Sunday, 30 December 2007

Ca'del Bosco Franciacorta Brut

Ca'del Bosco Franciacorta Brut NV
Brescia, Lombardy, €28.50, cork seal

We popped this delicious little number amongst the tinsel and presents on Christmas morning. When I asked my man in the wine shop for a bottle of Sparkling he gave me a couple of options; "good or very good?" I assumed. The hands started waving, the voice raised a notch and he replied with absolute passion "very good or very, very, very good"; so Ca'del Bosco Franciacorta Brut comes with a recommendation from Enoteca Scali. Franciacorta is a DOCG classification for Sparkling wine from Brescia in Lombardy. It's made from Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir.

Ca'del Bosco Franciacorta Brut is a twinkling straw golden colour with plentiful tiny, light bubbles. On the nose there's a pleasant breadiness and a twist of lemon. The palate has lovely flavours of old apples, citrus and hint of saltiness. While this wine certainly isn't sweet, the style is perhaps a little less dry than some. Its feather light, but flavoursome, fresh and extremely drinkable. Ca'del Bosco Franciacorta Brut is an absolute delight, great value and highly recommended.

Visit winery website.

Osteria Castelvecchio

Via Castelvecchio 65, Siena
Visited 24th December

On our second day in Italy we headed to Siena after a brief stop at the spectacular fortified hilltop village of Monteriggioni. Walking the winding medieval streets of Siena is fascinating in its own right, but Siena's two main attractions; the huge town square, the Piazza del Campo and its beautiful cathedral, the Duomo are both magnificent highlights. Hidden in the back streets north of the Duomo Osteria Castelvecchio was a superb choice for lunch. Though we were the first to arrive the place quickly filled up with locals who I happily observed drunk a lot of wine and devoured numerous courses.

The bloke running the show was a welcoming and friendly host who translated the daily menu with passion and gusto. I went for roast pork with potatoes and a thick mushroom sauce, while Naomi and my brother got stuck into deliciously rich, beer cooked chicken. My meal was superb; the pork tender and the mushrooms an interesting companion. Dessert tempted us and we ordered a couple of sampler plates piled with the three daily selections of which the white cheese smothered with rich caramel, rum sauce was the highlight. I washed it down with a couple of glasses of a tasty Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and of course finished with a little espresso.

I was a worried about the potential expense of Italy, but the bill for the four of us was less than €70 which even in Hong Kong is good value for two courses, wine and coffee. The service was fantastic and the locals on the surrounding tables companionable and welcoming. For me Osteria Castelvecchio satisfied stereotypes of good Italy food; robust, delicious dishes served with passion from a seasonal, daily menu. Siena good town; Osteria Castelvecchio bloody good restaurant.

Enoteca Scali

Via Guarnacci 3, Volterra, Italy
Our Tuscan residence was just outside of beautiful hill top town of Volterra. The surrounding countryside was glorious and town itself a spectacular maze of winding medieval streets and Etruscan ruins. As magical as all this was, sadly my priorities were focused on the fruits of the local vineyards. After visiting the towers of San Gimignano we returned for a wander through Volterra and thankfully stumbled across Enoteca Scali, a fantastic wineshop.

Housed in a beautiful medieval building Enoteca Scali certainly looks the part and the huge collection, of mainly Tuscan wines, on display are enough to quicken the pulse. We shared a couple of confused looks before doing the only reasonable thing and asking for a recommendation. The guy running the show was great and selected an interesting mixed dozen; he chose a variety of local DOCG wines and their more mutinous Tuscana IGT brethren. His knowledge was fantastic and we appreciated the bottle of sparkling he snuck in as a Christmas gift. Enoteca Scali doesn't disappoint in the gourmet department and offers a good selection of local cheese, cured meats, oil, vinegar, dry goods and panforte. Even though we walked out happily laden
my brother and I did some quick calculations and questioned whether a dozen bottles would last the Christmas period; we snuck back the next day for another sly six.

