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.

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.  

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Va Bene - from LKF to Sai Ying Pun

I never managed to get to Va Bene when it was in its Lang Kwai Fung home, although it had very much been on my radar.  

Recognised as the original Italian trattoria in Hong Kong, the famous restaurant was one of the few places in the notorious LKF where you could escape the madness at any time of the night for a more-than-decent-meal.

Located just off Queens Road West in Sai Ying Pun, the new Va Bene seems just a little out of the way, and while not too far from PoHo, it required a little bit of an effort to find the place. Veering off QRW and down Wilmer Street, I was surprised by the size of the very sleek and modern looking facade.  There was no missing the place, bright neon pulled us in like a beacon!

Our penchant for arriving early saw us as the first diners to be seated, and we were placed strategically at one of the tables that were visible from the huge plate glass window that ran the length of the street frontage.  Our theory for many restaurants, is that the better dressed diners are always placed within sight of the street, with scruffy diners hidden out back.  This seemed to be on the money, over the course of our meal, we continually paid attention to where diners were being seated.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Paris - Pierre Gagnaire

When I was planning my trip to Paris, I had many possible restaurants that I could have visited.  Paris is one of those destinations that every foodie dreams about, where nouveau and haute cuisine mix willingly with the most traditional of dining.  

While my trip to the French capital was centred around my trip to Guy Savoy (see post here), I was also equally excited to be visiting fellow Three Michelin star and #16 on the La Liste (the top 1,000 restaurants globally).  I was so excited about the visit, that as soon as I'd confirmed my reservation at the well known restaurant at 6 rue Balzac, just of the Champs Elysees, I made a beeline to check out the Two Michelin starred Pierre Hong Kong (see post here).

Known as an innovator, Pierre Gagnaire has been known to 'tear at the conventions of French cooking by introducing jarring juxtapositions of flavours, tastes, textures and ingredients'.  As a food blogger, I love the concept of pushing the boundaries of flavour, I love that there are chef's that are willing to test themselves and innovate and dare to dream of a different culinary landscape.

Unfortunately, dining at Pierre Gagnaire in Paris turned out to be much more of a nightmare than a dream!

Let me start by saying that like the famous French chef's predilection for juxtaposition of food, our dining experience was indeed a juxtaposition, but just not in the way that the chef intended.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Le Pain Quotidien - finding a home in Wan Chai

Man, I really love crunchy fresh baguettes. 

There's something special about lathering a heap of room temperature hand churned salted butter on a fresh baguette that captivates me.  

Sometimes, when I go to a restaurant and there's a fresh crunchy baguette on offer, I make the mistake of filling up on bread and ruining my appetite for the pending meal!

As much as I love bread, it's nowhere near as much as Alain Coumont, the mastermind behind global phenomenon Le Pain Quotidien; "the daily bread".  Coumont opened his first Le Pain Quotidien in his home of Brussels in 1990, with his fanatical approach to producing the absolute best 'daily bread' leading to a global empire that as of today stands at more than 200 outlets, including a flagship bakery on Madison Avenue in New York City.

Coumont had always been around food, his grandparents owning a restaurant near Liege in Belgium and his father was a trained chef, so it seemed natural to continue in the same vein. After training at the same hotel school that his father attended, he eventually deviated slightly to become a baker as opposed to a chef.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Seasons by Oliver E - 2nd visit better than the 1st

Seasons by Oliver E is rapidly becoming one of my favourite restaurants in Hong Kong.

One of the few Michelin Starred restaurants I've been to for lunch that actually impressed me (see post here), I decided that an excursion for dinner was required.  After all, if the food was so good with the reserve team in the kitchen, it surely would be even better with the main team, right?!

With a resume that's impressive, including time at Hong Kong's Three Michelin Starred L'Atelier de Joel Rubicon and Two Starred Pierre Hong Kong, Chef Oliver has taken the best of both to come up with his own distinctive style.  With a mission to modernise French cuisine on his own terms, Seasons by Oliver E is a restaurant serves my kind of food.

