Musings of a bon vivant in Hong Kong


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Comestibles and Cars at Mercedes Me

I admit, I was a little confused at first. Why was Mercedes, the luxury car brand, suddenly serving food? Was this a new tactic? Ply customers with copious quantities of food and drink and before you know it, hey presto you’ve accidentally bought a Merc, (it could happen). Regretably, none of my friends have unexpectedly left Mercedes Me with a car, (my dreams of getting a free ride have been scuppered), but most of them have reported delicious things happening within the store. Thankfully, you don’t have to be a car lover to appreciate the high quality food that’s on offer and if dishes influenced by Peruvian, Japanese and Spanish cuisines sound like your kind of thing, then you won’t be disappointed.

Boozy Sunday brunch is somewhat of a rarity these days for my friends and I, and the Sunday I visited Mercedes Me for the first time (by kind invitation), was no exception, with me balking at the thought of more alcohol following a Saturday night of a delightful combination of whisky, G&Ts and beers that tasted as awful as its name (The Brown Note). However, gluttony was the order of the day, and what a feast we had in store for us: you can choose from their buffet stations of salad/ bakery/ cold selections, interactive stations of cheese/ eggs/ fish, before choosing a main and dessert which are served in a sharing style for the table. If you want the booze, there’s free flow Champagne Perrier-Jouet, Red and White wine, Bloody Mary and Beer that will get you rapidly merry on a Sunday afternoon.

I opted for the mocktail version of the Bloody Mary which was lovely- nicely balanced, not too fiery nor too tart and was enough to rev my appetite. Greed got to me as I piled my plate high with a wonderful selection of cold meats, salad and tasty morsels such as miso eggplant and fried artichoke hearts, and our table enjoyed the extensive cheese offerings and the gorgeous pain au chocolat and bread. I liked the “interactive stations” where you can ask for sous-vide egg with a variety of toppings and sauces- I asked for a sous-vide egg with salmon – and the fish station which was essentially sashimi and dressing of your choice.

For mains we noshed on Sobrassada Slow Cooked Chicken Thighs with sweetcorn stew and red wine jus that was tender and rich. I am a big sweetcorn fan, and loved the creamy texture of the stew. The Sobrassada and Mozzarella Bikini were tasty cheesy bites but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the Broccolini fried with chilli, garlic and sesame, which were especially moreish and flavourful.

If you don’t wear stretchy pants, you might find tucking into their desserts difficult. Their serving of Catalan Cream Foam is generous, and it was creamy yet light. The Dulce de Leche with Coffee Sponge and Whisky Curd is decadent but if you’re a a Ferrero Rocher obsessive then their Chocolate and Hazelnut Delice will be right up your street.

At midday the Mercedes Me store was very quiet but by 1pm, it was buzzing and completely transformed the atmosphere, so if you want to attack the buffet selection without fighting others, the earlier your reservation the better! Service was good, with very attentive staff. Price-wise $490 for the food is really quite reasonable, but the additional $280 for the free flow may not seem so appealing to some. However, given the location, the quality of the dishes, the guaranteed food coma, plus the chance to ogle some flashy cars, I’d say it’s definitely a lovely alternative to the hotel Sunday brunches that are on offer.

Chopstixfix rating: 4/5

Mercedes Me, Shop C-D, G/F, Entertainment Building, 30 Queen’s Road Central, Central, Central, Hong Kong/ Tel: +852 28957398 / https://www.mercedes-benz.com/hk/mercedes-me/st

This was by kind invitation. 


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Classy Catalunya

It has taken a while to sample a taste at Catalunya, but now I understand why this restaurant took Hong Kong by storm at its opening early last year. Serving contemporary Spanish cuisine and headed by an impressive team of culinary experts from restaurants such as el Bulli, El Celler de Can Roca and Arzak, Catalunya has garnered high praise from many a foodie and celebs flock there to dine on Catalan inspired dishes in the confines of the private dining room (via the VIP back entrance of course).