Enoteca Scali also doubles as a wine bar. It's possible to grab a bottle off the shelf, relax at one of the small tables out the back and munch on a little local produce. On our final night in Italy this is what we did and enjoyed a Castello Di Ama Chianti Classico 1999 and Moris Avvoltore Maremma Toscana IGT 2004. The Castello Di Ama was classic Chianti; spiced, medium bodied and complex, while the full-bodied Moris Avvoltore was a more fruit driven, but equally delicious with silky oak treatment. The accompanying plate of cheese, salami and lardo was delicious and good value at €8. I was also surprised that there was no corkage charge and the wines simply cost their shelf price. Everything about Enoteca Scali impressed me; the service, ambiance, knowledge, passion, range, prices and salami were all spot on. It's a place that made me very excited and one I'd most certainly recommend; Enoteca Scali is an absolute joy.

Visit website (currently under construction).

Buon Natale Toscana

Christmas in Italy
School holidays again; however I might add these ones have been fairly earned after an eighteen week slog of a term. Naomi and I have somehow stumbled across the romantic sounding destination of Tuscany for Christmas. My brother and his partner are meeting us for a week of exploring the food, wine and sights of this famous regions of Italy. Now all that's between me and my first glass of Chianti are a couple of flights on average discount airlines and what I'm sure is going to be a stimulating eight hour wait at Gatwick Airport.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Tryells Brokenback Shiraz 2003

Tyrells Brokenback Shiraz 2003
Hunter Valley, Australia, approx Aus $22, stelvin seal

Tyrells are a big family owned company based in the Hunter Valley, New South Wales. They produce a large range of wines including some superb Semillons and Chardonnays. I bought a dozen of these on-line in Australia and this bottle returned in my luggage after the summer holidays. I'm not sure why it took me so long to open it, but Saturday night a home-made beef pie was calling for a bottle of Shiraz.

This wine is good to smell; there's a whole rack of soft, delicious spices, along with some blackberries, smoke and a touch of good old Australia earth. The blackberries continue onto the palate alongside cinnamon, spice and a little white pepper to finish. The tannins are integrated, but still present, lurking around the edges. Tyrells Brokenback Shiraz 2003 is a mid-weigh wine, it's not super heavy or concentrated and offers very good drinking straight off the bat. I like this wine and am rather glad I've got another ten bottles cellared back in Australia.

Visit winery website.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Lunch on Kat O

Kat O Seafood Restaurant
Kat O Main St, Kat O Island
School Picnic Day in Hong Kong is usually an unruly exercise. Bus loads of students trundle out to a crowded country park to burn a few fish balls and chicken wings on a BBQ before boredom and delinquency takes over. Thankfully the Form Four students at my school had a very different plan this year. We bussed to Ma On Shan from where we left on a day's nautical excursion. The boat we chartered took us out to Double Haven or Yan Chau Tong; the land of fisherman and pirates. We walked around tiny Ap Chau, visited Tin Hau Temple, explored the Yan Chau Tong Mangrove forest and wandered the deserted streets of Lai Chi Wo.

Kat O or Crooked Island is an island in the far north-east of the New Territories, much closer to Shenzhen than Sha Tin. A traditional home of the Hakka it is now relatively quiet, but a few residents scrap together a living through fishing, tourism and fish farming. Lunch was served at the Island's only restaurant, a place right near the ferry pier. The teachers were banished outside by the hungry hordes and we had a pleasant lunch under the trees. The fixed menu is all there is and we got plates piled with fried prawns, sautéed squid, chicken, green vegetable, a whole steamed fish, broccoli with pork, baked egg, pork short ribs and congee. The chicken was good, the prawns had a great meaty flavour and the squid tender and succulent; just what you expect from a restaurant run by fisher folk.
While it was certainly wasn't fancy lunch on Kat O was superb. The food was classic Chinese fare served in an absolutely cracker of a location. Kat O and Yan Chau Tong are a long way from Yuen Long, but well, well worth the trek. Exploring this area by sea is a great way to enjoy this beautiful, isolated and relatively untouched part of Hong Kong. Who knew school picnic could be such fun?

