I’ve written up a fair few restaurants in Kennedy Town – Chino, Sunday’s Grocery and Kinsale amongst them – yet every time I return there seems to be a whole new swathe of options. Whether you call it progress and gentrification – or alternatively think the heart is being ripped from another traditional Hong Kong neighbourhood – it’s certainly not lacking in energy.
Forbes Street is emblematic of the change. It is buzzing with restaurants and customers, nowhere more so than at Le Comptoir, a new French spot serving up small sharing plates. It’s owned by the people behind St Germain, Pastis and others, so one thing you can guarantee is an authentic Gallic soirée. The place is easy on the eye, complete with framed apéritif posters, menus du jour scrawled on mirrors and a manager only interested in speaking to the females in the party. Upstairs is a cracking little private dining spot amidst their wine collection, available to take away as well as consume in house:But here it’s not fine dining, rather small plates to share as we sit at the counter – le comptoir. It’s safe to say that everything the four of us tried – me, the thorn between the three roses – was well executed. Garlic prawns are happy swimming in a piscine of the stuff that screams for extra bread to mop it up ($98):Chorizo with red wine and spring onions is served over a dome of creamy potato purée. The ultimate in comfort food. ($98)A salad of artichoke hearts with rocket and Parmesan ticks the right boxes: ($88)Even if stuffed piquillo peppers are not the most memorable – and not quite as pretty as the PR photo suggests: ($60)There are also excellent versions of croquettes, notably cheese, while the ‘hot goat cheese in crispy pastry with honey’ disappeared before I could pull out the iphone. A good sign. A special mention is also needed for the ‘mixed mushrooms with shallots, garlic and herbs’. Oh my. There’s something very beguiling in there, especially at $40.
Most of all though, Le Comptoir has quickly managed to develop that most tricky of attributes, namely atmosphere. It was heaving – in a good way – when we left at around 1030, people spilling out into the street, music playing, the sound of happy diners. En effet, la vie est belle. Comptoir, 42 Forbes Street, Kennedy Town Tel: +852 2453 9873 http://www.french-creations.com/comptoir