Kwai about 40min past Kanchanaburi.  I love this part of Thailand, so jungly and quiet.

So jungly you can barely see the bungalows

The hotel is a mish-mash of little bungalows in the jungle with a great swimming pool, restaurant, spa, lovely gardens and a river deck you can hang out on and while away the time reading a book.

resotel river kwai caustic candy deck

The usual (and fun) way to get to it is by boat which you pick up 1km down the river where there is a car park. You can drive round the long way though fording the river further up, but unless you have mobility problems then I wouldn’t bother.

We aren’t talking 5* here, but it’s clean and charming and a lot better than the other hotels I’ve stayed at in the area including the Royal River Kwai and the Oriental Kwai (both were fine, just didn’t have a patch on the Resotel, and their locations aren’t as good). There are around 90 bungalows in total, but as they are spread out through the gardens you don’t realise there are so many.  There is also a cultural centre with meeting facilities and a mini-mart, but these are at the back of the plot behind the main building, so you don’t need to even see them unless you go looking for them.

Now, I don’t know what they do to the food here, but it is just delicious. It’s very typical Thai food, all the old favourites, nothing fancy, but it’s executed perfectly. I love it.

They have fantastic masseuses and a sala for the purpose up in the eaves of the main building which is open to the river (Go for the Herbal Massage, which mixes traditional Thai massage with the use of a big ball of herbs to gently knead your body, it is unbeatable).  The main building is a huge teak edifice which is open to the elements – it’s lovely to sit in the evenings on the terraces and listen to all the wildlife.

The concierge is very helpful and they will organise trips for you, and private cars to take you to and from Bangkok if you want.

This hotel is part of a group that has some other interesting looking accommodation in the area, including staying on river rafts with no electricity, and staying in posh tents near Hell Fire Pass.  I’m intending on trying both of these next time I’m up.

Price: Varies by season and who you book through, but it’s about US$100 a night for a double bungalow, or US$130 for the best bungalow which has a river view and a jacuzzi. Do book ahead as it’s a popular place, especially now the Russians have found it.

Note for the feeble pansies:  You are in the jungle so you will get big spiders, plenty of mozzies, geckos of all sizes, snakes and the odd monitor lizard. If you’re scared of wildlife, just suck it up and get on with it.  This is a great place to stay.

Suan Thip – great way to spend a few hours in Bangkok

Review:

Follow these instructions carefully and you will have a great half day in Bangkok, and one of the best Thai meals in the capital.

suan thip caustic candy

1) Get your lifestyle manager (I have mine through my Vertu mobile phone ) or your hotel concierge to organise a longtail boat for half a day’s river trip.  We paid Bht5000 for 5 hours (no doubt you can get it cheaper, but I like to spread my money into the economy).

2) Set off around 10:30am and go on an explore around the Klongs for an hour or so.  Well worth it to see the wildlife, the temples and businesses along the canals.

3) After an hour or so head upriver to Suan Thip, it takes around 60mins and it’s just fascinating seeing all the action on the river.  The barges, the military installations, the temples, the timber yards, the houses etc.  It’s a lovely way to spend an hour relaxing whilst watching the world go by.

suan thip river bangkok caustic candy

4) Stuff face at Suan Thip which is a lovely old complex comprising a restaurant/cooking school/banquet hall and a beautiful garden. (If you are there in the daytime then ask to sit in a sala by the river.  At night I’m not sure how horrific the mozzies might be, so consider carefully whether you want inside or out for dinner).

5) Roll back in your boat and digest the huge amount of food you are likely to have eaten whilst you whizz back to BKK, in time for a shopping spree and a massage before dinner.

Suan Thip is very popular at night, and I’m sure it would be all sorts of romantik in the garden but you would miss seeing all the life along the river if you went in the dark. Lunch wasn’t very busy so it was super relaxing.

Food: Surprisingly it’s Thai… They have a huge menu, and they do pride themselves on showcasing the country’s cuisine, and it’s really very good.  We particularly like the more jungle style soups and curries, whose flavours were incredibly delicate yet still lovely and hot, certainly not your bog standard fare.

