Monday, 31 March 2008

Peter Lehmann 'Clancy's' 2004

Peter Lehmann 'Clancy's' 2004
Barossa Valley, South Australia, $99, stelvin seal

Peter Lehmann is a legend within the Australian wine scene and man's whose story is well worth looking up. This one is that classic Australian blend of Shiraz and Cabernet with a little softening Merlot. I popped this bottle and jumped in the bath with the rubber ducks and Haruki Murakami's beautifully surreal and cynical novel Dance, Dance, Dance.

Peter Lehmann 'Clancy's' 2004 is an inky dark red with a big nose; there are aromas of blackberries, raspberries and cola, but it's dominated by a delicious boysenberries. Initially there was a splash of vanilla on the palate, but it quickly became all about dark jammy fruits; plums, blackberries and cassis. It's a soft, integrated wine with a splash of acidity to keep things lively. Simple, but smooth, satisfying and moorish drinkable; Peter Lehmann 'Clancy's' 2004 is a decent drop that offers good easy drinking value.

Visit winery website.

A Bad Pie at the Footy

Hong Kong Rugby Sevens
28th to 30 March 2008

Australians use the expression 'a bad pie at the footy' to signify when they're feeling a little under the weather, with an inference that this is due to a beer more or two too many the night before. For me it's a perfect expression to describe this weekend as there were a couple of times when I was feeling a little fragile and yes to top it off I really did eat a bad pie at the footy.

The event was the annual Hong Kong Rugby 7s; an explosive weekend of exciting, fast passed sport. The reason for being a little seedy was a toxic combination of mates visiting from overseas, a large contingent of boys from rugby, a heaving 'South Stand' and a fantastic vibe on the streets of LKF. And the pie? The pie was terrible; average pastry, no recognisable meat, sloppy texture and it was 'served' sitting in an embarrassingly stupid frilly thing. Bad pie; great footy.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

M on the Bund

No. 5 The Bund, 7/F, Shanghai, China
Visited 23rd March

Located smack bang in the of Shanghai's grand old colonial past, M on the Bund has gained a reputation for being one of Shanghai's finest Western restaurants as well as its best located. It's an off shoot of Hong Kong's acclaimed M on the Fringe and was founded by Michelle Garnaut a chef originally from Melbourne. Set in a beautiful old building there are great views of the Bund from the windows and roof terrace. The restaurant works with this historic location and tries to maintain an ambiance of classic glamour. The personalised crockery, heavy silver cutlery and bone handled knives all bring the old school cool. We went for dinner with friends whom we were visiting Shanghai with.

The menu at M on the Bund offers an interesting mix of Mediterranean inspired dishes. I started with a juicy roasted pigeon that was rich in flavour, though I would have liked the skin a little crisper. For a main I chose the interesting sounding stuffed garfish, while my three companions went with slow roasted lamb. The baked garfish were filled with eggplant, currents and pine nuts and accompanied by cauliflower puree and tiny cauliflower fritters; it was a delicate, delicious dish with extra points for originality. I tried the others' lamb and though stringy it was tender and tasty and accompanied by a generous pile of pumpkin and feta dressed kale. I was intrigued by the food's presentation as my garfish were artistically draped across the plate while the lamb was served slapped in an ungainly, towering pile. Naomi was more than happy with the brandy snap filled with berry compote and ricotta cream that she ordered for dessert. The wine list was good, though not cheap. We drunk an average bottle of 'house' Sauvignon Blanc, a delicious crisp Petaluma Hanlin Hill Riesling 2007, a decent Oyster Bay Pinot Noir 2006 and an overpriced half bottle of Brown Brothers Flora & Muscat 2006.
The superb location of M on the Bund combined with the lush, opulent settings presents a chance to recapture a little of Shanghai's past glamour. The staff were unobtrusive and professional, though lacking in personality and smiles. Our bill run up to hefty ¥3,105; while the food was good and we had four bottles of wine, I can't say it was particularly amasing value. Our evening at M on the Bund was extremely enjoyable; good location, good food and good friends. As a footnote, M on the Bund must get an award for the best flower arrangement I've ever seen in a blokes' bathroom.
Visit restaurant website.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Tenuta Sette Ponti 'Crognolo' 2004

Tenuta Sette Ponti 'Crognolo' 2004 IGT Toscana
Arezzo, Tuscany, Italy, cork seal

This was the final bottle from Christmas in Tuscany. Purchased from Enoteca Scali in Volterra it comes from the Tenuta Sette Ponti estate in the heart of the Chianti region. The Crognolo release is made from 90% Sangiovese with 10% Merlot and only has IGT status (or perhaps 'Super Tuscan' depending on how you look at things). It apparently named after the Cornus or Dogwood bushes that grow across the estate.

