Musings of a bon vivant in Hong Kong


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A’Peeling Tapas?

The tide of Mediterranean restaurants continues with Tapas a’Peel which, as the name suggests, is in the vicinity of Peel Street in Soho, overlooking Pak Sze Lane Park. If Rach and I had known this beforehand, we wouldn’t have spent a very sweaty ten minutes walking up and down Peel Street in utter confusion, so take note!

Tapas a’Peel serves tapas dishes not only from Spain, but also Greece, Italy, Turkey and Morocco. All the plates are created for sharing and the emphasis is on fresh ingredients and simple but tasty recipes.

Tapas a'Peel

Tapas a’Peel

As it is just off Peel Street, the restaurant has in fact, a very peaceful ambience and makes it ideal for cosy meals with friends and family. The decor is rustic and warm, with soft lighting and a homely Mediterranean feel.

Their lunch set is great value at $88 per person for an Appetizer Platter of Mixed Salad, followed by a Daily Pasta, coffee or tea. If you prefer, for an additional $40, you can opt for their Wood-fired Pizza Margarita. But it’s their a la carte menu that is attractive, with a range of dishes from various regions of the Med.

Rach and I started by tucking into their Garlic Loaf with Rosemary and Sea Salt that was freshly baked, wonderfully warm and aromatic. I loved that they serve it with extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and garlic with a garlic grater to season to your taste. Feta cheese and goat cheese lovers will adore their stuffed small green peppers and the creamed Goat Cheese in olive oil- both delicious yet simple dishes.

Garlic Loaf with Rosemary and Sea Salt

Garlic Loaf with Rosemary and Sea Salt

Creamed goat's cheese

Creamed goat’s cheese

Stuffed green peppers

Stuffed green peppers

Their dried Spanish Chorizo was wolfed down followed by the moreish Jamon Iberico Croquettes that were all too easy to pop into one’s mouth. The Moroccan Salad with Eggplant, vine tomatoes, red onions and Tahini Yoghurt dressing was light and clean tasting- the Tahini dressing, just mildly piquant to add a touch of zest to the dish.

Spanish Chorizo

Spanish Chorizo

Jamon Iberico Croquettes

Jamon Iberico Croquettes

Moroccan Salad

Moroccan Salad

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the mains we had. Their Grilled Lamb Shoulder Chops in Moroccan Marinade was exquisitely done and a fairly generous size, enough to fill oneself up without all the preceding tapas! The marinade was delicious and had to be mopped up by the remainder of the bread and also by my favourite dish of the meal, the Gambas Pil Pil, or King prawns in a spicy chilli olive oil with lashings of garlic. The prawns were fantastically fresh and I love nothing more than still crispy fried garlic slices. Here was a dish that fully reflected Tapas a’Peel’s concept of simplicity and allowing the food to ‘speak for itself’. Prawn addicts beware, you could find yourself ordering more than one plate!

Gambas Pil Pil

Gambas Pil Pil

Grilled Lamb Shoulder Chops in Moroccan Marinade

Grilled Lamb Shoulder Chops in Moroccan Marinade

Desserts are few in number but their Chilled Walnut Cream with Caramelized Walnuts and Frangelico Liqueur was delightful, if not a tiny bit too rich after everything we ate. But the silky smooth cream and a medley of nutty flavours won me over and I made a sizeable dent in the pudding! Their home made Lemon tart had all the flavours and potential of being a truly great tart, if it weren’t for the biscuit base being on the soggy side due to an overly moist lemon curd. I do believe though that this will improve.

Lemon Tart

Lemon Tart

Chilled Walnut Cream with Caramelized Walnuts and Frangelico Liqueur

Chilled Walnut Cream with Caramelized Walnuts and Frangelico Liqueur

Even though Tapas a’Peel is one in a long list of ever emerging Spanish restaurants, the real appeal of this establishment is the back to roots approach of letting the ingredients shine through without too much fuss over presentation and the need for dishes with a twist. I certainly know that I will be back for more of their wholesome dishes.

