In a city where it's not unusual for a new restaurant to close before you've got over the hangover from the launch party, new Hong Kong dining spots have to mark themselves out from the glut of others in order to survive.
I can be a bit lazy when it comes to eating out, going to my same old tried and tested, trusty favourites, eating the same dishes and not trying new things. However, in a bid to shake things up a bit, over the last couple of months I've been trying out some recently opened restaurants around the city and weighing up whether I think their respective USPs are enough to win them a permanent place in Hong Kong's dining line-up...
Here's my round up of a handful of new(ish) spots and my predictions for how long I reckon they'll stick around ...
The American Gordon Ramsey, Mario Batali, opened Lupa in April. Hot on the heels of his restaurants' success in New York, LA and Las Vegas, Batali is looking to branch out into Asia. Lupa is the first toe in the water of the Asian takeover.
Located in the new LHT Tower, Lupa serves up Roman Trattoria cuisine against a backdrop of dark wooden floors, wine-rack lined walls and a large brass sculpture of Romulus and Remus being fed by the restaurant's namesake.
My expectations of Lupa weren't high, most of the reviews I'd read had rated food as mediocre and service as erratic. On the day we went for lunch Batali was in town, ponytailed in pristine chef's whites, watching over the service with folded arms. Whether this meant that the food and service were better than they would have otherwise been I'm not sure, but we certainly had a very good meal with more than adequate service.
Cocktails sunk and small bites devoured, we moved onto a couple of carafes of Italian wine and our main courses. The Linguine with Clams was absolutely delicious - perfectly al dente pasta and juicy, flavourful clams with a chili punch. The Veal Saltimbocca was a little salty but otherwise flawless and the Crispy Long Beans with Aceto were an unusual but very tasty accompaniment to the meal.
Lupa by Mario Batali,
3/F, LHT Tower,
31 Queens Road Central,
+(852) 2796 6500www.luparestaurant.com
The mega group, Castelo Concepts, has added a new bistro/gastropub to the family. In the heart of LKF, Harringtons is located on the site formerly known as Dublin Jacks. Previously dark and full of an older crowd drinking Guinness and watching sport, the newly opened bar and restaurant is pretty much unrecognisable. Bright and modern, Harringtons applies the very successful Wagyu/Oolaa formula - big, comfy armchairs; decor in various shades of cream and stone; and a band of chatty bubbly staff serving consistently reliable, tasty food.
The menu is extensive and has a familiar feel but with a slightly more hearty, English twist. The food is definitely up to the standard of the rest of the group my favs so far include: the Cracklin' Pork Belly Skewers, the Mini Slider Burgers and the Crispy Skin Pesto Chicken.
Ho Lee Commercial Building,
17 Lan Kwai Fong
+ (852) 2522 1823
3) FRENCH AMERICAN BISTRO (F.A.B)
It's always a mystery that certain seemingly great locations in Hong Kong never seem to be able to sustain successful restaurants/ bars. Whether it's a case of bad Feng Shui or just plain bad luck, we hope that French American Bistro (or F.A.B.) will break the run of misfortune that its site has had in the past couple of years. Situated right on Hollywood Road, directly under the escalators, anyone who commutes up and down to mid-levels is going to pass F.A.B at least twice a day. The perfect stop-off for a well-deserved end of the day cocktail, a great people watching spot to grab brunch or lunch on the way into central at the weekends and a buzzy, convenient meeting place to kick-start an evening on Wyndham Street.
I've popped into F.A.B. a couple of times for after work drinks and love the relaxed, buzzy atmosphere, excellent cocktails and free olives (always a winner!) For good, solid American/French diner/bistro favourites, F.A.B is a sure bet.
G/F, 30 Hollywood Road,
+(852) 2810 1600
You can read the rest of this blog (and get your tastebuds dancing) on Natalie's Hong Kong blog: 3badmice.com
Natalie is our Hong Kong local. Here Been there profile is here
and you can follow her brilliant tips about her hometown here