Tenuta Sette Ponti 'Crognolo' 2004 is a dark inky black colour. The nose is rich with initial funky aromas of dirty socks and meaty game. It settled down a little but still had strong smells of meat, blackberries and the dominating truffles; it really does smell like a big truffle infused Tuscan salami. The palate is delicious with flavours of Christmas pudding spices, violets, aniseed and dried cranberries. It's smooth and balanced with chewy tannins and a touch of acidity. Over Christmas we made several jokes about the 'truffle pig', but I reckon I finally found one stuffed inside this bottle. It's a fantastic wine that offers a lot of flavour and a lot of pleasure; an absolute cracker. Visit winery website.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Ali Oli

11 Sha Tsui Path, Sai Kung
Visited 9th March

The tourists are in town and we're seeing the sites; Stanley one day, Sai Kong the next - both I might add as about as far as you can get from 'good old Yuen Long'. Sai Kung's expat population means that there are plenty of alternate dinning options when you've got people too fussy for the seafood places lining the waterfront. Keeping things simple we again went for the bakery option; Ali Oli and after a drawn out battle managed to snatch an outdoor table.

Ali Oli sells all the tasty goodies that it should including: fresh bread, cakes, biscuits, slices, pies, pastries and sandwiches, plus coffee and an assortment of deli items like dips, salads and homemade jam. I'm an Australian and it's something of a patriotic duty to eat pies, so for the second day running I had a meat pie for lunch; life was good. This seems to becoming something of a pie blog; but the offending item did look pretty impressive. It was filled with tasty, chunky meat, but unfortunately was ruined by sickly sweet pastry. It looked like I was sitting in a western style bakery, it looked like I was eating a western style meat pie, but oh no what I was eating was disappointment. To be fair to Ali Oli my coffee was good and the others were happy with their lunches, I was just burdened with a pie that should have been savoury and wasn't.

Ali Oli does a lot of things right; it serves a big range of tasty looking produce, the coffee's good, the prices fair and it offers a refreshingly casual environment that is not seen often enough in Hong Kong's western restaurants. OK my pie was ruined by revoltingly sweet pastry, yet there are a couple of things that could have been better. Sundays are busy in Sai Kung, yet Ali Oli was a little too disorderly; getting a table was a battle of push and shove, while service at the counter was confusing and disorganised. Oh and another thing that really annoys me is allowing dogs at a restaurant table; keep the mutts and their stupid bandannas outside!

Visit bakery website.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge Champagne

G. H. Mumm Cordon Rouge Champagne NV
Reims, France, $249, cork seal

My mother's a fan of the bubbles and with her staying we are getting through sparkling wine by the truckload. The budget announcement cutting wine tax meant that many of the big chains are already discounting and I was able to snaffle this rather cheaply. Again it's the classic Champagne blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.

The nose is pretty light on, there's a fragrance of strawberries, sourdough and a slight saltiness reminding me a little of sardines. The palate is smooth, soft and flavourless with a touch of stale crackers. Though not faulty this did absolutely nothing for me. A simple sparkling that has me inspired to park my cash elsewhere and an example of why I don't buy much champagne; an overpriced disappointment.

Visit winery website.


Shop 102 Stanley Plaza, Stanley
Visited 8th March 2008

A Saturday trip to Stanley to stock up on tack with the tourists at least had the compensation of being able to slip into Saffron for a 'sly pie'. Hong Kong seems to have a 'bakery' on every corner, yet unfortunately the vast majority are absolute rubbish: serving nothing but stale sponge cakes and sweet bread with the crusts cut off. Saffron on the other hand is a real bakery. Located in Stanley Plaza it doesn't have a sea view, but the range of cakes on display is almost better. There's plenty of treats to take home including great looking loaves; apparently they also have branches in Tai Tam and Quarry Bay.

The good people at Saffron describe their massive selection of goodies as "artesian breads, enticing salads, scrumptious sandwiches and fabulous cakes". I went with a beef and burgundy pie, a side salad and a coffee. The pie was superb with thick chunks of tender beef, diced vegetables and an obvious rich flavour imparted from the wine. The watercress based salad was lovely and the coffee of an impressive standard. The others all ate cakes, slices and muffins and there murmurs of satisfaction were obvious, though I reckon Dad regrets not get stuck into a pie; the fool.

