Shane Osborn was the head chef at Pied a Terre, and retained its two Michelin stars for several years before he decided to move to Hong Kong. He initially worked for two years for Alan Yau at a rather curious restaurant called St Betty, which served fancy European in an all-day venue in a shopping mall. Finally he has headed off on his own with Arcane, a 36 seat restaurant that opened in November 2014. It is located on the third floor of a tower block in an obscure side street. Finding it can be a little, well, arcane, especially if you have a taxi driver like mine, who gave up and dropped me a couple of streets away. The building you need is next to another block called "North Tower" and has a bank of lifts at street level. Some (but not all) of these lifts stop at the third floor, where the entrance to the restaurant is immediately ahead of you as you leave the lift. Once you get over the tricky bit of finding the entrance, the dining room opens out ahead of you past a series of wine cabinets. The room is small, seating around thirty diners at capacity. It was smartly decorated and had smart white tablecloths and an open kitchen, the only incongruous feature being a very small and curiously darkly lit toilet.
There was a set lunch menu at HKD (£32) for three courses, in addition to a normal a la carte selection. The wine list is unusually extensive for a restaurant of this size, with over 400 separate labels, including good coverage of Italy and Burgundy in particular, as well as a reasonable selection from further afield. For example O'Leary Walker Polish River Riesling 2012 was HKD 520 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for around HKD 128, Shaw and Smith Shiraz 2013 at HKD 750 compared to its retail price of about HKD 230, and the lovely JJ Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese 2008 at a steep HKD 1,380 for a bottle that will set you back HKD 336 in the shops. If you want to splurge then there are options such as Marcassin Three Sisters Vineyard Chardonnay 2000 at a very fair HKD 4,000, which is almost exactly its current market value, though the 2002 vintage of the same wine is bafflingly priced identically, even though this latter wine has a shop price of about HKD 2,400.
Bread was served warm, slices of excellent sourdough from a local supplier called Bread Elements in Chai Wan, the bread having a very good crust and nice acidity. I began with a pair of pan-fried langoustines with roast broccoli, girolle ragout and crisp garlic. The langoustine tails were lovely and sweet, lightly cooked and worked nicely with the earthy flavour of the mushrooms. The broccoli was cooked just a fraction longer than I would have chosen but this is a minor quibble, and the dish was very enjoyable (15/20).
Asparagus and new season potatoes came in a nage of kombu and black truffles and a garnish of fresh almonds. The asparagus had excellent flavour and was precisely cooked, the potatoes a pleasant pairing and the truffles bringing their distinctive aroma to the dish. The truffles were from a town called Manjimup south of Perth in Western Australia (16/20).
My main course was chicken tortellini. The pasta was made fresh and had good texture, filled with chicken and served with excellent broad beans, mousseron mushrooms, a bed of braised lettuce and a light lemon veloute, finished with a garnish of more black truffle bringing a hint of luxury to the chicken. This was a lovely dish, light and enjoyable (easily 16/20).
Yuzu and lemon posset came with slices of mikan (a Japanese orange) and mandarin and yogurt ice cream with a white chocolate tuile. The posset was nicely balanced between sweetness and acidity, and the fruit was excellent, the overall effect refreshing (15/20).
Service, led by the charming Stefano Bartolomei, was excellent throughout. The bill came to HKD 970 (£95) with just water to drink. If you shared a bottle of wine and had three courses then your bill would come to around £110 per person all in. This isn't exactly cheap but then the standard of cooking is high, and ingredients are very good. Overall Arcane served me an excellent meal, and it is a mystery to me why the restaurant has so far been shunned by Michelin. It is clearly cooking at solid one star level base on this meal.