If you like your Thai food proper Thai-hot then do impress this on your waiter as they automatically tone it down for foreigners.  The other great thing is that all the dishes come in small or large portions, so if you are a couple you can let rip and order lots of different things – very smart thinking that restauranteur.

Ambience: Just lovely in the salas in the garden. Insects chirupping, the occasional roar of boat engines, surrounded by palms and pot-plants. There was a massive tour group in the main restaurant when we went and I was glad to be out in the garden.  As I say – if you go for dinner make sure you have the mozzie repellant.

Service:  Very good service.  Staff are very friendly and knowledgeable about the food.

Price: Incredibly reasonably priced for the quality of the food and the venue.  Delightful meal, around US$20-30 a head – good value.

Location: 17 Soknai,Wat Koo Road, Pakkret. Tel: +66-2583-3748

You can also get here by going to Mo Chit Skytrain station and then it’s a 10km taxi ride – but why would you bother when the river trip is so much part of the experience.

Open: Daily from 11am to 11pm, with last orders at 10pm.

Note: If you’re not a regular to BKK then take the advice and make sure you send a lunch-box down to your boatman at the restaurant and if you buy food and drinks on the canals then share with him too. Sometimes when you are enjoying yourself these things slip your mind.

Double Happiness – One of the good restaurants in SoHo…

Review:

Double Happiness is tiny.  Many an evening has ended in frustration when it’s full, I’m starving, and I’m left wracking my brains about where else I can get tasty East Asian food in SoHo that’s not going to set me back a packet and where I don’t have to traipse up and down the hill in my Botega Venettas (I sometimes live in in Sai Ying Pun, so Soho is on the way home from work otherwise I would rarely go for dinner – I have a love/hate relationship with Soho, I think it’s filled with braying, short-term-expat-swill for the most part, and the bulk of restaurants are over-priced, but there are a few really decent bars and restaurants – for example my other favourite pub 1911 is on on Staunton Street. But enough! that’s a whole other post).

This cafe serves super tasty home-style, mainland rather than Canto Chinese, and does so at reasonable prices.

Food: Mainland Chinese with a few Italian/French additions, which I must admit I haven’t been drawn to myself. They make a mean Sichuan prawns, delicious green jade bamboo shoots, awesome chicken with black beans, and rocking soups made with stocks that have been lovingly tended for days by the taste.

Drinks: Inneresting list of teas and other hot and cold juices, basic range of beers.

Ambience: Red, red, more red. Stuffed with all sorts of nicknacks with the Double Happiness character on them, I’m always tempted to grab the old-school oversize matchbox and run away – it would look perfick on my kitchen shelving.  It’s cute, it’s tiny. It’s got small, hard wooden chairs and narrow tables, so it’s always a bit of balancing act not least for my arse, but also to keep all the dishes on the table as we tend to order a lot.

Service: Family feel, very swift and pleasant.  Unfortunately for buffoons like myself who speak almost no Canto I’ve got no insight into the background of the restaurant/the eclectic mix on the menu as the guys don’t speak a massive amount of English either.

Cost: Reasonable. It’s not cheapest of cheap, but definitely good value for money in Soho. Dinner for 2 comes in at between $170 to $250 per head, my advice is to get a crew together and go gangbusters as the portions are big and there are so many items on the menu you will want to try.

Location: 48 Staunton Street, Central, on the part of the street that’s further on from where Elgin Street veers steeply off to the left. 2549 1862

Open: Monday to Saturday lunch through dinner. Sunday dinner only. Jesus Hongkees work hard.

Cafe de Laos, Bangkok – Bring me my sossidge.

Review:

If you haven’t been to Laos, then you really should.  It is a beautiful, simple, spiritual place with awesomely hot food, and one particular dish that I will kill for – Laos sausage (the very good ones in Thai Hut in Wanchai, still pale in comparison to the real thing).

Laos

If you need some more convincing then the next time you’re in Bangkok go try the food.  There are a few Laotian/Isaan restaurants in BKK, the most well known one being Vientiane Kitchen.  We were put off this one by the concierge and the fact that they have a band and dancing, which isn’t really my bag, so instead we went for Cafe de Laos.