Tree-lined Oi Kwan Road with its schools, hospital and swimming pool is an unlikely location for such a restaurant, but the quiet environment is appealing and adds charm to Catalunya. The grand interior is decorated with Spanish-inspired elements and decked out in mahogany and warm red hues and sits 140, the private dining room 16.Catalunya Catalunya Catalunya

Rach and I were nestled in a booth in the main dining room and had a good view of the comings and goings, including the dishes that were heading our way.

The menu is varied, with a large selection of seafood and meat, but everyone’s eye is on the tapas. We began with the excellent Travelling Oysters, so called because the oysters feature flavours from a different country every week. We had Gillardeau oysters dressed with a Japanese sauce of ponzu and ikura.Catalunya

Travelling Oysters

Travelling Oysters

The thinly sliced 48-month Jamón Ibérico was not too salty and had a lovely nutty flavour. This was a great accompaniment to the Pa Amb Tomàquet, a traditional Catalan toasted bread topped with a tomato ‘’De Penjar” spread and a dash of olive oil, which salt lovers will also enjoy with the moreish Cantabrian Anchovies.

48-month Jamón Ibérico

48-month Jamón Ibérico

Pa Amb Tomàquet

Pa Amb Tomàquet

Cantabrian Anchovies

Cantabrian Anchovies

The Catalunya Tomato Tartar, an elBulli dish, is unusual as it is completely made out of tomatoes but resembles a steak tartar in appearance. The ‘tartar’ had layers of rich tomato flavours and I was impressed by the meatiness of the texture.

Catalunya Tomato Tartar

Catalunya Tomato Tartar

The most enticing dish had to be The Bikini, a downright sinful and luxurious sandwich filled with Iberian ham, mozzarella cheese and truffle. The truffle smell hits you first and breathing and tasting it at once can be a little heady, or perhaps it was just the sheer delight of scoffing it.

The Bikini

The Bikini

My litmus test at any Spanish restaurant is their Tortilla, and Catalunya’s Tortilla De Trampo got my seal of approval. Their Catalan version made from potato, onions, eggs and red sausage was slightly wetter than others I have had before but was thick and velvety especially smothered with their allioli sauce.

Tortilla de Trampo

Tortilla de Trampo

Other favourite dishes were the Bombas De La Barceloneta- pork and beef meatballs covered in potato puree then breaded and deep fried, and the Octopus A Feira, a creamy combination of potato foam, octopus and grilled pork belly. The Green Peas with Blood Sausage may be slightly less palatable for some depending on your penchant for both ingredients, but the green peas were fresh and the sausage had an intense earthy taste.

Bombas De La Barceloneta

Bombas De La Barceloneta

Octopus A Feira

Octopus A Feira

Peas with Blood Sausage

Peas with Blood Sausage

 Of the desserts we sampled, I enjoyed the Torrija the most. This simple pudding of brioche bread soaked in vanilla milk and then pan-fried was decadent and I was intrigued by the smoked ice-cream. The Chocolate in Different Textures with Passion Fruit felt short of my expectations and was too sweet for me to have more than a couple of bites. The Catalunya Fruit Salad was definitely an interesting finish, with fruits infused with different flavours, such as Watermelon infused with Sangria.

Torrija

Torrija

 Chocolate in Different Textures with Passion Fruit

Chocolate in Different Textures with Passion Fruit

Catalunya Fruit Salad

Catalunya Fruit Salad

Catalunya is by no means cheap, (to eat well costs around $500-600 a head), but if you are seeking a near authentic Catalan gastronomic experience without funding the air ticket to go to Spain, then it is worth it for the high quality ingredients and careful execution.

Chopstixfix rating: 3.5/5

$$$$$-$$$$$$$$$$

Catalunya, G/F Guardian House, 32 Oi Kwan Road, Wan Chai  +852 2866 7900

http://www.catalunya.hk

This review can also be seen at Sassy Hong Kong. This lunch was by kind invite. 


