Musings of a bon vivant in Hong Kong


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Coffee at Mayfair

Nope, this isn’t a post about drinking chic coffee in Mayfair in London sadly, fooled you! But, I write this as I stare out of the window at the disgustingness that is a red rainstorm and can’t help but think of England and how the weather is most probably crap as well. Joys on both sides of the Earth. So it’s quite apt that there is now a coffee place in HK called Mayfair where you could TRY and sit back and think of the green and pleasant land that is home for us Brits.

Mayfair Coffee

Mayfair Coffee

Given how awful the HK weather has been recently, nothing quite beats the dreariness like a cup of tea, (obviously) or a lovely coffee brew. I don’t pretend to be a coffee snob; in a previous life, I used to drink the worst kind of canteen and instant machine coffee there is- sometimes up to 4 cups of this thick, black sludge a day to combat droopy eyelids, much to my taste-buds’ dismay. Now, Starbucks is also a usual go-to- I am a Starbucks lemming ordering my hazelnut lattes.

But, there are some great cafes in Hong Kong- Cafe Corridor in Causeway Bay, (though sometimes their coffee arrives a little on the tepid side), 18 Grams, Rabbithole. And now, I’ve decided I quite like newcomer and independent coffee outlet Mayfair Coffee, at the Center in Central.

Mayfair, opened by Ken Pong, takes its name from that well-known posh area in London. The outlet is small, practically an area chiseled out from the wall, seating no more than 6 and serving more as a quick pit-stop or ‘drive-through’ for coffee. There is no denying its charm however, with the English influence seen in small details at the counter. Its name is meant to be a reflection of the high quality coffee that Mr. Pong wishes to serve to customers, alongside pretty cakes and Mövenpick icecream and I feel that the ambience of being in a stylish cafe is definitely achieved. Their logo is rather cute too; two deer heads emerging from one body facing opposite directions. Looks a little odd, but the point is more philosophical, born from an idea of looking forward whilst also looking back. IMG_9442 IMG_9444IMG_9447IMG_9446

Something that amused me greatly was finding out that three of the baristas, including head barista Rita, were all previously Starbucks employees. Rita was at the coffee giant for six years, before deciding that she wanted the chance to be a bit more creative and step out from behind the automatic coffee machine to a semi-automatic one at Mayfair. Aside from the usual array of classic coffees and a good selection of espressos, they also serve Kenyan and Guatemala single-origin specialty coffees brewed using hand-drip or syphon methods.IMG_9445

IMG_9441I had a latte with one of their Green tea and mandarin orange jelly cakes and thoroughly enjoyed myself. The baristas were fun and friendly and we had a good laugh chatting away at the counter. I must say my latte was excellent and smooth. I normally find the Starbucks’ version leaves a slightly bitter after-taste if I don’t add some sugar to it but at Mayfair, it was full-bodied, milky and sweet enough without additional sugar. My cake was pretty to look at and delicious to taste. A delicate green tea flavour came through and the orange jelly gave a noticeable citrusy punch to liven the cake up.

Green Tea and Mandarin Orange Jelly Cake

Green Tea and Mandarin Orange Jelly Cake

Cafe latte

Cafe latte

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Mayfair might not be a place to hangout at per se, given its size, but it’s good to have a different coffee outlet to go to in Central that isn’t a Starbucks, a Fuel Expresso or a Holly Brown. More excitingly, they have introduced coffee workshops, so if there is interest to do a class, you can email them at info@mayfaircoffee.com. What’s my overall opinion? In short, I like it. I think I’ll be taking a short detour to the Center a bit more in the future.

Chopstixfix rating: 3.5/5

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Shop 5B, Entrance Hall Floor, The Center, 99 Queen’s Road, Central, HK. Tel: 9854 5836 http://www.mayfaircoffee.com

This was by kind invitation- many thanks Ken!

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Stone Nullah Tavern- a stone’s throw from reinvention

There have been a few places that have popped up in recent months (think Restoration, Catalunya, Mayta), but I haven’t really been following the new restaurant scene avidly, as frankly, my wallet needs a rest and the turnover is making my head hurt a little! I mention my wallet as it seems to be somewhat of a trend for these newest establishments to be a tad pricey (something that friends and I have been discussing of late) and the food isn’t necessarily completely worth the moolah though I can commend their efforts and in most cases innovation.