Cafe de Laos

Food: Very tasty food.  Laos sausage-tastic.  These are rustic, garlicky slightly fermented sausages served with fresh coriander leaves, slices of chili and peanuts.  Bloody love them.  The beer marinated pork neck and  jungle curry were also really good. Quite a lot of interesting dishes with more of a bent towards river fish and shellfish rather than seafood as Laos is landlocked, so flavours are quite delicate.  DO tell them that you eat food hot like they do, otherwise they will tone down on the chillis for sure, thinking that you are a useless nancy farang.

Drinks: They serve Beer Lao which is always a bonus.  They even have a wine list, although I’m not really up for pairing Laos food with wine yet.  Beer is perfect for me!

Ambience: Restaurant is in an old colonial house, and it’s pleasant enough, but the main ground floor room where we ate was rather bright and lacked any vibe at all, which is a shame because the food is very good.  There is also a lot of wood and tiles, so very little material that damps down noise.  You do feel a bit like you are in a National Trust tea-room in the UK.

Service: Service was a little slow, and fortunately for us they actually forgot one dish which was fine as we were stuffed.

Price: Very reasonable, can’t remember exactly, but it was very good value for the quality of food.

Location: In Silom, 16 Silom Road Soi 19. Tel +662 6352 3389

There are a few more Laos and Isaan restaurants in Bangkok which I would try over going back to this restaurant, simply because I believe there must be somewhere with better ambience.  Can’t fault the food though.

Chungking Mansions – The Secret Curry House.

Review

Want to freak out your friends with a really dodgy journey into the abyss that is CKM and then feed them a meal that will blow their socks off?  Take them the wild way into the maze and get thee down to the  Southern India Club Mess.

Most of my favourite restaurants in Hong Kong have some kind of experience to go along with the meal itself.  I like an element of surprise or laughter to treat my friends.

Southern India Club Mess is one such restaurant, mainly because people think I’m leading them into hell on the way there.  It’s super low key, back to basics –  homestyle food for Indian expats and visiting traders in CKM. However, it has the most sublime curry in the whole of Hong Kong – Ginger Chilli Chicken Tikka Marsala, and it serves huge dosas. Bring it on.

Food: We are talking as homestyle southern Indian as it comes. You HAVE to order the Ginger CTM – you may even have to order a portion per person as you just can’t stop yourself. Foot long dosas and lots of veggie dishes, thalis etc

Drinks: It’s a club and therefore doesn’t have a license to sell alcohol. If you have to have beer with your curry then ask nicely if you can go and buy your own.  They have always been really accommodating, even putting us in a separate room when it was Ramadan so that we could still have a beer (they insisted when we said we didn’t need beer, in case you think I’m a complete cultural pig).

Ambience:  Sits a max of 20. Basic (especially since they removed the super kitsch 70s wall photos of alpine meadows and tulip carpeted woodlands), don’t take anyone who’s too precious about their surroundings (unless it’s someone you want to torture), or in fact anyone claustrophobic (unless they really, really like curry and you are using this trip as therapy).

Cost:  Soooopa cheap.  Difficult to spend more than $100 a head.  Frankly, the best value curry in the territory I reckons.

Location: D1, 3/F Chungking Mansions, Nathan Road, TST. Tel: 2366–1834.

Now here comes the tricky bit. I have only been here by what I would call the back way, so bear with me.

Enter Chungking Mansions and immediately turn right, walk to end of corridor and turn left, walk about 20m and you will come to the first fire escape stairs on your right (grey doors), walk to the third floor up the barely lit stairwell covered in bettlenut juice splashings, force your way through the really narrow doors on the 3rd floor and lo and behold Southern Indian club is opposite the Everest Club.

Of course if you don’t want to freak your visitors out, you can always get one of the PRs to take you to the Everest Club and then hop across the corridor (and if you are taking claustrophobic guests, using the terrifyingly tiny lifts will just add to the therapy).

Open: every day, lunch (11:30-15:00) and dinner (6:30-23:00).