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Borough Market Bliss

Ahhh London. I absolutely looooovvve going home and London when it’s warm, dry and sunny is the absolute BEE’S KNEES. Two words: Borough Market. One of the most blissful places to roam around, especially on an empty stomach. A glutton’s dream. The first time I went, which was maybe 6 years ago, the market wasn’t quite the commercialised hub that it is today. There were more rough edges and a less polished charm which I adored. Today Borough Market has been discovered by shedloads of people and anyone who has sniffed out its delicious, wafting aromas and has, somewhat sadly, developed into a tourist attraction in itself but it’s still fantastic. I’m just dismayed that the amazeballs raclette stall that was my all time favourite seems to have disappeared. Boo.

Borough Market

Borough Market

IMG_7553 IMG_7558I went with my parents last Friday and by some miracle were blessed with dry weather and a positively balmy 16 degrees. We wasted no time trawling through the market in search for lunch and first stop was at Portena for a heavenly beef empanada. Juicy, packed with flavour, ugh..I wanted more, more, more. You can pour their homemade Chimichurri sauce on your empanada too, which gives it a punch.Portena Empanadas IMG_7492 IMG_7491

Beef Empanada

Beef Empanada

Chimichurri sauce

Chimichurri sauce

Brindisa, a Spanish gastronomy company, has a glorious shop selling Serrano and Iberico hams, cheeses, olives and of course chorizo. But the best part is that Brindisa has a little stall selling the most kick-ass chorizo sandwiches. Get in my belleh. Bit pricey though, damn inflation. £3.75 for a ‘single’ i.e. 1 chorizo piece, and £4.75 for 2 chorizo pieces. Luckily they are fat chunks.

Brindisa chorizo sandwich

Brindisa chorizo sandwich

IMG_7503

YUM

YUM

Brindisa

Brindisa

More meat next- the German deli stall is extremely popular, and for good reason too as their Bratwurst roll is ridonkulously good and large. Difficult to cram in my mouth but somehow one manages. Packed with sauerkraut and with lashings of ketchup and mustard, this £4.50 roll is sensational.

Bratwurst

Bratwurst

German Deli

German Deli

Bratwurst

Bratwurst

Bratwurst roll- doesn't look that attractive but it was stupendous.

Bratwurst roll- doesn’t look that attractive but it was stupendous.

The carb feast almost over, I spotted a gorgeous cake stall called The Free From Bakehouse with a display of beautiful baked goods, some with interesting combinations of flavours. I spied this drool-worthy Parsnip, Pear and Sea-Salt Caramel cake which was wheat and gluten free as well. The caramel icing was hypnotic to look at. My stomach was pretty much bursting at the seams but I sunk my teeth into a rather large slice and was rewarded with cake nirvana. Ooohhh.

The Free From Bakehouse

The Free From Bakehouse

IMG_7522 IMG_7523

My Parsnip, Pear and Sea-Salt Caramel slice

My Parsnip, Pear and Sea-Salt Caramel slice

Parsnip, Pear and Sea-Salt Caramel cake

Parsnip, Pear and Sea-Salt Caramel cake

We couldn’t manage anymore food, but wove our way through the markets and finally ended up at one of the best coffee shops- Monmouth. A coffee institution that serves smooth, rich coffees and a must for coffee-lovers. The coffee of the day was a Kenyan coffee bean- Gichathaini, which was quite intense and had hints of fruitiness. Perfection in a cup.

Waiting for the coffee to be filtered

Waiting for the coffee to be filtered

Monmouth

Monmouth

The rest of the photos below are just a few stalls I passed by that interested me, and may catch your eye too if you ever go. If only our stomachs were as big as our eyes.IMG_7511 IMG_7509 IMG_7516 IMG_7517

Chutneys by Temptings

Chutneys by Temptings

Artisan chocolates

Artisan chocolates

Owl cookies!