Saturday, 8 December 2007

King Ludwig Beerhall

Middle Rd, TST East
Visited 7th December

King Ludwig Beerhall is plonked in a strange spot out in the weird wastes of TST East, more specifically the J1 exit of the KCR Station. As its Hong Kong there is of course multi branches of the same restaurant and the original King Ludwig's is found at Stanley. I was meeting a group of friends for Christmas dinner and was impressed that Santa made a surprise appearance. The authenticity of the Germanic decor - big wooden tables, Bavarian pennants, dark lighting and mounted boar's head - was contrasted by the huge TV playing football and the cover-band in the corner; a strange combination indeed.

The menu at King Ludwig's is all about Germany and offers a selection of schnitzels, potato cakes and of course sausages. I couldn't resist the roast pork knuckle, which came served with sauerkraut and roast potatoes. The huge crispy chunk of pork, which was carved before being served, was genuinely delicious; and I thought good value at $125. Others weren't so lucky with their meals and a mate felt ripped off paying $180 for a tasty, but pathetically tiny serve of seafood. As it was a celebration of sorts and the litre steins of Veltins German Pilsner I drank went down an absolute treat, particularly during happy 'hour' when they were only $65.

All up my visit to King Ludwig Beerhall was positive. The service was professional and friendly, my meal was good and those $65 steins were superb. I'm not sure if the 'beerhall' is quite the correct title for King Ludwig's as it seems much more much more focused on being a 'restaurant', but what ever you want to call it, it's worth a look. Visit restaurant website.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Mont Tauch Fitou 2006

Mont Tauch Fitou 2006
Fitou, Languedoc, France, $110, diam cork seal

Another wine from the good growers of the Languedoc. I loved the Les Quatre 2005 Fitou which also comes from the Mt Tauch cooperative and when I saw its sibling here I jumped at the chance to drag a bottle home. It's a Carignan based blend with some Grenache and Syrah and comes from the three villages of Tuchan, Paziols and Villeneuve, within the Fitou Appellation.

The nose, though not huge, is appealing with it's suggestion of sharp, tart red fruits, a little forest floor and a hint of fresh mint. Having a swig the riper red fruit flavours emerge with a burst of plum and blackberries and are rounded out by an ever so slight, seductive sweetness. Where this wine really shines though is its great texture. Chalky tannins help to give it a firm and complete mouth-feel which suggests to me it's going to go well with a lot of different foods. Mont Tauch Fitou 2006 is a good wine at a fair price which I'd be happy to drink regularly.

Visit winery website.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Restaurante Fernando

9 Praia de Hac Sa, Coloane, Macau
Visited 2nd December

After running 21km in the Macou half marathon I wanted a beer. Restaurante Fernando is as popular as the song and perhaps more justifiably so. Located at Hac Sa Beach on the southeast of Coloane Island it's in a pretty isolated spot, but that's half the joy. I'd called to try and make a booking, but was told they didn't do bookings on weekends and to make sure I got there early. Arriving at 11.30 we were the second group in a line that soon became a mass excess of seething punters. When the doors finally opened at midday the throng pushed forwards in a mad and chaotic rush to get tables. Elbows, knees and the odd head butt and we were finally sitting, but it was worth it. The front room is OK, but out back is where it all happens at Fernandos; there's a large open area with airy windows, views of the garden and plenty of heavy rustic timber.

A priority was my thirst and I quenched it with a couple of crisp Portuguese beers. When I asked about wine I was told to go look at a shelf somewhere; I stuck to beer. To start our table shared a delicious garden salad, a plate of tasty chouriço and olives, along with the compulsory loafs of soft, fluffy bread. I couldn't resist the salted cod I was talked out of the previous evening. The generous serve of grilled Bacalhau was presented with potatoes and a garlicky butter sauce. I was mightily impressed with the food; it was extremely well done in its authentic simplicity. Getting an itemised receipt for the prices was another difficulty, but I remember everything offering outstanding value.