Best hole in the wall – Thai Hut, Wanchai

Review:

Thai Hut is always there when you need it – they have seen me at my office best and at my Wanchai worst. I can go at lunchtime for a quick $35 lunch-box of curry and rice, at supper for pad ka prao, tom yum gai, and a papaya salad, and at kicking out time for a Laos sausage, chicken satay, or deep-fried chicken skin.

Caustic Candy Thai Hut Wanchai

The Hong Kong fun police have stopped the snackery from setting up tables and stools outside which is frustrating, so as it’s a tiny spot you have to cross your fingers and hope there is some free bottom space.  On the crossroads of Luard and Hennessy it is my favourite Wanchai people-watching joint – the hookers, the sailors, the conference goers, the mamasans, the tourists –  sit as near to the pavement as possible to goggle at the goings on.

Food: Homely thai fare.  Rock solid, hot as you can bear, caters to the Thai community in Wanchai so it’s proper stuff like.  You have to try a Laos style (or Isaan I suppose it might be here) sausage if you haven’t ever had one.  It is the “rustic” looking one with the big bits of garlic and fat.  Also, my favourite supper dish is the Pad Ka Prao  - steamed rice, minced meat and long beans, with chilli, basil, garlic etc, topped off with a fried egg.  Massively hot and yumtious.

Caustic Candy Thai Hut Wanchai Sausage

Drinks:  Great value for money as they sell beers and soft drinks in cans at basically 7/11 prices. Can also have lime sodas, iced lemon teas, lots of Thai favourites.

Ambience: Eclectic clientele, Thais (girls, boys and ladyboys) and people who know this place serves some of the best Thai food in town. You’re basically on the street, so it’s that Wanchai feeling all the way.

Service:  Always friendly, always quick, seems like the whole family are involved in some way.

Price: Cheapness. Rarely more than $100 per head if you have a mix of dishes to share and some drinks.  At lunch I struggle to spend more than $40 including a drink.

Location: Opposite Mes Amis in the same strip as Ebeneezers etc on corner of Luard and Hennessey Road, Wanchai. 2866 8528

Open:  Almost constantly.  Seems to close around 5am until brunch-ish.

Best Pub in Hong Kong – The Chinnery

Review

Some may disagree with me that The Chinnery in the Mando is a pub, but they are wrong.

The Chinnery

1) It serves pie

2) It serves soss an mash

3) It serves beer and ale in tankards

Honestly, the Chinnery is my all time favourite comfort location – always makes me feel at peace with the world.

Food: All their food is great, you can have a chicken makhani, pea and ham soup, steak pie, duck liver pate and toast, eggs benedict etc – it really has the most spot on menu, if it was in a bigger room it would be The Wolseley of HK.

Drinks:  Ale, beer, gunners in tankards too, lethal gin and tonics, very good Bloody Mary’s, and one of the largest collections of Single Malt in HK.

Service: Faultless.  Super efficient, very friendly, couldn’t be more accommodating – what the Mando is all about.

Ambience:  Chairs you could spend all day in.  Wood panelled with lots of original Chinnery’s which are beautiful. Low lit, proper old-school club styley.  Very banker at lunchtime, but always convivial atmos.  Sit at the bar if you are on your own and you’ll usually end up chatting with the person next to you.  Outside of lunchtime you feel as though you have found a secret that no one else knows. Always surprised that this place isn’t rammed all day!

Price: It’s not cheap – I usually end up spending $300 per head just for lunch, but the food is top-notch.

Location: 1st floor of the Mandarin Oriental, 5 Connaught Road, Central. 2522 0111

Open: Open from 11:30am til around 11:30pm Mon through Sat.  Lunch 11:30am-2:30pm (go early for lunch as you can’t book tables and it’s always busy at lunch time). Dinner 7:30-9:30pm.  Closed Sundays and public holidays.

Kiyotaki – One of my favourite Japanese

Update: 24.5.10

Went to Kiyotaki for the first time in a year today and it was stupendous.

Chef served us halibut sashimi for the first time and it was utterly buttery – quite the texture sensation.