Owl cookies!

Lamingtons and eclairs and cakes galore

Lamingtons and eclairs and cakes galore

IMG_7532 IMG_7490

Bread delights

Bread delights

TRUFFLES

TRUFFLES

An invitation to smell a bowl of truffles

An invitation to smell a bowl of truffle

Borough Market, 8 Southwark Street, London. SE1 ITL. Tel: +44 (0) 207407 1002  Email: info@boroughmarket.org.uk

Opening Times: Full Market: Wed-Thurs 10am- 5pm, Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 8am- 5pm. Open for lunch Mon- Tues 10am-5pm


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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

$-$$$$$$$$$$

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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Enomod- Social Dining in HK

“Social dining” is a seemingly new term that has sprung up. This concept of eating to socialise and to connect with others should not be a novel philosophy in our society, given that social dining dates back to Ancient Greek times, but now, it has had a modern face-lift of sorts. Like anything in HK, once a concept has taken hold, it becomes the island’s obsession for a while and I can see that social dining will be two words bandied about for the next year by those who want to wax lyrical about dining values, connecting with food and the like. Frankly speaking, it is not much different from having dim sum with your family or sharing plates of tapas, but I suppose actually uttering the words “social dining” is meant to have some sort of profound effect on the way we approach eating with our nearest and dearest or even strangers. Anyway, before I get carried away with the philosophy of eating, (I am having one of those deep thinking days), I will cut to the chase and give my thoughts on new Mediterranean restaurant Enomod.Enomod

Dining area

Dining area

Enomod is the amalgamation of the words Enoteca Moderna, thus reflecting this idea of ‘connection’. Enoteca Moderna represents a form of social dining that emerged in 1930s America and this establishment seeks to blend all areas of wining and dining with several different zones. Taking over the sprawling space that Entourage once inhabited, a lounge area, communal dining tables, a bar, wine corner, charcuterie and cocktail lounge now take its place.

Charcuterie

Charcuterie

The areas are well put together, with plush, comfy chairs and hints of art deco in the lounge section, plain white chairs and dining tables in the social dining zone and darker, night-scene colours and lighting for the bar. The wine barrels in the ‘wine area’ give Enomod a sweet, Italian provincial feel, yet the overall artistry of the place has very much a Great Depression vibe, especially with the copper fixtures adding that little bit of extra character.

Wine area

Wine area

Bar area

Bar area

As it was a friend’s birthday, we decided that there was no better way of celebrating with pals than embracing the social dining concept of Enomod. So it was on a Saturday night that ten of us found ourselves occupying one of the communal tables and perusing the menu of Social Dining and Canteen Selection dishes. As a glutton who hangs with gluttons, it seemed sensible to order almost 80% of the menu and get two of each dish, just to make sure we had most of the bases covered. The Social Dining menu is split into Wood, Stone, Copper and Ceramics, denoting the material of the serving dishes onto which the food is served. We started with the Mezze Platter of crackers, eggplant and hummus dip from the Ceramic selection, which was served on a wooden paddle, (minor detail but get your materials correct!). The eggplant dip was slightly piquant but subtle and the hummus light. Nothing unique, but was a pleasant appetiser.

Mezze platter

Mezze platter

We ordered a daily special- the Balsamic beef stew which was tender and well marinated, though more sauce would have been great. The balsamic reduction was a nice balance of acid and sweet and our party were quite happy with our first shared plate.

Balsamic beef stew

Balsamic beef stew

Next up, the Roasted Seabass from the Stone section made an appearance and this was excellent. The fish was succulent and I loved the light seasoning and coating of the herbs which allowed the seabass flavours to shine through.

Roasted seabass

Roasted seabass

Our Citrus scented Crispy Prawns (Ceramics) were lacking the citrus edge I was looking for and the batter was slightly too thick. They were still appetising but somehow the accompanying mayonnaise was the bit I was more interested in as I ended up with more mayo per bite of prawn.