I'm very much in two minds about Fernandos - it certainly gets votes for authentic Portuguese fare, yet it's almost arrogantly run with off putting service. I loved the delicious, rustic food and the awesome prices. After the riot finished the atmosphere was great and the garden bar - where the disappointed waited - looked like a winner for an afternoon session. Despite all the positives I couldn't understand queuing for half an hour just to have to brawl to get a table. Not taking bookings and not opening before noon meant that the whole restaurant ordered at exactly the same time; while we didn't have to wait too long for our food it did take nearly half an hour to initially be served. There's lots to love about Restaurante Fernando just avoid the weekend battle.Visit restaurant website.

Chip Seng Coffee

Rue de Pedro Nolasco da Silva, Macao
I know I sound like a wanker, but I go to Macao to buy coffee. Hong Kong doesn't just lack decent cafes, there's also an absence of freshly roasted coffee beans and as coffee is such a fundamental part of my life I'd go to Mars to buy it if I had too.

Chip Seng is the small family run supermarket that has the vital task of supplying me with coffee. It's crowded and poorly laid out, yet hidden amongst the creamed corn, chocolate and iced tea they stock freshly roasted beans as well as all the associated paraphernalia. Their extensive selection ranges from their own house blends to stuff from Brazil, Costa Rico and Mexican to premium Blue Mountain and Hawaii beans. The basic beans start at about $35 a pound, which is a bargain compared to the $40-$50 you pay for 250 grams in Hong Kong supermarkets. But buying coffee at Chip Seng isn't just about value, it's about quality; where can you get good, freshly roasted beans in Hong Kong? The only issue I have with Chip Seng is that they don't have a fair trade alternative, which needs to be changed. If your life requires decent coffee put in the effort and get yourself across to Chip Seng, and while you're there you may as well check out their selection of Portuguese wine...

Restaurante Platao

3 Travessa Sao Domingos, Macao
Visited 1st December
All Hong Kong seems to be flocking to Macao's bright lights; Saturday we joined the crowds and shoved aboard the First Ferry at Central. Naomi and I met up with a group of friends who instead of contributing to the bursting coffers of the casinos were there to participate in the Macao Marathon. First thing Sunday I was running the half marathon and Naomi was doing the 5km 'mini marathon' so dinner Saturday wasn't going to be a late night. We chose Restaurante Platao because of its central location hidden in an ally just off Senado Square. Platao's lovely outdoor courtyard also offers a place to escape Macao's noticeably smoky restaurants.

Platao's culinary offerings aren't always authentically Portuguese, but the menu features a few decent attempts as well as a handful of Asian dishes like curry and fried rice. I initially ordered Bacalhau but was quickly corrected by a serious mate who gave me a lecture on carb loading or something. The 'fettuccine with salmon' I chose instead was disappointing; the serve was small and smothered in a very average, gluggy sauce. My athletic friend was even more shocked when I had my one glass of Monte Velho Alentejano, an enjoyable Portuguese wine made in a very 'New World' style. Naomi ordered 'pork chop Portuguese style' that was served with potato, chourico and olives and topped with a fried egg; a tasty dish that was a more generous serve, though it still had a bit of the sloppy sauce thing going on.

My friends ensured I had a pleasant evening at Platao, but apart from the superb setting I can't think of much too really recommend it from this visit. The service was pretty average; despite the fact the senior waiter is a fantastic, friendly guy who's always on the ball. Though I've enjoyed the food here in the past, my meal was uninspiring and expensive. Though Platao's not terrible, the atmospheric courtyard is it's biggest draw card; just make sure you don't order the pasta.

Visit restaurant website.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Plastic Bags are Back

'Supermarket faces flak for U-turn on plastic bags'
South China Morning Post, 27th November, p.C1

I was disappointed to read in today's South China Morning Post that the ParknShop supermarket chain has scrapped it's levy on plastic bags after just five days. The decision to charge shoppers 20 cents per plastic shopping bag was a brave attempt to reduce Hong Kong's terrible waste. Hong Kong is a city of about 6.9 million, yet we disgustingly use 23 million plastic bags daily, that's three a day or twenty-three per person per week. ParknShop cited "public criticism" as the reason for the withdrawal of the levy.

