Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Taking the cheaper option - Le Cafe de Joel Robuchon

This blog has taken a little longer to get to - not because the food was so bad that I didn't want to write about it but because so much has been going on since then that the time has just slipped away!  During the time that the Big Boy was in Hong Kong visiting us, I decided to take both he and FMUS across on the Star Ferry to Kowloon, for a small glimpse of some of the areas I had been exploring since arriving in Hong Kong in January.  It was a cold and windy day, so we limited ourselves to indoor activities - shopping centres!  Lunch was then of course an easy choice - Le Cafe de Joel Robuchon in the Harbour City Shopping Centre.

Regular readers of this blog will know that FMUS is a big fan of all things fine dining, and had the opportunity to attend L'Atelier de Joes Robuchon in Singapore on a work trip last year (see post here).  Not really having the time (or the inclination) to do the full Robuchon experience for lunch, Le Cafe presented a cheaper option, yet one where the food is still above average and certainly much better than your usual shopping centre fare.  The beautiful thing about Le Cafe by Joel Robuchon is that you can have a full meal, or just enjoy a cup of coffee or tea and some lovely cakes. 

We decided to enjoy a two course meal only, knowing there was another great meal coming up for dinner (see post here).  It was a little difficult to choose from the varied menu which included sandwiches, soups, salads, and heartier mains.  Of course the first decision was what to drink, and the Big Boy and I started with beer - one of the benefits of dining with the Big Boy is that I don't have to drink alone!  One thing that does stand out about the service at Le Cafe is that the beer is served in a crystal glass - so our beers looked a lot like very large shots of whiskey!

The Big Boy started with the tuna nicoise salad, with bell pepper, quail egg, anchovy and olive.  This was a beautiful looking tuna nicoise, presented on a lovely plate with great flavour to boot.  Whatever the dressing was on top of the salad was fantastic, unfortunately we did not ask the wait staff for this information, but the Big Boy was very impressed.  It was also a reasonable serve, considering the mains that were selected, and was presented well.  It was certainly a Big Boy sized starter.  

FMUS decided to go with one of his favourite seafood proteins, the seared Hokkaido scallops with baby vegetables and orange dressing.  Like the Big Boy's salad, the presentation was amazing, although when he went to tuck into the scallops, FMUS was a little taken aback - they were cold, not what he was expecting at all, especially given the caramelised sear on the outside!  However, after getting used to that on his palate, he also declared the dish was a great starter.  Again, the dressing was a stand out, with a sweet undertone that was enhanced by the pickled vegetables - alas we again forgot to ask for the details!

I decided to try the creamy pumpkin soup with toasted pumpkin seeds, the perfect starter on a cold and windy day.  I'm always a little partial to pumpkin soup, and this was a very good representation.  It was, as advertised, creamy, and the pumpkin flavour was lovely and strong.  There was no way I could get FMUS to taste this starter, pumpkin being one of the very few ingredients he has an aversion to (read: dislikes with the passion of a thousand burning suns...).  

For mains the guys wanted to try the burgers, while I decided to go for something lighter again.  My vegetable spaghetti with extra virgin olive oil was certainly light, and hit the spot.  It was an example of a very simple, yet effective, dish.  The spaghetti was cooked perfectly, and the vegetables were nice and fresh.  Could have done without the gold leaf, but hey, who is going to complain about something like that?  

Both burgers were served with homemade french fries, but the Big Boy's lamb burger was served with a sweet mint sauce on the side.  The burger looked very tasty, although in the Big Boy's' hands it was very easy to tell that it was not the largest burger you will get in Hong Kong.  By the noises of appreciation made, it was clear that it was a good burger.  The accompanying chips were well cooked and crispy - I did have a couple towards the end of the meal, FMUS would call me a "chip monster", but I gotta help a friend out to finish their meal!

FMUS opted for the cheese burger with Kagoshima beef, which was accompanied by ketchup.  (Not sure why no-one in Hong Kong has thought to import good old Aussie tomato sauce, hmm, maybe there is a side business for me there....)  His burger had two perfectly medium rare beef patties, although again it was smaller than what he was expecting.  At least the pickles were easy to access and quickly discarded -yuck, who like pickles anyway? If you are thinking of trying one of the burgers here, and you have a bit of an appetite, I would recommend also getting a starter or a dessert, otherwise you may find yourself hungry again not long after the meal.   

Overall, lunch at Le Cafe de Joel Robuchon is a nice way to enjoy a little peace away from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong.  It was actually a return visit for me, where I enjoyed the set lunch menu, partaking in one of the little cakes for dessert.  The portions are not large, and for the price probably more expensive than you would get elsewhere, but that is to be expected for cafe sporting a big name like Joel Robuchon.  

As you would expect from a dining spot from one of the worlds most celebrated chefs (with a total of 25 Michelin Stars globally), the service was impeccable and faultless.  The now traditional black with red was everywhere and for a shopping centre eatery (albeit a nice one), the fit-out is plush and quite luxurious.  

Would I come back?  Sure, the service is friendly and the food is good, and the views over the harbour to the Island are pretty easy on the eye too...


FMUS ordered a fresh orange juice, you can still see the pulp
Complimentary bread served before lunch
The staff were very friendly and efficient, as befitting a restaurant bearing the name Joel Robuchon

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