Citrus scented crispy prawns

Citrus scented crispy prawns

The zucchini, fig and haloumi rolls with Sicilian caponata (a traditional aubergine stew) was absolutely delish, not least because I have not had haloumi in yonks, apart from one night out many moons ago when a couple of us visited Beyrouth Cafe and had haloumi kebabs. The saltiness of the cheese was a delectable complement to the sour-sweetness of the caponata.

Zucchini, fig and haloumi rolls with Sicilian caponata

Zucchini, fig and haloumi rolls with Sicilian caponata

The highlight of the menu was the 6 hour lamb rump with pistachio crust. The lamb was moist and that perfect pink in colour and I loved the textural dimension that the pistachio crust gave. The cheesy wafers were a hit too, shame there were not more!

6 hour lamb rump with pistachio crust

6 hour lamb rump with pistachio crust

It was following this dish that a few of the next offerings became less impressive. The Cinnamon beef tenderloin tips were tasty enough but nowhere near as tender as the balsamic beef stew. The Couscous Bouillabaisse was flavourful, the squid, fish and clams were fresh but I would have enjoyed a tad more bouillabaisse broth over the couscous. The worst dish of the night were the Blue Mussels with white wine sauce which, much to our chagrin, were not fresh. I have not had much luck with mussels of late, and it was really disappointing to find that our bowl of molluscs had gone bad. I managed two, a few friends had a couple each, and we unanimously agreed that we needed to give up on the mussels. The white wine sauce was however, quite flavoursome.

Cinnamon beef tenderloin tips

Cinnamon beef tenderloin tips

Couscous Bouillabaisse

Couscous Bouillabaisse

Blue Mussels

Blue Mussels

We tried two of their pastas- the Penne with Chorizo and Cherry and orange zest, which was nicely al dente and fairly spicy (some may find it a little too fiery to appreciate the lovely citrus tang) and the Tagliatelle with Walnut Carbonara Sauce which was delicious but, as with all carbonaras, became too rich to fully appreciate, especially after all the above dishes.

Penne with Chorizo and Cherry and orange zest

Penne with Chorizo and Cherry and orange zest

Tagliatelle with Walnut Carbonara Sauce

Tagliatelle with Walnut Carbonara Sauce

Spanish Tortilla is my litmus test for any restaurant that offers it, as it is simple but seems strangely difficult to master as I have not had any tortillas that have really satisfied me in HK except for the ones at Fofo by el Willy and Tapeo. I am a little hard to please in this area as my various travels in Spain have given me a high benchmark to compare to but still, a girl can hope! Sadly, while Enomod’s fancy-looking Spanish tortilla was presented lovingly (I would prefer it if they just served Spanish tortilla in one dish rather than cutting it up!), the taste just was not there.

Spanish Tortilla

Unsurprisingly, their sauteed broccoli and pancetta side-dish was a complete hit with our table. Anything with bacon gets the thumbs-up from us!

Sauteed broccoli and pancetta

Sauteed broccoli and pancetta

Desserts were where Enomod became more interesting. We tried all of them- the Absinth Spicy Tiramisu, Ricotta Cheesecake with crushed pistachio and candied orange peel and the Pumpkin Crumble Godmother-Style with Amaretto Bisquiti.

Absinth Spicy Tiramisu

Absinth Spicy Tiramisu

Ricotta cheesecake

Ricotta cheesecake

The Absinth infused tiramisu definitely piqued my curiosity and we were all expecting it to pack a wallop but I was pleasantly surprised by the subtlety of the absinthe. The Ricotta cheesecake was my favourite. The cheesecake was light and nutty and the biscuit base and orange zest made it moreish. The pumpkin crumble can only be described as a scrumptious, adult version of baby food.