For me I see a situation where yet again the selfish nature of consumers has overcome concerns for Hong Kong obviously polluted environment. I visited ParknShop once during he charges and was impressed to see people bringing their own bags or refusing them for small items, yet this has all stopped now that plastic bags are free again. The attitude here is one of laying blame elsewhere, most often on the belching factories across the border, and ignoring Hong Kong's own contribution to the disgusting state of its environment. The amount of "public criticism" that ParknShop received suggests that the bottom line for most Hong Kong consumers is their wallets. If charging for bags will stop their pointless use I say bring back the charge and make us pay $2 or even $10.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Maison Galhaud 'Collection' Viognier Muscat 2005

Maison Galhaud 'Collection' Viognier Muscat 2005
Cotes Catalanes, France, $168, cork

I saw this at a local Yuen Long wine shop and it jumped out as being something different. It's an unusual blend of 70% Viognier and 30% Muscat from those wacky people down in Languedoc-Roussillon. Labelled as a 'vin de pays' it comes from the Cotes Catalanes near the Spanish border in southern France.

Masion Galhaud Viognier Muscat 2005 is a deep golden colour. The nose is dominated by the Muscat and the aromatic grapiness is very attractive; there's also some sweet pineapple in the background. The first few sips were initially tight and alcoholic, but after being opened for an hour or so it settled down nicely. The wine has a luscious thick texture; a delicious creamy syrupiness that became more pronounced as it warmed up in the glass. The palate is all about ripe tropical flavours, predominately peach, with maybe even a little banana and cantaloupe. Maison Galhaud Viognier Muscat is an interesting blend of aromatic Muscat and lush Viogner; its a wine that definitely benefits from food to accompany it's richness. A decent drop that offers something a little different.

Monday, 19 November 2007


Hung Shing Ye Beach, Lamma Island

Hong Kong is well and truly obsessed with shopping so I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon and add my two cents. I've created a new tag 'shopping' with the intention of writing up some of my favourite shops; whether it be food, wine or in this case herbs ... man. Herboland is perched in an absolute prime location, a couple of metres from the edge of Lamma Island's Hung Shing Ye Beach and its spectacularly bizarre view of the power station. This working organic farm specialises in herbs as well as selling seasonal vegetables, potted plants and food and drink in their small cafe. The grounds aren't large, but they're well kept and packed with garden beds through which visitors meander until they come to the shop and cafe tucked away in the back corner. The star attraction seemed to be the rabbits, were a swarm of people were gathered taking photos of these 'so cute', giant eared fellows.

I love the concept of Herboland and enjoyed my time wandering their gardens. I was unfortunately a bit put off by their prices; a tiny, five serve bag of herbal was $50. I see the greatest benefit of this joint being it's role as an educator. Visitors are able buy seasonal produce straight from the farm and were they can see it been grown. Herboland is also a strong supporter of organic principals and has a wealth of information about the extensive selection of herbs they sell. With its great gardens and interesting produce it's definitely worth stopping for a stroll at Herboland. Visit shop website.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Green Point Pinot Noir 2005

Green Point Pinot Noir 2005
Yarra Valley, Victoria, $168, stelvin seal

I'm not sure if you're meant to write tasting notes sitting in the bath, but the cooler weather Hong Kong is experiencing means baths are very much back in fashion. Years ago while I was sharing a house with some very cool girls in Newcastle, UK, one of them once remarked that the one thing I'd taught her was to always have a bath with at least a pint of gin and tonic - though I've swapped the gin for wine I suppose nothing really changes. This bottle comes from the Green Point Winery in Victoria's Yarra Valley which is part of Moet Hennessy's vast Empire; it's also where they produce Chandon, their contribution to Australian sparkling wine.

