Sunday, 11 October 2015

La Vache - steak frites Parisian style

There has been a long standing battle for the ownership of a national cuisine!  No, I'm not talking about the stoush between Australia and New Zealand over the beloved pavlova, I'm talking about something much more serious.

Steak-frites is a very common and popular dish served in brasseries throughout Europe, most notably in Belgium and France, where both lay claim as its birthplace.  Simply translated, it is a combination of steak and fries and in reality, many countries could probably lay claim to the dish.  Typically using entrecĂ´te, French for the premium cut or rib eye, the fatty steak is usually cooked medium rare and served with golden fries and topped with a bĂ©arnaise sauce.

It's somewhat surprising to learn that Hong Kong has adopted the steak-frites revolution, with a serious number of players in the space.  In fact, SoHo in the Midlevels has more steak-frites restaurant than you can count, with Peel Street housing three within sight of each other!  I'd been eyeing off many of these brasseries and decided it was high time to check on out! 

With so many to choose from, I simply picked one that had the coolest name and best looking web site.  Conveniently located in Peel Street, stepping into La Vache was like being transported to Paris, the staff and the fit-out screamed chic Parisian charm.  We didn't have a reservation, but were informed that there was a table available, as long as we were out by 8pm - not a problem we assured our maitre 'd.

Private Dining - The Popsy Room

There is a saying, I know you've heard it before; 'Art is in the eye of the beholder'.

But what is Art?  Contemporary wisdom tells us that it's a painting on a wall, a sculpture in a park or an exhibit in a gallery.  But is that all?  Over the last few years, artists have been using a new canvas for their pursuits - the plate.  The advent of the blogger, the food photographer and Instagram have helped transform gastronomy to arguably the most popular of all art!

This was never so evident than when I recently visited a private dining room that is an art gallery by day and gastronomic gallery by night.  The Popsy Room is an art gallery in Sheung Wan, an area that is rapidly transforming into the hippest of Hong Kong areas.  So it's fitting that such a juxtaposition of contemporary art and dining art start to bleed into each other.

Rotating exhibitions through the Popsy Room every two months keeps things fresh, but it is their approach to marrying the visual arts together that's so interesting.  The dining room takes direct inspiration from each exhibition, creating a menu that's in perfect harmony to tell a compelling story.  At the time of our visit, the gallery had a tribute to Madame Helena Rubinstein's legendary life, outlining her audacity and passion for creating a beauty empire.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

New Zealand Series - Bistro Gentil

I was looking forward to heading back to New Zealand for a holiday, it had been an exciting year to date, which included changing jobs and moving to HK.  As exciting as the year had been, I really needed a break and what better way to do so than a short ski holiday. Of course when I travel anywhere nowadays, I'm always considering the food angle and looking for the very best local dining.  I was a little bit dubious that I would find something amazing while travelling to Wanaka, a town in the South Island of NZ with the total population of 5,037.  Boy was I wrong!

Checking into our cute little bed and breakfast, Wanaka Haven, we immediately asked our host, Steve, for some local recommendations and without missing a beat, Bistro Gentil was mentioned.  Never one to delay, we asked if Steve could get us in for dinner the night of our arrival.  A quick call revealed he couldn't, the place was full, which was quite a promising sign.  Asking for the next available sitting, we were able to secure a reservation a few days in.  No matter, some skiing would have us anticipating the meal even more.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

London - The Square

I almost don't know where to begin, honestly.

I was lucky enough to spend a couple of weeks working out of London, which was exciting enough on its own, but even more so given my love of fine dining.  With a veritable smorgasbord of incredible restaurants on offer, how would I ever be able to narrow the choice down to just a few special dining establishments?

Let me start off by saying, I couldn't get into my first, second or third choice restaurants, even though I had plenty of time to book.  Let's just say that some restaurants are almost impossible to get into, and leave it at that.  As I worked my way down my list of restaurants I'd dreamed about dining in, I finally found a lunchtime spot available at Mayfair stalwart The Square by Phil Howard.

With two Michelin Stars held since 1998, The Square is an institution in London and chef and co-owner Phil Howard regarded as arguably one of the best chefs in Europe.  In fact, in an Instagram conversation with a former alumni of the Square, a guy that runs one of the best restaurants in Brisbane, it was put to me that the Square and Phil Howard were responsible for producing and inspiring thousands of top chefs globally.  The reverence in which both are held were clear and I knew I would be in for a treat.


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