The second visit to a restaurant is really important, especially if you loved the first experience. Investing time and hard earned cash in a city with tens of thousands of restaurants is no small commitment, and with so many great restaurants to explore, you need a good reason to return. I've been disappointed with a few second visits in HK, which unfortunately means that a third visit is unlikely.  I hoped that my second at Seasons would allow me to reap the rewards of that investment.

Paris - Le Jules Verne

When I was planning my gastronomic tour of Paris, Le Jules Verne was not on top of my mind, in fact, it wasn't on my list at all.

It was the girl's desire to finally do more than walk around the Eiffel Tower, which was all we'd done on our previous visit to Paris.  While I only had a few precious nights available for dinner in arguably the centre of modern cuisine, I gladly aquiesced to SC's request, after all, le Jules Verne was an Alain Ducasse restaurant!

Oh, and I'd secretly been wanting to scale the Eiffel Tower myself - seriously, who wouldn't?

Our last trip to Paris had been in the heart of winter, and even though it was freezing cold, every time we'd visited the Eiffel Tower, it was a bustling and busy tourist location.  This visit was spring and while it was still cold by Hong Kong standards, one thing was missing on our visit.....  

The crowds.

Our visit had coincided with the tragic events in Belgium and understandably, there was a nervousness around Paris, which had manifested as a severe reduction in tourists.  It was a little weird seeing so few people at one of the world's most recognisable landmarks.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Breakfast Series - The Cupping Room

The Cupping Room

I used to be a breakfast fanatic. Back in my home town of Brisbane, the climate allowed for a huge breakfast culture.  There were so many amazing breakfasts, that it was hard to keep up.

When I moved to HK, I was a little dismayed to discover that there's not even close to the same dedication to the first meal of the day - well, at least the Western version!  After checking out a number of cafes and restaurants, I eventually gave up seeking out breakfasts, I just couldn't take the heartbreak of another sub par serve of scrambled eggs.

My search is over!

The best discoveries are those that are unexpected and discovering that the Cupping Room did the best Western breakfast in HK happened pretty much by accident.  

The are a couple of Cupping Room outlets across Hong Kong and they are quite well regarded as producing a great cup of coffee.  I'd been into the Central CR a few times for coffee, but had never 'clicked' that there was an upstairs section that served food.  One morning, curiosity got the better of me, so I wandered upstairs and grabbed a seat.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Paris - Guy Savoy

It might sound a little indulgent but my recent short break to Paris was completely planned around visiting one restaurant - Guy Savoy.

Well, it's not unusual for a food blogger to plan their holidays around food, after all, I was chasing another Hong Kong food blogger around Paris for the week I was there (we'll meet up sometime Bianca!).  While it might seem natural for me to visit Paris, given my favourite cuisine is French, I'd actually been targeting another of the world's top restaurants, Massimo Bottura's Osteria Francescana, clearly the best Italian restaurant globally.  Boy is that place hard to get into, I couldn't even score a reservation three months out!

Thankfully, my second choice was available and I was able to secure a mid week sitting for Restaurant Guy Savoy, which in 2015 was voted as the number four restaurant in the world by La Liste.  If you're not aware of La Liste, it's France's alternative to the San Pellegrino top 50 restaurants and is sponsored by the French Government and takes a slightly more analytical view to ranking restaurants.  Using more than 200 food guides, review sites, gourmet blogs and major news publications on 48 countries, the list compiles a weighted aggregate score and then ranks the top 1,000 'Most Outstanding Restaurants'

Needless to say, I was pretty excited.

I won't bore you with details about how we got to Paris, but I will take a moment to reflect on how beautiful a city the heart of Paris is, simply breathtaking.  The buildings haven't changed in hundreds of years, and it's easy to imagine a time before motor vehicles, where horse and carriage were the only mode of transportation around the large and sprawling city.

Restaurant Guy Savoy is located in such a majestic building on the left bank of the River Seine, with nary a sign in sight confirming that our taxi had dropped us off at the right spot.  It wasn't until we were a little closer that we noticed the discreet sign letting us know we'd arrived at our destination.  Walking up a marble staircase, we came across a gilded door that was the entrance to culinary heaven.  


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