Giving this bright, ruby red drop a swirl I'm not bowled over by its nose, but what I do smell is very attractive in its freshness. It's a hard nose to pin; not quite minty, it reminds me a little of the Australian bush after rain; fresh and clean, hints of eucalyptus and tea-tree, yet with the reality of damp earth lingering beneath. To stop the aroma being totally wanky and abstract there's also a good hit of cherries. Cherries also crop up on the palate, along side some intense and interesting beetroot flavours. Green Point Pinot Noir 2005 is medium bodied with a hint of acidity, and also strangely a bit of alcohol coming through. An intriguing wine that's certainly drinkable and a pleasant way to spend an hour soaking in the bath. It has some interesting Pinot flavours, 'old-school' compared to the bright fruit of Diamond Valley Yarra Valley Pinot I reviewed a while ago. I'm in two minds if it's worth the money, but it's definitely a decent drop and is very food friendly.

Visit winery website.

Bookwarm Cafe

79 Main St, Yung Shue Wan, Lamma Island
Visited 18th November

I like Lamma Island. The ferry trip from Central takes you away from the hustle and bustle to a peaceful green place were opportunities abound for a kicked back lifestyle; if only for an afternoon. Lamma's also a great spot for a stroll with a 5km trail that winds between the two main villages. Many prefer to finish the walk at the well-know seafood restaurants of Sok Kwu Wan, but Naomi and I went the other way and ended up at Yung Shue Wan. This thriving little village has a diverse population and good selection of bars and restaurants. The Bookworm Cafe pushes a vegetarian ethos, while its mismatched furniture, bulging bookshelves and artwork give it a funky bohemian feel.

The menu has an emphasis on organic, vegetarian wholefoods, with an interesting choice of sandwiches, soup, dhal and pasta. I couldn't go past 'eggs Florentine', while Naomi was tempted by the daily special; a goats cheese and roasted zucchini and tomato quiche. My eggs were served atop a muffin with mushrooms in addition to the usual spinach. They were well cooked and the addition of mushrooms was good, though the sauce was perhaps a little thick and congealed. Naomi's quiche was excellent and came with a couple of salads including one made from fresh beetroot - something you don't see often enough in Hong Kong. I gulped down a couple of decent cafe lattés and Naomi went for the exotically named 'Peaceful Warrior'; a blend of banana, apple and pear, which though tasty was off-puttingly warm. We both enjoyed out breakfast, though looking around at what others were eating much of the food looked very similar, something I reckon often happens in 'wholefood' style restaurants.

The Bookworm Cafe wins on atmosphere, it's relaxed and comfortable; the sort of place were you can sit back watch the afternoon disappear with coffee and the paper. While the staff were friendly, they were not particularly efficient it and it grated me to see the waiter sitting around reading while I was struggling to order another latté. The serves were generous and I thought our meals was pretty good value at $80 each, though I was a little resentful at having to pay 10% 'service' charge for such average 'service', especially when it wasn't mentioned on the menu. If you're heading to Lamma Island the Bookworm Cafe isn't a bad place for breakfast or lunch, just don't be too impatient to order your meal or that second cup of coffee.

Visit restaurant website.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Vigna Brichet Dolcetto D'Alba 2004

Vigna Brichet Dolcetto D'Alba 2004
Neive, Piedmont, Italy, $120, cork seal

I brought this from Il Bel Paese in Wan Chai, who have one of the best selections of Italian wines in Hong Kong.

Pouring a glass I'm surprised how dark it is; it's almost purple rather than red. The nose isn't huge but pleasant; there's a dark, mouldy, forest floor thing going on, perhaps blackberries that have fallen into a pile of rotting leaves. There's also a sniff of powdery coco and something that resembles cough syrup. The front of the palate is pretty light on flavour, with just a hint of sharp red currents. The intensity picks up towards the back end with an attractive sour note that leaves you puckering for another sip. Where this wine wins is with its texture and body, its full and creamy in the mouth with good chalky tannins. Vigna Brichet Dolcetto D'Alba 2004 is a drinkable drop, but certainly nothing special, it's the kind of wine that makes a meal (and life) seem a whole lot better, but is forgotten next day.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Peller Estates Private Reserve Merlot 2005

Peller Estates Private Reserve Merlot 2005
Okanagan Valley, BC, Canada, cork seal

Hong Kong is a travel hub and one of the things about living here is that everyone seems to be "passing-by" and "drops in for a quick visit". My parents were number three in five consecutive weekends of visitors. Though they only stayed for twenty-four hours they did kindly leave this bottle that they picked up on their trip to Canada.