Pumpkin crumble

Pumpkin crumble

Dining at Enomod was an enjoyable experience and the birthday girl had fun. While the food was decent, I could not say that anything in particular wowed me for the price (it came to $480 per person including wine) and the mussels tainted the meal somewhat. We would have said something but we too far along the meal to make a fuss. However, as far as socialising is concerned, Enomod does its job but I think it could benefit from a warmer ambience in the dining area. The stark chairs and tables did nothing to generate a cosy atmosphere, but the absinthe tiramisu certainly left a warm feeling in my stomach.

Chopstixfix rating: 3/5

$$$$-$$$$$$$$$$

Enomod HK, 1/F, 1-5 Elgin Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2555 6065, www.facebook.com/Enomod


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In case you were missing Spanish food already…

People in HK must be having some serious tapas withdrawal symptoms because the Spanish invasion just won’t stop. If BCN, 22 Ships and Vi Cool weren’t enough, Boqueria is now up and running in Lan Kwai Fong.

LKF Tower already draws quite the crowd due to Lily & Bloom and Gold by Harlan Goldstein, as well as favourite drinking holes Azure and Tazmanian Ballroom, so Boqueria is in a good location to offer Spanish nibbles before a night out.

I’ve not been to the original Boqueria in New York, so can’t comment on whether its standard is equal to that of the flagship, but I have travelled to Spain enough times and eaten enough Spanish food to know what I enjoy and to rack up probably 10 years’ worth of food- induced siestas. When I received a kind invitation to sample what Boqueria has to offer, I was interested, as the chef, David Izquierdo, hails from Valencia and promises to bring the traditional taste of Spain to our tables in HK.

Before you enter Boqueria, the entrance opposite the lifts has a pantry-style display which gave me the urge to raid it for its bottled pimiento and olives. Whether this set up is designed to catch the eye or whet the appetite, I don’t know, but it certainly worked! The interior is set up rather nicely with Moorish tiles, an open kitchen and a compact tapas bar with bar stool seating near the front of the restaurant, opening up into a larger dining space. I like that there are hanging legs of jamón for all to see, but this display became rather a tease as the hunger pangs grew.

I was running late and by the time I joined the fellow foodies, starters were being demolished, the first being a platter of slightly too thickly sliced Iberico ham, (aged for 36 months) and nutty Rosemary Manchego. 

As with most new restaurants within a month of opening, there are bound to be a few hiccups along the way and Boqueria was no exception. For me, the best dishes of the night were the Bombas de la Barceloneta, which I was quite obsessed with, the Carne a la Plancha and the Albondigas.

The Bombas de la Barceloneta (beef and potato croquettes with salsa brava and garlic allioli) were so deliciously moreish that I was pretty sad when I could only have one. I don’t know how this came to be as I thought I was mumbling under my breath, but after talking to the others about how lovely it would be to have another plate, all of a sudden, a fresh plate of croquettes appeared in front of me. It was a miracle! Many thanks to the mysterious waiter or perhaps it was the manager that overheard, but I was pleased as pie I got to stuff my face with another one. The beauty of these bombas was the golden crispy coat that wasn’t overly greasy and the creamy mincemeat and potato filling that made this more than just a mere potato croquette. The allioli was excellent and the dish was quite close to the ones I had in Madrid.

The Carne a la Plancha, or Hanger steak, was surprisingly well prepared; tender and flavoursome, the slices were decently charred around the edges and made tastier by dunking them generously in the mojo verde.

I was also quite taken by the Albondigas or lamb meatballs which were gratifyingly meaty and happily buried under a tangy tomato sauce. The small dollop of sheep’s milk cheese did not necessarily add to the taste but it made for good decoration.

Other dishes of the night were the Pintxos Morunos- seared Australian lamb skewers which were grilled competently but let down by the overwhelming amount of salsa verde and the Salteado de Setas- sauteed wild mushrooms and manchego cheese, which were nice but didn’t really wow my palate. In addition, they served Spanish tortilla, which I’m very fussy about, having had some incredible tortillas on my travels around Spain. I do rate Spanish restaurants on their tortilla, as despite its relative simplicity, isn’t the easiest to perfect. Boqueria’s was a bit of a disappointment as it was too dense and I felt it would also have been better served warm rather cold.