Saffron reminds me of how bakeries should be, only better. Their range of produce is fantastic and there's something there to temp everyone; even big jars of old school mixed lollies for kids (and Naomi). Prices are reasonable, the staff friendly and most importantly the food is superb. Saffron comes highly recommend and surely a couple of coffees there are a better option than being dragged through that market.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Stable Bend Terrace

3/F Happy Valley Stand, Happy Valley Racetrack
Visited 5th March 2008

Honk Kong loves horse racing and is pretty partial to a punt on the side. My parents and Aunt have arrived in town and for their first night out we all trucked across to the Wednesday races at Happy Valley. Run by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, Stable Bend Terrace is located on a third floor balcony at the end of the straight past the finishing line. The views of the races are spectacular and the outdoor seating helps to create a lively atmosphere. For those interested in a little flutter there's betting facilities manned by extremely helpful staff who are happy to assist the novice.

Centred around a huge barbeque Stable Bend Terrace is a buffet style restaurant that also includes all you can drink wine, beer and orange juice. The chiefs on the barbie cook up a range of grilled treats including sausages, satay sticks, corn cobs, deliciously sticky pork ribs, chicken drumsticks and fish fillets. There's also soup, a salad bar and a dessert selection of which the highlight are delectable designer chocolates. The beer's Grolsch and the red wine was a passable Chilean Cabernet. The food itself is OK, though rather basic and limited in variety and interest; serviceable, but uninspiring.

Stable Bend Terrace is an easy and fun way to soak up the races. A buffet is ideal to graze at while you cheer on horse four in race four, though for $390 a head I'd like to see more variety and more interesting dishes. The furniture is also pretty average with the wobbly plastic chairs and tables reminding me of something found abandoned in an Australian backyard. When all's said and done though, efficient staff, free flowing drinks and a little sparkle in the air all contribute to a fantastic atmosphere. While it probably wouldn't survive anywhere else Stable Bend Terrace is a great way to check out the Wednesday night action at Happy Valley.
Visit restaurant website.

Moët & Chandon Rose Imperial

Moët & Chandon Rose Imperial NV
Epernay, France, cork seal

People drink Champagne to celebrate and I suppose that's what we were doing with the next arrivals in our never-ending stream of visitors; in this case my parents and aunt. Naomi was given this pretty little number as a gift and we'd both been looking for an excuse to see what sparkling surprises it would offer. It's the classic blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. For another opinion have a look at Edward's poetically succinct review at Wino Sapien.

Moët & Chandon Rose Imperial is a beautiful, delicate pale pink colour with the slightest orange tinge; almost as pretty as its packaging. It smells like sherbet, strawberries, fairground fairy floss and the perfumed petals of old roses. The palate is a delicious mix of flavours dominated by sherbet, with strawberries, red currents and a slither of watermelon candy. There's a background sweetness reminding me of a sophisticated child's birthday party, with almost as many shades of pink. It's a pretty, pleasant drink, which I liked though I don't know if I'd be comfortable paying the asking price.

Visit winery website.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Brunch at the Gold Coast

Atrium Lobby Lounge Gold Coast Hotel, Tuen Muen
Visited 2nd March

I love the Hong Kong institution of the Sunday brunch buffet. It offers an easy way to catch up with friends or celebrate in a relaxed and casual atmosphere; in this case it was the final day of Naomi's parents' Hong Kong holiday. While the Tuen Mun Gold Coast is not Hong Kong's most convenient location, it does offer a fantastic spread every Sunday. The Atrium Lobby Lounge where the buffet takes place is a large open area with views of the water and Lantau Island. The low tables and chairs are comfortable, the service friendly and the band strumming in the background surprisingly good.

Successfully surviving any buffet is a skilled strategy of portion size and pace, but the huge variety of top quality food offered at the Gold Coast Hotel means even seasoned players often end up uncomfortably full. The immense selection includes maned stations serving omelettes, fresh pasta, filet mignon, seared scallops, foie gras, roasted meats, Peking duck and waffles. There's also breakfast cereals, a big choice of seafood, salads, dim sum, hot Asian and western dishes, good bread, cheese and impressive desserts including a chocolate fountain. Drinks aren't missing and there's as much fruit juice, punch, wine and sparkling as you can handle. On this visit there was also the addition of a 'make your own hot chocolate' station, with a choice of different coco count chocolate to melt.

I like the Sunday brunch buffet at the Gold Coast Hotel. The food is of top quality, the selection broad and the drinks free flowing. The friendly staff and relaxed atmosphere means that it's perhaps a little less formal and pretentious than many of the brunches offered at other hotels. For $300 a head it's certainly good value and the only problem is managing to walk the couple of hundred metres to Med-Star for a final 'cleansing ale'.
Visit restaurant website.