Red fruits aromas are all over the shop; there's lots of delicious raspberry - almost soft drink like - with a handful of strawberries and red currents chucked into the mix. The fruit's is not overbearing as it's balanced by a background gaminess and sprinkling of cinnamon. Red fruits dominate the palate as well; blood plums accompanying the intense raspberries. The jammy sweetness of the fruit is balanced by delicious, dark, bitter chocolate on the finish. The wine is packaged around excellent, powdery tannins. Peller Estates, Private Reserve Merlot 2005 is a tasty little number that went remarkable well with slow stewed lamb shanks and mash. I'm not sure if it's available in Hong Kong, but it's definitely worth trying if you see it around.

Visit winery website.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Sticky Fingers

Tsim Sha Tsui Centre, 66 Mody Rd, TST East
Visited 9th November
Friday night Part 2. TST East is a weird little corner of Hong Kong; there's no real reason to go there, yet a number of big hotels means it's always busy. I've met friends at Sticky Fingers before and the highlight was the 'crazy hour' with cheap, free flowing drinks. Sticky Fingers labels its self as a rock n roll bar, which amounts to all the usual covers being belted out by a better than usual Filipino band. It's a large, open bar with a tiny dance floor.

After Fatt's Place we rolled over here looking for a bit of music. 'Happy hour' was over and the prices certainly didn't make me happy. My friends ordered drinks and, despite popular rumour, I don't always drink to excess so I thought I'd sit with a glass of water before moving back to the booze. I was shocked by the waitress' aggressive response; she informed me that I couldn't have tap water and what's more I had to buy a drink or pay a ridiculous cover charge. They were asking $38 for a 200ml bottle of water. While the cover band was good, they only played about five songs in a set before disappearing and certainly weren't worth paying for.

Sticky Fingers is surely a contender for having the worst service in Hong Kong. In the past I've put up with rude demands for payment, refusals to get change and aggressive, angry staff. During 'crazy hour' it's almost bearable because of the cheap drinks, but not when you're paying $57 for a beer. Sticky Fingers is smoky, crowded and full of ladies who are there for professional reasons; though the food is OK, it's expensive. There is no excuse for rude, argumentative, arrogant bar staff; this is especially embarrassing for Hong Kong considering many international visitors find there way here from surrounding hotels. I'd be happy never to set foot in Sticky Fingers again.

Fatt's Place

2 Hart Avenue, Tsim Sha Tsui
Visited 9th November

I don't go out enough in TST, but Friday we managed it and met up with some mates for a drink. We visited a couple of bars that on first impression seemed similar, but turned out to offer very different experiences. First off was Fatt's Place, a bar on Hart St off Prat Ave.

Fatt's Place did a great job of making work disappear - happy hour drinks were flowing, the missing front wall allowed the festivities to spill onto the street and shells from the complimentary peanuts were scattered over floor (and later turned up in all sorts of unexpected places). The quality drinks list is ripe with interesting Belgium, British and American beers and makes the connection to other pubs in the El Grande Group like the Hong Kong Brew House in Lan Kwai Fong and Inside Out in Causeway Bay obvious. I revisited a few favourite British Ales and enjoyed pint bottles of Deuchars IPA, London Pride and Black Sheep Ale which were all great value at $42 each.

The sly bourbons drunk at my mates were catching up with me so food was definitely in order. The bar snacks include all the standard offerings; pizza, burgers, wedges etc. Naomi and I shared a big plate of Nachos that at $68 were good, tasty value. My mate got seriously involved with a delicious looking, well stacked burger accompanied by onion rings and fries; great value for $78. The food at Fatt's Place impressed me; it's not the stuff of gourmet dreams, but to accompany beer it certainly offered quality at more than fair prices.

