Sunday, 24 April 2016

Continental - Contemporary UK cuisine

There were a couple of reasons why I visited the Continental, which is one of the many restaurants at Pacific Place.

A mate at work had been banging on about how great the place was and how well known the Chef was back home in his native United Kingdom (although I didn't recognise the name).  The other, and much more important reason was that I'd read an article that the Continental produced one of the 'best soufflés in Hong Kong' by Time Out HK.

I've been craving soufflés lately, so that was all I needed to get on in for a bite to eat after work.

First thing first, the Continental is a beautiful looking restaurant.  Designed by David Collins Studio with an eye to the sophistication of Europe's grand cafes, the Continental is a study of how to integrate a restaurant into it's local environs.  With amazing views of the Hong Kong city scape, the dining room is both cool and modern looking; instantly helping me feel right at home as we were seated.

The Continental was established in partnership with award winning chef and author Chef Rowley Leigh, a man who apparently needs no introduction if you're a UK native.  Acclaimed as one of the founding fathers of modern British cooking, Chef Rowley learned his trade at Le Gavroche and Joe Allen, before going on to head up iconic restaurants Kensington Place and Le Poulbot.  

After being seated by professionally dressed and expertly trained staff, we were given our menus to peruse, a task which was made difficult by the huge variety of contemporary British classics!  While the girl was trying to decide on which delightful options to choose, I'd gone straight to the back of the menu to see what the dessert options were; after all, I was there for the aforementioned soufflé!


No souffle on the menu!  My heart sank, and I started to wonder what it was all about.  Why I was there and what I'd do to salvage 'anything' from the evening.  It was at that point that I focussed on the dishes I could order.

The girl kicked off her meal with a starter of Tasmanian salmon and Hokkaido scallop tartare with lemon coulis, dill and Oscietra caviar.  The sensational looking dish was presented with a trio of scallop shells filled with quenelles of salmon and scallop tartare and a couple of pearls of caviar delicately balanced on top.  The dish was pretty, sure, but it was absolutely divine to eat!  There was a freshness coming from the fresh, sweet seafood that danced on the palate and was helped with a little salty hit from the caviar.  The lemon coulis, which was much more like a curd, added a bitter sweet hit of acidity and just levelled out the sweetness perfectly.  It was a relatively simple dish, but tasted wonderful.

My choice was a little more predictable!  The green asparagus, wrapped in Serrano ham with a slow cooked Taiyouran Japanese egg looked just too good on paper to pass on.  It looked much more rustic than the concoction I'd envisioned, but the plating was probably more in line with the restaurant's styling anyway.  Four large spears of asparagus were wrapped in the salty ham to form a 'box', in which the slow cooked egg was placed.  The plate was finished off with shallot crackling, a tomato and red pepper salad and dollops of Meaux mustard.  Egg, asparagus and ham are such classic flavours that it was always going to be a tasty dish, and I wasn't disappointed.  The star of the dish was the egg, the yolk was thick and viscous and velvety and, coated the asparagus and ham, was 'juuust' right.

With quite vast options for mains, I was surprised when the girl when for the pasta, especially since she'd told me that the milk-fed veal chop was the dish she really wanted.  After the waitress had walked away and I asked her about her last minute change of mind, she was actually a little perplexed herself!  Anyway, the wild forrest mushroom pasta came and was pretty nice, although I'm sure SC through she made the wrong choice.  For a dish that had mushroom in the title, there was a surprising lack of chunks and textures of mushroom!  The flavour was there, but we'd loved to have had some extra texture to break up the 'same(ish)' texture that came from the roasted hazelnuts, capers and preserved lemon.  It was a nice plate of well cooked pasta, but could have been so much more!

It had been such a long time since I'd had a lovely piece of grilled Tasmanian salmon, so went for the slow cooked salmon with sauce verde, crushed green peas, baby carrots and a lemon emulsion.  It was a lovely dish, let me say that right up front, the flavours wonderfully complimenting each other and fresh as you'd hope to get.  But, I was bitterly disappointed in the way that my salmon was cut and presented!  It was cut into a circle and as a consequence, lost that texture that you get from a lovely big chunk of fish.  I'm not sure why the team at the Continental prepared it that way either, the dish was rustic looking anyway, and didn't need the extra 'refinement' that came from a perfectly consistent piece of fish!  The other thing that amazes me is why the Brits love mushy peas so much!  The provided a great fresh flavour, but I'd have been just as happy if there were fresh new peas in their original spherical shape!

If it sounds like I've been a bit picky with some of the elements of the meal, it's only because I was disappointed that there was no souffle on the menu for dessert, so we did end up passing on sweets at the end of the meal.  However, we actually loved our meal at the Continental, in particular the simple fresh ingredients that were treated (largely) with respect and allowed their natural flavours to shine.  We'd definitely go back!

It's worth noting that wile the restaurant was established by a UK celebrity chef, the man running the kitchen was Executive Chef Joseph Sergentakis, whom up until recently had been running the hugely popular Mr & Mrs Fox.  It's also worth noting that Chef Joseph worked at world renowned l'Hotel de Ville under Philippe Rochat, who tragically died while exercising.  Ironically, that restaurant would go on to become the #1 Restaurant in the world (according to La Liste) with his predecessor also tragically dying.

Now that we've moved to Wan Chai, Pacific Place is a very short walk away, which means that we'll be adding the Continental to one of our regular after work dining joints.  With super tasty food, impeccable service and an added bonus that it's on the way home from work, it would be a shame not to drop in for dinner!

See you real soon, especially if you put a soufflé back on the menu!

The salmon and scallop tartare was a standout - incredible flavours
Super tasty, but why cut the fish into a circle?

Contemporary styling that integrated into its environ - the Continental is a comfortable place to dine

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