Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Restaurant Petrus - fine dining with views to die for

I think I've found the most spectacular and stunning views of Victoria Harbour, and quite possibly the most wonderful vista in all of Hong Kong.  Located on the 56th floor of the Island Shangri-la, Restaurant Petrus is a French fine diner that had been on my 'must visit' list for some time. I'd heard that there were some spectacular views from Petrus, but nothing could prepare me for the view that greeted me as we were shown to our table.

Matching the spectacular view of Hong Kong, was the plush interior of the Island Shangri-la's showpiece restaurant that was literally at the top of the world.  Old style French opulence sprang to mind as we surveyed the gilt chairs surrounding crisp white linen at each table.  A grand piano underneath hanging chandeliers and cherubs guarding the entrance were just some of the features that added to the feeling of pure luxury.

Matching the regal setting was a menu that was not short of luxurious ingredients, along with a wine list that showcased the restaurant's twelve thousand bottles of wine (yes, you read that correctly).  We had a choice between a special black truffle degustation and a la carte, but with an unusual take on our normal dining habits, we chose the 'simpler' options of the standard a la carte menu.  

Shortly after placing our orders, master Sommelier Yohann Jousselin moved in to offer the girl a glass of champagne from one of many showcased by the restaurant and started to plan out the supporting act for the meal to follow. 

We were given a couple of amuse bouche to whet our appetites, one was quite special but the other a little bit of a let down.  I'd normally have loved the thinly sliced pieces of iberico jamon on crusty toast, but the balance of the jamon to toast was severely lacking and the normally powerful hit of Spanish ham was lost to the overly dry toast.  I think providing the jamon on crusty bread would have been more effective, and a lot easer to swallow!

Supporting the jamon was a bowl of avocado foam with small cubes of beetroot jelly, served with an incredibly thin slice of toast covered in cream fraiche, pickled radish and salmon roe.  The avocado foam was incredibly light and had an underlying sweetness that was enhanced by the contrasting hits of beetroot jelly.  The toast was delightful, and reflecting back, would have been an appreciated accompaniment to the jamon!

Interestingly and in complete contrast from my usual style of starter, I chose the vegetables as my first course.  With vegetables specially imported from Annie Bertin's Vendel in Brittany, my selection of root vegetables were lightly simmered and served on a bed of Iberian chorizo, then finished off with beautiful looking barrage blossoms.  A light and spicy chorizo sauce was poured over my vegetables to provide an extra layer of sweetness.  I'd chosen the dish after viewing how pretty it's presentation was on the Petrus website, but was just a little disappointed with the version presented to me on the night, it looked as if it had been put together in a rush, and looked nothing like the work of art on the web site.  Looks aside, the dish was warming and quite satisfying.

The girl's starter of Brittany lobster was much prettier than my vegetables, and while it was plated quite nicely, the choice of clear glass plate was a bit mystifying.  The round of cold lobster flesh was topped with ample salmon roe and was finished off with pickled radish and micro herbs.  A yuzu cannelloni with lobster puree sat along side a large lobster claw and the three main 'sections' on the plate were connected by dollops of lobster foam and avocado.  The dish was lovely and well balanced, with the saltiness of the salmon roe working in tandem with the sweet lobster meat.  The citrus of the yuzu and the creamy lobster foam matched beautifully and the lobster claw was soft and wonderfully cooked.  It was a delicious starter, but I couldn't help thinking that it was three starters on a plate, with the small dollops of foam not really bringing the dish together.

I'd been swayed by some beautiful plating of the lobster on the website, which had led to my selection of Blue Lobster served glazed with lemon on one half and thermidor on the other.  In my mind I'd been expecting a spectacularly plated dish, worthy of a magazine, instead my plate looked a little clumsy and even the addition of a wonderful lobster bisque at the table couldn't enhance the presentation.  Served with steamed bok choy, the plating was rustic at best. Thankfully, the lobster was exquisitely cooked and quite delicious, especially when mopped up with the bitter sweet bisque that was in ample supply.  I was a little mystified by the thermidor mix on the second half of my lobster, it had the consistency of mud and I had to scrape it off my lobster, it wasn't enjoyable at all.

Dish of the night went to the girls selection of Aveyron lamb rack, which had been roasted and served with a ratatouille stuffed baby zucchini and a black garlic puree.  It was one of the Petrus signature dishes and the incredibly tender French lamb was full of flavour and just divine.  The sticky jus that accompanied the dish was deep and rich in meaty flavour, it was the perfect pairing for the lamb.  While the flavours of the dish were spot on, the plating was again a little disappointing, resting on the rustic side of pretty.  In fact, most of the plating on the night left a lot to be desired.

We decided to share one of the many desserts on the Petrus menu, with only one item that really stood out as a dish that we desired.  It turned out to fall well short of expectations.  When you think of mille-feuille, you think of layers of light puff pastry, filled with whipped cream; quite a refined and dainty dish.  What we received was layers of heavy biscuit with quite thick and stodgy vanilla cream.  The biscuit layers were crinkle cut, like potato chips (only thicker) and were quite difficult to eat.  It wasn't at all a traditional mille-feuille and it wasn't very enjoyable to eat.

Rounding off our meal was the traditional petite four, which were actually quite good and with six individual little sweets, the girl and I took turns until all were devoured.  I started off with the macaroon and finished with the lemon tart.

Our meal at Petrus was a little bit of a mixed bag, there were some amazing looking items on the menu and it was actually quite difficult to settle on our choices.  I think the girl made much better selections that I did, with two very nice plates of food.  There was nothing inherently wrong with the flavours of my starter and main, it was just that I'd been expecting 'WOW' and all I got was a 'nice' couple of dishes.  Dessert was a complete let down, the flavours and textures all wrong with the dish only resembling a mille-fueille.

Service was as you'd expect from a five star hotel, faultless.  The team was like a well oiled machine, keeping a close eye on our proceeding without overtly appearing to do so.  The minute a wine glass was empty, one of the wait staff was at our table enquiring on our next selection and our water glasses were always full.

Petrus held a Michelin Star in 2014, is listed as one of Hong Kong's top 100 tables and was rated as one of the top twenty restaurants in 2014 and 2015 by the influential Tatler magazine.  I can see why Petrus held such a lofty space in the Hong Kong dining scene, there are the remnants of a very fine restaurant, however, I can also see why it's fallen somewhat from its highs of a few years ago.  With the departure of executive chef Frédéric Chabbert at the same time as award winning pastry chef Claude Guérin, there are some cracks starting to appear.  

Given Petrus' once exalted place as one of Hong Kong's best restaurants and it's utterly incredible views of the city skyline, I really hope that its fortunes rise again.

The wine list read much more like a book - with 12,000 bottles available!
A lovely bread basked with butter imported from France - tasty
Plating at Petrus

The very luxurious and opulent Petrus dining room

Those Spectacular views from level 56

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