Monday, 28 December 2015

Frites Central - Authentic Belgian frites

Not every meal can be had in a Michelin Starred restaurant (unfortunately) and sometimes it's just basic pub food you're looking for.  I'd just met the girl after work and we had to decide on a dinner location close to Sheung Wan, somewhere nice and casual.  I'd not had a heap of luck when deciding on casual dining spots in HK, with more than a few being quite the let down.

It just so happened that we were walking close to The Wellington, right on the border of Central and Sheung Wan and I remembered that there was a Belgium Beer House on the 1st floor. Frites sounded pretty interesting and the Belgium people are pretty well known for their frites (fries), so it seemed like an easy place to stop by on the way home.  We didn't have a booking and didn't really expect that it would be too hard to score a table.  Boy, were we wrong!  As we stepped out of the lift, the place was rocking with suits enjoying an after work beer.  Luckily, we were given a table on the promise that we'd be out of the place by 7:30pm - it was 6:15pm and an easy request to fulfil for a couple of speed eaters!

We were shown to one of the many bench style seats in the main dining room, which reminded me of an old style European bar; bench seats at one end and a traditional bar at the other.  It was quite comforting and warming inside, especially since it was a very rare cold winter's day outside. Placemat style menus were already at our table and showed off a wide range of typical pub fare, including a whole section dedicated to Mussel Pots, which were available in half or full kilo options.  A big pot of mussels sounded a tempting way to start a meal, but given we'd promised to vacate our seats in record time, we decided to forego starters and jump straight into mains.

As we waited for our mains to arrive, SC couldn't help herself and ordered arguably one of Belgium's greatest ever exports, a Stella Artois.  I'm not a huge fan of beers generally, but the times where I've almost enjoyed a brew have been with a pilsner.  Of course, the prospect of a beer excited SC more than myself, so she enjoyed the huge glass of pilsner, which she assured me was lip smackingly good.

The beer also happened to perfectly match the girl's main course of Provence cutlets from New Zealand lamb accompanied by herb de provence Lyonnaise potatoes and Swiss chard salad. The plate of food was about as simple as it gets, with a huge pile of expertly grilled lamb cutlet sitting atop the chard and potatoes.  Lamb is a very sweet meat and can be served as medium rare, but is much better when the lamb fat is rendered.  Frites had got the mix right, with the sweet fat rendered perfectly but still maintaining a hue of pink from the lamb.  Being such a large plate of lamb, the potatoes and chard were largely unnecessary, but I guess needed to be added...  You just can't serve a plate of lamb on it's own in a restaurant, can you?

I'd kept things pretty simple too, ordering the steak frites, which was a 14oz piece of grilled USDA Black Angus rib eye, served with a lettuce leaf salad and those famous Belgium chips.  Rib eye is a very fatty piece of meat and should be served at least medium and possibly even medium well, but I'd run with the recommended medium rare.  The rib eye was very tasty, especially where it wasn't so fatty, but I should have gone with my instinct and ordered it medium, with the fattier parts of the steak just a little chewy and under rendered.  There was nothing at all wrong with my frites though, they were golden brown, crispy and seasoned just right.  I definitely enjoyed the frites more than the steak, especially those chips at the bottom of the pile that had soaked up the juices from the steak.  Yum.

Both of our plates of food were huge, way too huge for a normal person to eat and as a consequence, I'd left a decent amount of my food uneaten.  To the credit of the wait staff, they were very concerned that I'd not enjoyed my meal, offering to pack the lot up for us to take home.  We had to reassure our waiter a few times that there had been nothing wrong with the food, it was just that the serving size were too big.  I guess at that point I could have mentioned that I'd have preferred my steak cooked medium, but given it was my choice to go medium rare, it wouldn't have been fair.

We'd easily finished our meal in the time allotted and made our way out of the joint.  It was a quick meal and in many respects it was a simple meal, and for us was a reasonably cheap meal, but somehow it had hit the right spot.

Frites was one of those quick casual dining options that have sprouted across Hong Kong over the last few years.  Part of the Concept Creations group, Frites forms part of the group's stable of authentic and affordable 'theme' restaurants.  But would I go back?  Well, it's probably more a spot for drinking with friends and then continuing on for a meal.

So, I guess I'd have to make some friends ;)

We had to be out by 7:30pm, but there were a few seats still free

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