A week in Hong Kong

Monday, March 02nd , 2009

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This was actually my fourth visit to Hong Kong, but my first for a decade. Michelin recently brought out its first Hong Kong guide so I was keen to see how its favoured places shaped up. At the top end there are two 3 star places, Robuchon Galera and Lung King Heen.  After a pretty poor experience at Robuchon Vegas and a lacklustre one at Robuchon in Tokyo I had fairly low expectations of Robuchon Galera in Macao, another gambling city like Las Vegas. In fact the meal there was proper 3 star cooking throughout, with beautiful presentation, fine technique and perhaps the best bread I have eaten. I can only assume Michelin decided that they needed a 3 star Chinese place for political reasons, since Lung King Heen was pleasant but essentially of a similar level to, say, Hakkasan in London.  It was not the best Chinese food I had in Hong Kong on this trip (the Summer Palace had the edge), and it was a long way off the best Chinese food I have eaten, at Made in China in Beijing, which at least produced some true 3 star level dishes (Michelin do not cover Beijing at this point). 
Of the two star places I tried, the Summer Palace at least produced a couple of two star dishes, but I was not particularly impressed by either Shang Palace or Tang Court; Bo Innovation probably suffered from its chef being away, as that at least had some interesting dishes, but was also inconsistent. However, back on French territory, Caprice was superb. This had several three star level dishes, and only some mediocre nibbles dragged my score down to 8/10 (good two star) level. I can easily see Caprice getting three stars in the future. I tried to stay mainly in Chinese food territory while there, so sampled some other well-known local places, such as the enjoyable Hutong, while the merits of Yung Kee seem to be restricted to its roast goose based on my experience. 
If you plan a trip to Hong Kong I can highly recommend the Peninsula Hotel in Kowloon, which has really superb service. It has a lot of history, and its afternoon tea seems to be something of a tradition, rather like the one at the Ritz in London; certainly there were queues of people every time we walked through the lobby in the afternoon.  In general Hong Kong did not feel like a place in the grip of recession (GBD fell 2.5% in the last quarter) with its busy restaurants, but that is just an impression
In other news, it has been a tough week for celebrity chefs. Heston Blumenthal closed the Fat Duck for a few days due to illness amongst a number of his diners. The symptoms described in the papers sound like winter vomiting disease, which is highly infectious, and according to my wife (a consultant microbiologist) it would take just one member of staff to turn up carrying this virus to spread in this way, though at this stage it is unclear what the true cause was. It was a brave decision by Heston, and the right thing to do. Gordon Ramsay has his own PR problems, suffering from plenty of tabloid allegations about his private life at the moment.