I’ve been a fan of The Continental since it opened, but for some reason it never seemed to fully take flight in the public’s imagination. Its predecessor Domani always seemed full, Continental somehow less so. The head chef, that venerable legend of British cuisine and snooker player par excellence Rowley Leigh, recently moved back to London, meaning Joey Sergentakis has taken the apron, alongside his work at another Swire joint, Mr and Mrs Fox. He and the team delivered one of the best meals in Hong Kong I’ve had in a very long time so, if you’ve previously thought twice about hitting it up, then change the dial. With cooking of this quality and imagination, you need to eat here.
The bar when you walk in is set to increase in size before long, allowing the best moustache in the business, Timothee Becqueriaux, more room to work his magic. To his astonishment and my shame, I’d never tried Absinthe until dinner that night. Having convinced me I wouldn’t regret it, a mildly-intoxicating apéritif was slowly and lasciviously dripped in front of me, the use of the sugar cube reminding of a thousand and one Hollywood drug scenes.
Thereafter in the elegant restaurant, first up was tartare of Tasmanian salmon with Hokkaido scallop, lemon coulis, dill and Oscietra caviar. Ingredients of this quality are presumably pretty difficult to fuck up and thankfully they steered clear of anything other than letting them shine together in gentle harmony. A mouthful of joy.
(Incidentally, my photos were helped immeasurably by being joined at dinner by David Hartung, one of Asia’s great shooters of stuff to eat and a partner in crime at Tasting Kitchen, for whom we both contribute. I now get the importance of lighting.)
Olive oil-poached tuna was beautifully-cooked, gentle and aromatic, served with eggplant caponata, black olive oil and bagna cauda, the warm dip from Piedmont of garlic, anchovies, butter and olive oil. Guaranteed to give you the sweetest breath.
Filet mignon from Rangers Valley in New South Wales was a beautiful bit of beef, especially when crusted with bone marrow crumb. On the side, a cheeky leek croquette, creamed leeks underneath and a Sauce Bordelaise – made with red wine, butter, shallots and bone marrow. Did I mention the bone marrow? Twice in one plate? This is serious cooking, perfectly balancing top quality protein and vegetables, allowing them to shine before finishing them off in gloriously decadent style.
A second main to share was wholly unnecessary, but hugely welcome given the faultless execution once again. Applewood smoked British lamb rack, breast braised in harissa, the Moroccan spicy paste, alongside a tagine of bell peppers and tahini yoghurt. I may be a big fan of cooking from North Africa, but this took the region’s ingredients and techniques to a whole new level of refinement and balance. Sensational stuff, not hindered by a glass of 2009 Barolo which sat perfectly with it.
A glass of Canadian ice wine, that unusual export from Niagara, was the perfect choice from the excellent sommelier, while service from Rebecca showed why she’s on the fast track to Swire success.
A baked Alaska, the flamboyant dessert of my childhood, was one of two placed in front of us. Here it was filled with nougat and rhubarb sorbet, along with a rhubarb reduction circling around the plate.
A chocolate and hazelnut gateau came with brown butter ice cream, a wonderful dome of joy under the lights of the Hong Kong skyline.
Whilst the former Continental was always strong in its commitment to Franco-British classics, the new look and feel under Joey has allowed it to fearlessly take global ingredients, recipes and flavours and execute them almost flawlessly. Given the Michelin inspectors’ unusual decisions elsewhere in town, it seems they need to seriously look again at this particular corner of Pacific Place.
Set dinner $635
Lunch 12 noon – 2:30pm
Afternoon Tea 3:00pm – 5:00pm
Dinner 6:00pm – 10:30pm
Brunch 11:00am – 2:30pm, Sat & Sun