He’d also been out fishing that day off Lamma with his friends who were all propped up at the bar, and he tempur-ed the little fishes they’d caught and they were lip-samckingly good – crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside: just like an armadillo…

I also admit to giving a very unladylike little grunt of ecstasy when I got my chops round the toro sashimi.  Splendid. Do go. It’s well worth.

Review

Compact and bijou mostyn!

Yeung Chi Wang who owns and runs this restaurant is lovely.  He is as smiley as a laughing buddha, and makes me happy whenever I go in his restaurant.  I know that he is Hongky, but I think that he spent a long time in Japan.  I may be wrong, next time I go I’ll check further.

When you walk in the door just tell chef to feed you and he’ll bring you what’s best that day.   He has a great range of sake, shouju and beer, and beware of getting too in the swing of things otherwise you’ll end up having a lock-in with the staff on a school night.

Food:  Very good seafood.  In the top 95% of quality in Hong Kong for Japanese restaurants I would posit. He has great yellowtail, fantastic horse mackeral, toro so melty it will make you want to cry. His sushi and sashimi presentation and portion sizes are spot on and obviously uses fresh wasabi. He also does  yakatori, noodles, salads etc. and it is always worth asking if he has his special tofu from Japan.  Have it deep fried with bonito flakes and miso etc. It’s grey-green inside and is bloody lovely.

Drinks: Choose your own sake pot and away you go.  Very decent sake assortment and lots of beers and teas.

Ambience: Front room stuff this, can’t really seat more than 20 people or so, but chef will reorganise the entire table and screen arrangement to suit your party.  Can sit at the bar as well and chat with the workers.  Small wooden chairs, so not great if you are generously proportioned, but the food is so damn good you won’t notice the discomfit.

Service: Chef rules, his staff are attentive and service is swift.  Make sure you invite chef to partake of your beer or sake and he’ll reciprocate the generosity.

Price:  Kiyotaki is quite pricey, the quality of the ingredients is so high that you have to expect to pay for it. We usually don’t get out for less than HK$1200 all in for two people, but it is fantastic food with such lovely service that it’s well worth the price.  I would always choose to go here over the branded restaurants of Nobu and Zuma (tired of Asian-Confusion anyone?).

Location:  At 13 Gough Street in Noho, Central, 2877-1772.

Open: 6 days a week, lunch and dinner. Sunday dinner only.

Katiga Street – Super Kitsch Japanese Dining

Update: 11.6.10

Went to Katiga Street with a bunch of friends tonight and had the smaller of the street-front tatami rooms – it sat 10 and the minimum spend was the bargain price of HK$1250 in total (!)

It was a fun night and it will stay up in my Candy category because of the sheer daft uniqueness of it all, but I do have a couple of gripes:

1) The lighting was so frikkin bright that it took away the cosy, fun feel of the room and showed it up in all it’s slightly faded and shabby glory (and us after a hard night on the sake).

2) Each item of sushi and sashimi is so damn big that after a few you do start getting raw fish fatigue. These bits of fish are steak sized, I kid you not, and it gets a bit nauseating after a while.

It still was a lot of fun, and I’d go back again, I just think they could increase their profit margins by slashing sushi and sashimi to half the size, and their patrons would mostly be thankful for it.

Review

Look at their mascot!  How cool is he?  You know you are in for a treat when you see a 5ft sumo wrestler squatting outside the front door…

Sooo-moh! Sooo-moh!

Sooo-moh! Sooo-moh!

I can’t thank my esteemed colleague enough for introducing me to Katiga Street in Hung Hom one lunchtime.  The owners of this restaurant have, over the years, taken control of all the ground level shops in this alley and turned them into Japanese restaurants, so you walk around with a real feeling that you are in some Osakan back street – it’s brilliant.

It’s not the best sushi you’re ever going to eat, but the portions are huge, the price very reasonable and it’s still 100 times better than Genki.

