Posts tagged “champagne

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.

Courchevel – Rappers, Hookers, Oligarchs and Lords

Review:

The biggest rip off in the French Alps.

Just don’t bother staying in Courchevel unless you are the type of person who thinks it’s cool to show off to your mates that you can afford to waste thousands of dollars in a hooker Disneyland.

Yes you can avoid the horrible restaurants and tacky nightlife by staying in some of the most gobsmacking chalets in the Alps, but there are awesome chalets in Switzerland so you’d be better going there instead.

The view from the Carlina

The reason, of course, that Courchevel 1850 has become Puerto-Banus-On-Ice is because it is very, very pretty. Some of the approach runs through the trees into the village past the old-school hotels and cafes are stunning, you do have access to the entire 3 Vallees, and it is without doubt the most beautiful of the resorts in the area.

However, in the same vein as has PB developed in the past decade,  Courchevel 1850 now attracts the most bedazzling of EuroTrash and their penchant for paying scantily clad beauties for sex.

Interestingly, like PB, Courchevel became The place to go decades ago for the moneyed and sometimes titled Brits, and so you also have the incongruity of seeing a few red-nosed, tweedy, British eccentric smoking cigars and guffawing into their Campari sodas – the only reason you don’t notice the same thing happening in Tuscany is that it’s just spread over too wide and area to make an impact.

My experience of Courchevel was thus:

Decided on last day of ski trip in the 3 Vallees that we wanted to stay longer. We wanted to see if Courchevel 1850 was worth the splurge, so we skied over after a week staying in Les Bruyeres in a very modest but well run chalet in a fantastic location, (We sent the luggage round by taxi).

We told our Coutts concierge in the morning that we wanted a room at a hotel which was ski-in, ski-out with a decent terrace – so they booked Le Courcheneige. Arrived there at around 5pm that afternoon after a wonderful day’s swooshing through snow, and drinking chocolat and vin chaud – fantastic trip over the mountains, and such a pleasure not to have to do it in a rush due to the usual impending return trip.

As soon as we saw the location we were a little worried as it is the highest up the mountain of any hotel and a long, long way from the village.

When we walked in we knew we were possibly making a bit of a blunder: huge hotel, reeked of chlorine from the swimming pool even in reception, and all the wood was so bright orange you wanted to wear sunglasses. Couple this first impression with the appearance of a pair of barrel-bellied Russian gents flip-flopping through the lobby in speedos, and we really began to wonder what our €800 (yes, that’s HK$8,000) suite was going to be able offer in recompense.

When we found our way to the room more hilarity ensued at the wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling tangerine coloured wood; orange, brown and yellow curtains; and the fret-saw madness that had taken place throughout the space. Totally dated and definitely not worth the kishty-cash.

Called lifestyle manager, told them they’d made a boo-boo and to sort it.

Thirty minutes later we were down at The Carlina which was very trad (made for the bufty Brits of old I presume), but at the centre of the village, was better value, and altogether a much better option.

We had the choice of Kilimandjaro, which is deeply trendy but again we felt it was a little bit too far to walk into the village of an evening and was €1200 (HK$12,000) a night. The Carlina was just (just?) €530 for the room, which was lovely, had a balcony and the pretty view above. The service was good (even if the concierge was a little deluded considering the restaurants he suggested), and it was quiet and refined. Definitely the right choice.

So, accommodation sorted out, now for supper.

We were recommended by the hotel concierge to visit an informal bistro, which was meant to be very good down in the village.  Oh my, how we were ripped off and treated like dirt!

The restaurant was La Saulire.

The waiters ignored us for 10mins before seating us, the maitre’d was obnoxious to the max until we ordered a bottle of Chateau Palmer ’90 and then he become so blindlingly obsequious it made me want to grind a lava-hot tartiflette into his simpering mug.

The food was breathtakingly overpriced and completely average (a dish of pasta with some truffle on it was going for €93), plus they’d stuffed far too many tables into the space available. The restaurant was chockablock with hookers and their johns making the evening all rather seedy, what the heavy stench of aftershave, cigar smoke, cheap hair-spray, and lasciviousness.

Round-Deux

Next evening we tried one of the two 2* Michelin restaurants in the village – Le Chabichou at the hotel of the same name.

Again, this was a very traditional hotel, it was all pink napkins, red roses on the table, and pastel carpets. Very nice, don’t get me wrong, but very old fashioned.

This is the restaurant where I learnt how not to order French food. When I know the chef is good (either by reputation or from a Michelin guide), I will usually order a tasting menu on the assumption that chef knows best. However, these are usually many courses long with at least three hidden extras, and as I felt as though I’d been stuffed like a Toulouse goose all week at the previous chalet I thought I’d order just a starter and main.

My God, the food was stodgy, I barely made it out alive! It was all foie-gras, pigs trotters, dauphinoise potatoes, grease, cheese, cream and hunks of meat. Maybe on another day I would have loved it, but I had to stop half way though as my liver was screaming and I’m pretty sure my pancreas had blown a gasket. So much for 2 Michelin stars, and so much for our romantic sojourn in Courchevel…

As you can see then, things weren’t going well.

For our final evening (which was rather earlier than first envisaged) we were pointed in the direction of another more informal dining location which I cannot even begin to remember the name of. I recollect that my beau wanted to eat pizza and we ended up in some stone-walled, velvet curtained gothic bar which served food as well. All very strange, and obviously unremarkable.

Safe to say I was done with Courchevel at this stage and was looking forward to a week in Paris.

I would never go back to stay in Courchevel 1850.  I love the skiing there, but now I’m actually competent I can ski there and back in a day, enjoy the runs and the lovely sun terraces, and then bounce back to the far more reasonable, honest and simple location of Reberty and Les Bruyeres (which is also close to one of my favourite restaurants in the whole, wide world - La Bouitte, and an order of magnitude better than Chabichou).

If I want to splurge I’ll return to St Moritz or Gstaad. At least you can hang with the old schoolers who teach you how to chop the top off a bottle of champagne with a sword and wear the same kit they did in the 60s, rather than these arrivistes who think class is a pair of Chanel skis, and fun is all about who can tell the worst story about what they paid their Belarusian hookers to do to each other when they were on their mega-yacht in Puerto Banus the previous summer…

No, no no. Done, done done.