Chopstixfix rating: 3.5/5

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Tapas a’Peel, Lower Ground Floor, 61-63 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong. Tel: 2545 5988. Opening times: Monday to Saturday for lunch and dinner. Private room available for up to 12 people. http://www.a-peelasia.com

This review was done on behalf of Sassy HK and can be read here.

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Ooh Souk you, Sir!

I was having a bit of an off-day when I went to review Le Souk. I was recovering from a horrendous cold, which, in its three day ferocity, had robbed me of the ability to speak for two-thirds of that time, (much to the amusement of friends and colleagues). So when the review loomed, my foggy brain and I went in without really knowing what cuisine it was. I assumed from the “Le”, that it was going to be French- rookie error. I realised, when I stepped inside from Staunton Street that it was in fact, a Middle-Eastern restaurant, and that I actually knew the proprietor, Dody, from my favourite hookah place, Sahara,on Elgin Street.So why the new establishment round the corner in Soho? As far as I could tell from the menu, the dishes served at Le Souk were almost identical to what they serve at Sahara. But, if you’re a frequenter at the latter, you will probably have seen or experienced just how crowded it gets at peak times, and, as tasty as some of the signature dishes are, it’s nigh on impossible to accomodate more than two dishes and your drinks on those incy wincy tables, as well as somehow fitting the hookah in between seats. It’s all a bit claustrophobic.

Le Souk, which means ‘the market-place’, has a distinct Middle-Eastern feel to it, with Moroccan hanging lamps and eggplant and Egyptian blue hues adorning the interior. The aim of Le Souk is to be a restaurant first, then a place for hookah, compared to Sahara, which is hookah first, then an eatery. Dody told me that they will eventually be offering shisha after 10.30pm, when the majority of diners have finished their meals.

The menu offers a small variety of dishes from Morocco, Egypt and Lebanon. To start, my friend and I had the Moroccan mezze platter. The platter is a good idea for the indecisive, as it has almost everything offered on the appetizer menu. It’s arranged with a flair and comes with a selection of hommos, kefta, babaganoush, zaaluk, falafel, Moroccan cigars, cheese and mixed olives, served with warm pitta bread. It was quite obvious that we found the zaaluk (roasted eggplant pureed with garlic and coriander) unbelievably delish, as the little receptacle it was held in was wiped clean. The babaganoush (smokey roasted eggplant pureed with garlic and tahini) was also excellent. Other standout tidbits were the kefta (grilled minced beef patties) and the Moroccan cigars (filo pastry filled with feta cheese and fresh mint).Be careful that you don’t demolish all the pitta bread with the dips, as you won’t have enough room for mains, which are a generous size. I love the lamb tangine over at Sahara, so we went for that, and also shared the Moroccan seafood paella.

The lamb tangine has always been prepared excellently, so I was pleased that the standard was just as high at Le Souk. The cubes of lamb were beautifully tender and succulent, and the best bit is drenching your couscous with the delectable sweet yet subtly tart gravy, created by the apricots, prunes and preserved lemons the lamb was cooked with. The seafood paella was a lot better than I thought it would be. I generally have a poor opinion of paella dishes I’ve had, outside of the ones I’ve sampled in Spain myself. Previous paellas I’ve had were let down by the soggy consistency of the rice, an overwhelming pile of crustaceans and not enough flavour. I was however, pleasantly surprised by Le Souk’s version. The rice had a nice bite to it, was not too dry and had a good consistency. Like most Morrocan dishes, that distinct lemon flavour was present but not overpowering, (the rice was a happy yellow colour to compliment the taste) and there were plenty of prawns to share with my friend.If you want dessert, you can end with baklava, though I personally always find it a bit tooth-achingly sweet for my tastes.

Dody is an excellent host and is fantastic at making sure service is smooth and all customers are satisfied. If Le Souk is anything like Sahara, I would recommend that you stick to their appetisers and lamb and seafood dishes, as they seem to excel in those areas. With more leg and elbow room, I’ll be back for more to enjoy my tangine more comfortably!

Chopstixfix rating: 3.5/5

Le Souk, G/F, 4 Staunton Street, Soho. Tel: 2522 2128. Opening times: 6pm till late.

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Read the review at Sassy Hong Kong too!