For dinner, I like to take one of the private dining tatami rooms.  Ask for one of the special street-front ones.  There are two with one seating about 8 and the other up to 14 or so. There is a minimum spend for these, but it’s ridiculously low – the bigger one about HK$2,500 if I remember rightly.  They serve loads of different sake, shouju and Japanese beers, and it’s just a fantastically kitsch themed experience to go with a group of friends for a jaunt somewhere a bit different.

After dinner the best place to head is Minden Avenue for some buckets of beer and Karaoke to round off your evening on the Dark Side.

Food: Standard Japanese fare, huge slabs of fish for sashimi, and sushi that you need to hold in two hands, you feel like you’re eating giant’s food. Beware the Deluxe Sushi Boat unless you have at least 10 people in your crew. I’d put it slap in the middle of the ingredient quality range for Japanese in HK.

Drinks: Decent if basic range of sake and beer etc very reasonably priced. Usually have promotions on.

Ambience:  More kitsch than Disney.

Service: Swift and friendly, sometimes need to find a waitress who speaks English. Resist playing too much with the buzzers to call the waitresses in the Tatami rooms when you get a bit squiffy, the poor loves are in kimonos and have to take their shoes off and enter on their knees – they are not yoyos.

Cost: Really reasonably priced. Dinner $250-$500 a head depending on how much sake you can down and how much raw fish you can stomach. Or you can have a rice set for as little as $70.  Bargain.

Location: 37 Sung Kit Street, Hung Hom tel 2764 6436.  If you are a daft gweimui like me then just ring and get them to explain their location to the taxi driver.  It’s a bitch to get to if you aren’t a Canto speaker. www.katiga.com.hk

Khana Khazana – Veggie Indian

Review

Very good Veggie Indian on the Island opp Delaney’s in Wanchai.  Good Thali’s and a very reasonably priced buffet lunch, usually with free flowing dosas which really rocks my boat.

If I ever open a lunch restaurant it is going to be a hole in the wall called Dosa to Go, because I just can’t believe that more people don’t go potty for these fab “pankcakes” either in London or Hong Kong.

Since this place was taken over from the guys who used to own it (ie Brantos) you can even have a beer.

This is definitely a good food at good prices kind of a venue.

khana khazana

Food: Real mix of southern indian cuisine, as well as bombay style snacks etc.  Do have the dhal Makani, the masala dosa, and the bagan batha, and I also love the different puris and idlis. Yum, Yum, Yum.

Ambience: Nothing special, but clean with dark wooden pillars and panelling, comfy chairs, big TVs on the wall so usually you can watch what’s going on in the cricket if there’s a big match on.

Service: swift and friendly

Price: Very decent price. Full dinner with drinks and so much food they have to roll you out the door, is about $200 per head inc service. Buffet lunch not much more than half that.

Location:1F, Dannies House, 20 Luard Road, Wanchai. Entrance is on Jaffe Road though.  2520 5308

Open: 7 days a week, lunch and dinner.

Website: www.khanakhazana.hk

Bo Innovation – unique in Hong Kong

Review

Ah – a special occasion at last, and so to Bo Innovation.

I’d seen this restaurant when it was in Central near the FCC, but the one time I went to go I picked the day after the damn place had shut before moving to Wanchai behind The Pawn.

Then, I saw it on Bourdain and knew I had to go – I hadn’t realised that it was all this molecular stuff that Demon Chef was up to, and for those who put any store by the Michelin guide in HK, this restaurant thoroughly deseves it’s rating. It’s difficult to really pigeon-hole this restaurant.  It’s not Chinese, but I wouldn’t class it as fusion either. It’s just really unusual and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Bo Innovation

Sat at the chef’s table and had the tasting menu, the stand-outs for me were:

Uni with dan dan noodles.  Really, really good, and the uni was super fresh.

Toro with foie gras powder and freeze dried raspberry – this really is a piece de resistance the toro was just melt in your mouth stuff, and then the foie gras powder added another rich rounded taste, coupled with the lovely berry tartness from the raspberry.  Don’t knock it til you try it.  Sublime.

Peat Shoot Cappucino with “har mi” crouton.  Just really sweet and lovely

causticcandy_bo_innovation

Molecular xiao long bao and lap mei fan.  The xiao long bao was so clever.  A little bubble of stock that tasted just like the dim sum should.

