Tucked away in a grubby walk-up on Hollywood Road, you wouldn’t find TBLS unless you were looking for it. But this is a little gem of a restaurant that I definitely suggest you go looking for.
A private kitchen with well-deserved rave reviews and a two month waiting list, TBLS does comfort food with a gastro twist. The TBLS philosophy is simple enough, a seasonal, fixed six-course menu of trusty favourite dishes created using the best quality ingredients and a dash of haute cuisine magic. It’s HK$650 a head (just over £50) but when you factor in that you're guaranteed an evening of pure, unabashed indulgence, it’s actually great value. Plus you save on astronomical wine list pricing as it's BYO.
The restaurant itself is pretty basic - a cosy (read small) space with minimalist décor (read bare white walls and standard issue black tables and chairs) leading out to a large terrace perfect for a pre-dinner drink or alfresco eating during the cooler months of the year. The real thought and creativity has been invested in the food which is whipped up by Vietnamese-American chef, Que Vinh Dang and his team in the large stainless-steel open kitchen in the centre of the room.
When we finally managed to bag a table and were informed that the evening’s menu was themed ‘American Supermarket Foods’ I couldn’t help but feel that perhaps we’d been slightly shortchanged. A massive misconception.
Our six courses of decadent deliciousness kicked off with a soup and sandwich. But this wasn’t any old soup and sandwich, this was TBLS’ indulgent, gourmet soup and sandwich – a punchy, earthy mushroom soup with sautéed shitakes, roasted garlic and rosemary oil with a miniature sloppy Joe sandwich – all buttery brioche and juicy beef smothered in a tangy, spicy sauce. Next up mac and cheese, so good that one of our party ate it twice (feigning an allergy to one of the ingredients in another course to ensure a double serving). Following swiftly after, two further dishes of beautifully presented morsels of heaven on a plate, apparently inspired by a fish sticks TV dinner and tinned pork and beans.
And then it was time for dessert.
No matter how near to burstingly full you may feel, skipping dessert would be criminal. As we loosened our belts, out came ramekins of Banana Moon Pie - an ambrosial creation consisting of baked bananas, chocolately crumble, homemade vanilla bean ice-cream and a wicked little dash of bourbon. Spooning up the last of the boozy, sticky bananas and declaring ourselves completely defeated, yet another dessert, the pièce de résistance floated into sight – a macaroon sandwich. Two semicircles of the palest mint coloured macaroons, homemade and just the right mix of crisp and chewy, sandwiched together with a thick round of creamy mint choc-chip ice-cream and a layer of unctuous raspberry jam. We all suddenly seemed to find a second wind and gobbled up every last crumb with relish.
TBLS really is something a little bit special; an insider's secret not to be missed. My advice? Spend the day of your booking working up a proper appetite - say, hiking up perilously steep hills or shopping like your life depends on it. Better yet, engage in full on starvation. This is a feast and a half which warrants a monumental appetite.
TBLS, 7th Floor, 31 Hollywood Road, Central,
Hong Kong Island
+(852) 2544 3433
Google map: bit.ly/NQJijN
* Natalie is our local for Hong Kong. You can read all about her here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/hong-kong-local-natalie-robinson.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/natalierobinson
She also has her own blog at: www.3badmice.com/
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