One such place is Stone Nullah Tavern, a liquor bar and eatery which specialises in ‘New American’ cuisine which essentially means taking classic American dishes and adding a modern pizzazz to them. Positives first- the desserts are the winners on the menu (more on that later) and the location is great. So named after Stone Nullah Lane in Wan Chai, it was opened by IHM, the same group that brought as Linguini Fini and Posto Pubblico. It is in an area of Wanch that is fast-becoming an alternative hip hangout: opposite the Zenith and near the Hopewell Centre and round the corner from a little eatery that sells excellent dumplings. Eclectic collection of places, but somehow it works. The open glass-fronted entrance greets patrons and the liquor bar entices the weary. The casual dining area lies behind the bar and with the timber panelling, framed old maps and low lighting, I felt as if I was at sea on a ship, minus the watery surroundings, (and the swaying).2013-05-08 20.18.52

When friends and I visited Stone Nullah it happened to be an amber rainstorm which did add to the ‘ship at sea’ ambience and it was loud inside. Wooden panelling is not conducive to good conversation, so we found ourselves taking twice as long to complete dialogue. The menu has a layout of 7 sections of íncreasingly biological terminology: ‘vegetation, fungi and tubers’, ‘legumes, grains & pulses’, ‘crustaceans, cephalopods and bivalves’, ‘swine’, ‘bovine & fowl’, ‘pickled’ and ‘confectionary’. Whilst this is quite quaint to those who understand the terms cephalopods, bivalves (octopus, squid and shellfish respectively) and tubers (potatoes), this may be quite puzzling for others or just a tad pretentious?

Complicated names aside, the dishes we sampled that night were all quite rich and salty, which was a shame, as the menu does offer some interesting combinations.

First up, the Quinoa Thanksgiving Stuffing with sage, sausage and foie gras gravy, sounded irresistible and the initial few bites were enjoyable and savoury, with a hint of the foie gras coming through. One too many bites though and you will fill yourself up!

Quinoa Thanksgiving Stuffing

Quinoa Thanksgiving Stuffing

The Mac & Cheese with egg yolk and sharp cheddar, as yummy as it seems was underwhelming. The egg yolk did nothing to combat the runniness of the dish and the sharp taste of the cheese gave it an almost sour taste with none of the melted, creamy deliciousness.

Mac & Cheese

Mac & Cheese

The meat dishes fared better, with the scrumptious, finger-licking Chicken Wings with chili, honey, garlic and ranch disappearing as quickly as they arrived. Stone Nullah’s version of the Filipino Pork Sisig- the Pig’s Foot and Ear Sizzling Sisig, was crunchy , the calamansi lending it flavour with its delicate, sour edge.

Chicken Wings

Chicken Wings

Pig’s Foot and Ear Sizzling Sisig

Pig’s Foot and Ear Sizzling Sisig

The Crispy Pig’s Head with lobster salad and chili citronette was rather lovely with a textural contrast between the battered, succulent pig’s head and the salad. Too much citronette was added but our group approved of the dish overall. The ‘Chicken-Fried’ Tenderloin which is in fact tender rare beef within the batter, was comforting and evoked noises of approval.

Crispy Pig’s Head

Crispy Pig’s Head

‘Chicken-Fried’ Tenderloin

‘Chicken-Fried’ Tenderloin

To end we had the desserts which were the highlights of the night. Their famed Fat Kid Cake confused us at first as it is served with a lit candle, and we thought they had mistakenly brought a birthday slice. Unfortunately, the candle kept blowing out (amber rainstorm + candle do not mix!) despite the valiant efforts of the waitress to relight it. Four cakes in one is rather dangerous and I certainly felt my stomach heave in protest against the sinful combination of red velvet, cheesecake, creme brulee and chocolate mousse.

Fat Kid Cake

Fat Kid Cake

However, the Ovaltine Ice Cream with bruleed banana, chocolate cremoso, peanut butter fudge and cereal crunch was a piece of artwork and textures played an important part in keeping our palates amused. The ice-cream was divine, the bruleed banana perfectly done and the fudge added a sweeter note to the dessert.

Ovaltine Ice cream

Ovaltine Ice cream

Service and puddings are the two aspects that Stone Nullah should be proud of, but overall, at nearly $400 per person for 6 dishes (of not overly huge proportions), between four people, it seems a little steep. The menu, dominated by fried, rich dishes, will induce thirst, so make sure you have a glass of water handy.

Chopstixfix rating: 3/5 

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Stone Nullah Tavern, G/F, 69 Stone Nullah Ln, Wan Chai; 3182 0128