No Spanish restaurant is complete without a paella dish on their menu, and Boqueria has their own Paella de Mariscos with Bomba rice and half the ocean’s creatures in it- monkfish, squid, shrimp, clams, mussels, as well as saffron and salsa verde. The squid and shrimp were perfectly charred, scrumptious and plump and the rice was a good consistency and texture with the all important burnt bits at the bottom, but I couldn’t really detect any saffron. Consistency was a little off and we felt that our half of the table had the better paella versus the other half, whose paella was on the wetter side and tasted less well seasoned. It is of course the case that in Spain there are variations on the preparation of the classic paella; some are served drier and lighter in some regions, so it boils down to personal preference but with whichever preparation, Boqueria would need to be more consistent with this main dish. 

Two desserts brought our evening to a close with the first being the Pina Inopia: slices of pineapple with lime and molasses. Pineapple is a great way of refreshing the taste-buds and the molasses added a sticky sweet contrast to the sharpness of the lime.

Then there were the fat, short churros; gorgeous stumps of fried dough coated with cinnamon sugar and served with a melted thick, hot chocolate. I really enjoyed Boqueria’s version of the churros and overall it was a finger-licking, tasty end to the meal. 

Boqueria has some solid dishes on offer and I think in time, the inconsistencies will iron themselves out. It’s a fun spot and the atmosphere, coupled with their sangria and beer, will certainly help get one in the mood for a night on the town.

Chopstixfix rating: 3/5

$$$$$-$$$$$$$$$$ (Including drinks)

Boqueria, 7/F, LKF Tower, 33 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong, 2321 8681 www.boqueria.com.hk


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Raise the mast, it’s 22 Ships

Get out your fans because it’s Español Fever in Hong Kong right now. We’re experiencing an influx of Spanish eateries and some will be muchos excited to learn that the most hotly anticipated in recent weeks is Brit celebrity chef, Jason Atherton’s 22 Ships. Chef Atherton, of Pollen Street Social Fame, protégé of Ferran Adrià and Gordon Ramsay has brought to the streets of Wan Chai, not only the culinary kudos, but also a refreshing, modern spin on Spanish tapas classics.

22 Ships is a hip, laid-back establishment. Due to its compact size (35 seats), black and white minimalistic décor and an open layout lessen the feeling of confinement. The exposed front with counter seating and the capacity to spill out on to the street for nibbles and casual drinks gives an air of Spanish al fresco dining. Best seats are at the bar around an open kitchen for diners to observe and be entertained by the food preparations.

The no reservation policy seems to be de rigour at the moment and I can certainly recommend going as early as possibly to avoid disappointment and possible starvation, as 22 Ships has yet to establish a table time-limit. Our party of four were determined to not be kept waiting so we arrived promptly at opening time and snagged ourselves a kitchen view at the bar. The only splurge of colour in the restaurant comes from the vivid red font on our menus which display a concise array of para picar, meat, vegetables, eggs and desserts. As the four of us were ravenous, we chose something from each category, including four meat dishes, before settling into our bar stools with a sangria in hand. Interestingly, the sangrias looked a little like raspberry smoothies topped with foam, but it was then explained that the sangria is concocted as normal but injected with air to create this effect.

We were curious about the Manchengo cheese and Iberico ham toastie and were delighted to find four perfect toastie triangles with a comforting, beautiful, creamy filling of cheese, bechamel sauce and ham topped with a fried quail’s egg. Having got off to a good start, our meal continued with the arrival of the Spanish breakfast with chorizo and potato. Whilst the flavours in unison were excellent- the tomato puree’s tanginess meshing well with the chorizo’s picante kick and the poached egg, there was little of this explosive flavour and the potato was overly smooth, leaving the dish under-textured for my liking.