Cod with black bean, honey and pickled bak choy: The quality of the cod was fantastic.  The best black cod I’ve ever had (BH agreed)

Duck char siu, with foie gras.  Again super quality ingredients, amazingly tasty.

Wagyu fat choi hotpot:  this was wagyu beef cheek, done like a true french pot au feu, breathtakingly simple with the clearest of stock, the sweetest of veg beautifully al dente and the fat in the cheek had turned to jelly which made it positively orgasmic.  Truly a masterpiece.

causticcandy_bo_innovation1

Dessert – had 3 or four little deserts  - all fun/molecular and tiny.

So basically 8 out of the 10 courses were stella, and the other couple were still very good.

We washed all this down with a bottle of pink Ruinart champagne which surprisingly worked really well with the entire menu, give it a go.

Price: Dinner was $1080 each for the menu so with champagne, service and tip I spent exactly $4000.  Worth every penny, would go once a week if I had the cash.

Ambience: fantastic experience sitting chatting to Demon Chef and his workers, great space with high roof and an outside terrace.  Upbeat vibe because the kitchen is open and people are excited about the food.

Location: 2F, J Residence, 60 Johnston Road, Wanchai (same building as The Pawn and Ovo Lounge, but entrance round the corner). Website

If you are a foodie you have to go to this restaurant – no other home grown Hongkee chef is doing this in the territory.

Thai Restaurant – Citygate Mall, Tung Chung

Golden Siam is probably the most decent restaurant in the Citygate Mall in Tung Chung.  Useful if you are going to the cinema there or can’t wait to get back to civilisation after trawling through all the outlet stores.

Food: Basic Thai, some Cantonese twist dishes. Nothing spesh, just solid.

Drinks: Decent price, have a mix of lagers including Thai.  Some options on different soft drinks, herbal teas, iced, thai-style teas etc.

Ambience: Bit of an effort to put up some Thai-style decor and lights aren’t turned up quite so bright as your usual Cantonese diner, which is always a massive plus in my book.

Service: Swift, friendly and attentive.

Price: Curries around $60 so very reasonably priced – looking at $300 for two inc service.

Location:  Basement of Citygate next to the supermarche.

The Gallery – Lantau Island

Review

Bless the Gallery.  Stalwart of Lantau, hasn’t changed a bit since I first ravenously chowed down on a burger back in ’97 after hiking over Sunset Peak.

Food: BBQ, Pizza and Tapas. Really high quali ingredients, meat and fish sourced from same suppliers as top hotels in HK like the Mando. Steaks and burgers are up there with the best of them, great tuna, big fat mussels and the fresh made pizzas are real goooood.  This restaurant is the only one in HK I order chips – fresh oven baked in olive oil. The owner, Dave, will even sacrifice a lamb and cook it for your party if you ask him in advance.

Drink: Lager/cider on tap, plus…… ale.  Hallelujah – Cornish Ale. Can’t stand that fizzy lager crap. Very decent wine list too, with very generous pouring portions by the glass.

Ambience: Super chill, beachy bar-bee, tin-roofed terrace with patio furniture, and inside bar if you need some aircon.  Can slob in your board shorts and flips.

Service: Sometimes patience is required if there are 3-4 tables ordering together.  With a kitchen the size of a postage stamp and only two people working in the whole place, service can be haphazard, but it’s always friendly and frankly what do expect in a little village in the back of beyond?  Food more than makes up for any wait.

Pricing: Drinks very reasonable.  Food is Soho prices (HK$125 for a burger with chips and salad or a 12″ pizza), so maybe you think expensive for Lantau, but the quality of the food is streets ahead of anything similar in Soho, so more than happy to pay those prices.  We think very good value.

Address: 26 Tong Fuk Village (opp the taxi rank), South Lantau, Hong Kong. 15 mins by cab from Mui Wo, 20 mins by cab from Tung Chung.

Tel: 2980-2582.

Open: Every evening cept Tuesday, plus lunch onwards on Sat and Sun.