Saturday, 30 April 2016

Le Relais de l'entrecôte - steak frites in the heart of Wanchai

Man I sure do love steak and chips!

We'd become pretty regular customers of SoHo's La Vache - mainly because by Hong Kong standards the traditional French 'steak frites' joint is incredibly great value.

La Vache is super popular too.  In the past, we've turned up just before opening, only to find a huge queue of hungry diners waiting to feast on some decent steak and all-you-can-eat frites!  The place fills up so quickly, it's pretty unbelievable.

So it's equally unbelievable that Wan Chai's own steak frites joint le Relais de l'entrecôte isn't just as popular!

I'd know about le Relais de l'entrecôte for quite some time, but it wasn't until we signed a lease on an apartment in Wan Chai that we decided to finally get along to check it out.  As much to get a feel for the dining scene in our new neighbourhood as anything else.

There are a couple of entrances to le Relais de l'entrecôte, there's an elevator that takes you upstairs to the rather grand entrance, as well as an escalator a little further along Queens Road East.  You get to the dining room through a long walkway that has bright red wood paneling, and has prints depicting cute and arty Parisian drinking scenes.

Our reservation was for a Saturday night, as I was pretty darn surprised to see a mostly empty dining room at a time where I'd have expected a packed space. The bright red theme continued inside the dining room, which was dark and had an intimate feel.  A feeling that was enhanced buy the closeness of the tables to each other.

As is the case with most steak frites joints, the menu was pretty straight forward.  A set price per person which includes a green salad with walnuts, steak and french fries - served with the le Relais de l'entrecôte special sauce.  The only question you're asked is how you want your steak cooked, with our choice being medium.

Like a well oiled machine, shortly after we placed our order, a bowl of warm French baguette as delivered, as well as the girl's house red.  Accompanying the bread was a plastic container with some imported unsalted French butter.  While I appreciated knowing that the butter was French, the plastic container looked a little cheap and out of place in the classically decorated restaurant. I'd have much preferred a slab of salted French butter on a plate and maybe a short explanation of the butter's origin!

Our green salad quickly followed and as far as salads go, it was pretty simple, different types of green lettuce with a light dressing and walnuts.  I'm not going to spend much time talking about the salad, but I did enjoy it, and it whet my appetite for the steak to come.

Le Relais de l'entrecôte uses a trimmed sirloin cut as their steak of choice, not that we'd have been able to tell visually.  Our steak came completely doused in their special sauce and to be honest, we were a little despondent that we didn't ask for the sauce on the side....  A feeling that didn't last long though, the way that special sauce was given to us was just perfect.  In fact, the quality and cooking of the steak, along with the liberal coating of the sauce were sensational. There was a slight bite of parsley in the creamy sauce that I just loved and really made the sauce pop!

Also on the plate was a huge pile of golden crunchy French fries, which were soaking up the secret sauce and as a consequence were super delicious.  

We had a little misunderstanding at one point though!  The approach of apportioning out the steak at le Relais de l'entrecôte was that they only serve up half to begin with, while the rest stays heated over a candle on another table.  We initially thought the serving size was a bit stingy, that was until our waitress brought over the rest of the steak and more of that delicious sauce.

Sticking around for dessert, my classic creme brûlée was superb, one of the best I've had in Hong Kong.  Served quite traditionally in a shallow ramekin, there was the expected cracking sound as I broke through the brûlée on top and the creamy custard underneath was sweet and beautifully consistent.  

It's hard not to compare La Vache to le Relais de l'entrecôte, they are so similar in their approach it's spooky!  Where La Vache is a funky spot with a cool interior and a real buzz, le Relais de l'entrecôte seems to be much more traditional in its approach and the interior of the dining room.

I have to say that I was much more impressed with the steak and special sauce from le Relais de l'entrecôte, with the lean and perfectly cooked steak and unctuous sauce being my clear favourite.  However, lighter and crunchier French fries are much better from La Vache, evidenced by my inability to say no when offered a second or sometimes third helping.

One of the mysteries of Hong Kong dining is why restaurants that essentially have the same menu and serve the same food seem to have such differing fortunes by way of customers.  Well, maybe not such a mystery in image conscious HK - there is no doubt that the hip and cool feel of La Vache helps drive customers through the door!

What a shame!  I genuinely think they're missing out!

Simple yes - but super tasty!
As good a creme brûlée as you'd hope for
The tables were a little squishy though!
Centred around the bar - like a good French restaurant should!
Red is the predominant colour at Le Relais de l'entrecôte


  1. I do love me a plate of steak frites! But oh boy those tables look squishy. No room to whisper sweet nothings except into your neighbour's ear :)

    1. In a way, it was good that it wasn't too busy! But the food was good, so a good start!


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