Moving onto seafood, and we treated ourselves to the marinated hamachi with gazpacho dressing and the miso grilled mackerel with wasabi avocado and cucumber chutney. The hamachi was a fine but small dish. The slices were of a good thickness and the gazpacho had a refreshing tang which, coupled with the sliced black olives and the red onion gave the hamachi an added dimension. We loved the mackerel with its perfectly charred edges and crisp skin. The flesh peeled away beautifully and hints of miso enveloped the fish while the mild wasabi avocado puree made for a pleasant but not entirely impactful accompaniment.

Meat was definitely on the agenda that night, but I felt that we needed to try at least one vegetable dish. My eyes fell upon the peas, broad beans, goats curd, Iberico ham and mint dressing on the menu and when it arrived I was impressed by this seemingly simple dish. I loved the wafer thin Iberico ham and the cool, clean taste of the mint against the sweetness of the peas and the tartness of the goats curd was wonderful.

But the real stars of the menu are the meat dishes. The baked smoked bone marrow with onion jam and sourdough and gentleman’s relish butter was a truly masterful dish. The aromatic bone marrow, scraped out and breadcrumbed before being nestled back into the bone was divinely soft and rich. I gleefully spread a heap onto my sourdough crouton and relished the rich taste of the marrow with the sweet, caramelised onion.

Who can resist the pull of mini-burgers, especially when they’re Char-grilled Iberico pork and Foie gras ones? Another first-rate dish, this was foodie heaven for me. The patty was juicy, thick and full of flavour, with the gherkin creating a great crunch. I especially liked the way the creamy avocado dip balanced out the richness of the burger. I later used up the rest of the avocado dip with the garlic fries which were extremely moreish!

The roasted lamb cutlets and the suckling pig were the mostly generously sized dishes of the night and went down a treat with our party of four. The lamb was amazingly succulent and the spiced olive marinade paired splendidly with it, curbing the fattiness of the lamb. The suckling pig’s skin was to die-for. So crisp and full of sinful, fatty goodness, I would have happily eaten a whole plate of the skin alone. The meat mustn’t be disregarded though; it fell off the bone and was mouthwateringly tender. Definitely a dish to be savoured.

At this point, we were starting to get meat sweats, but the desserts were too tempting so we had three. The ‘PBJ’ peanut ice cream with salted pea-nut caramel was a medley of sweet, sour and salty flavours, which can be a little overwhelming for the palate at first. The cherry sorbet was a very refreshing counter balance to the peanut ice cream and we all enjoyed the pop of salt at the end of the mouthful.

The Olive oil brioche with chocolate ganache and sea salt was an interesting combination. The nuttiness from the brioche was overpowered slightly by the bitter edge of the chocolate and there was too much sea salt to really even out the flavours on the taste-buds.

The last was the intriguing goats cheese sorbet with honeycomb and sweet walnuts. This was a little too adventurous for two of my dining companions, and I have to admit, even as a goats cheese lover, this packed quite a goaty, tangy punch. While I commend the effort and the exciting dry-ice effect on presentation, the honeycomb and the sweet walnuts were not enough to combat the sharpness of the sorbet.

22 Ships is sailing in the right direction with efficient, knowledgeable staff and some outstanding dishes. The no reservation policy may be problematic for large groups and I’m concerned that with the kitchen’s attention to detail (which is of course, fantastic and a must), and the lack of a table time-limit, turnover could be slow. We also found that the portions, for the most part, were on  the small side for their prices, with our meal setting us back $500 per head. Despite this, Atherton has brought to Hong Kong a fresh take on Spanish tapas and whilst I wouldn’t peg it as budget-friendly, I would encourage diners to have 22 Ships on their list for this month.

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Chopstixfix rating: 3.5/5

22 Ships, 22 Ship Street, Wan Chai. +852 2555 0722 www.22ships.hk

You can also see this review on Sassy.