Fatt's Place did a great job of launching Friday night; a relaxed vibe, peanuts galore, bottles of English beer, good value, freshly cooked food and friendly staff all contributed to the fun. If I had to look for criticisms I'd name the filthy cigarette smoke, which was disgustingly thick considering the front of the bar is open. The CD playing in the background was also having a few issues; repeating the same two songs continuously, but this was happily fixed as soon as it was mentioned. The only question I have is why isn't it called Fatt's with a 'Ph'?

Visit pub website.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Le Fauchon

45 Elgin St, SoHo, Central
Visited 4th November

We had a friend visiting for the night and after the obligatory glimpse at the pretty flashing lights and star ferry ride across the harbour we dragged him up to SoHo for a meal. We decided on Le Fauchon a French restaurant that always seems to pull the punters. Its Elgin St entrance is smothered in tacky fake red bricks, but don't let this put you off; inside it's a stylish and slick with white tablecloths, candles and all the clutter expected of a 'romantic' French restaurant.

Le Fauchon offers good value with three courses for $198 and this suckered me into ordering both an entree and dessert. I started with a grilled calamari and couscous salad, which though good was a bit basic; the few grains of couscous added only minimal interest to the boring mixed salad leaves that every restaurant in Hong Kong stupidly insists on using for every salad. My fillet steak with green peppercorn sauce was delicious. The meat was well cooked and flavoursome and the sauce extremely tasty. Naomi loved her entree of French onion soup, though
she found her main of lamb chops fatty and a little tough. All artistic stops were pulled out for the slick looking desserts. My blueberry soufflé was good and Naomi adored her molten chocolate cake. To accompany this we ordered dangerously and shared a surprisingly good bottle of South African Cabernet.

I like Le Fauchon; the food's good and great value when you get three courses for $198. In reflection the service was actually pretty poor; they initially brought Naomi the wrong soup, we waited for ages for our mains and they forgot our friend's dessert, yet surprisingly none of this bothered us. The staff were pleasant, the atmosphere relaxed and we were pretty happy chatting while they bungled our orders; mistakes like this shouldn't happen though and Le Fauchon needs to sort out it's ordering as such sloppy service will surely turn people off. If you're after a pleasant French meal - and don't mind waiting - Le Fauchon is definitely worth a look.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Australian Chefs in Hong Kong

'Let's Do Launch' by Sally Robinson
Age Epicure, 30th October, pp.4-5

Most Tuesdays, while sneaking in a morning coffee at work, I have a quick browse through the 'Epicure' section of The Age Online. I always enjoy reading about what's happening in the food and wine scene back home in Melbourne, but this week was pleasantly surprised to see the feature article was about Australian chefs in Hong Kong.

The article, written by Sally Robinson, looks at the experiences of chefs who are not just working in Hong Kong, but opening restaurants here. She sums the appeal of Hong Kong by saying "for chefs from Melbourne thinking of expanding overseas - or just working somewhere different - Hong Kong is an obvious choice. It's close, it's an exciting place to live and it has one of the most vibrant dinning scenes in the world." Robinson discusses challenges identified by the chefs such as staffing, working in partnership with local companies, adapting to Chinese palates and the lack of seasonal produce. Venues mentioned with the Australian connection include Pearl on the Peak, Olive, Malouf's Arabesque Cuisine, Cecconi's Cantina, Opia at Jia and Frites.

Olive in Soho is one of my favourite restaurants in Hong Kong and I was delighted to discover that the consultant behind their fine Middle Eastern food is Melbourne chef Greg Malouf. Greg's also opened Arabesque, a restaurant at the new Elements Mall; this temptation could almost encourage me to push through the vacant eyed crowds starring at designer baubles and actually visit this new centre of grotesque consumerism in Kowloon West. Read the article.