Lily & Bloom, Hong Kong: Bloom goes the dynamite


  28.05.17    Hong Kong


Lily & Bloom is the two floor restaurant/bar stalwart on Wyndham with an all-American prohibition feel, somewhere that the cuisine had historically always seemed decent but a little…uninspired. Comfort classics and staples, but never much to get excited about. All that has changed, however, with the arrival of new chef Chris Grare and a dynamic front of house and bar crew, making it definitely a destination to revisit.

Chris is a New Jersey boy with an enviable resume taking in working for Daniel Boulud at Café Boulud New York and Gray Kunz at Café Gray Deluxe before running the steakhouse for The American Club, somewhere people know their steaks. He brings to Lily & Bloom a lightness of touch, without compromising on flavour or decadence.

Decor-wise you probably know what it looks like, but recent touches have made it warmer, while it also boasts what has to be Hong Kong’s biggest floral arrangement, on the bar. But we’re here to see what the kitchen can do, not to look at sunflowers. The answer is, quite a lot, as evident from the first of a succession of impressive plates.

Lobster is everywhere these days and categorically not the high-end product we once used to dream of trying. That said, it still needs to be handled with care to let it sing. Grare does that beautifully by pairing it with a subtle curry sauce and celery root puree, before contrasting it with the snap of a cracker made from lentils. It’s clever and delicious.

LILY & BLOOM HONG KONG

The old standby of steak tartare is likewise handled well. Black truffle and just the right amount of salt lift the USDA beef somewhere new, but again it’s the smear of horseradish crème which finishes it. The only vaguely constructive criticism is that it needed more of the sourdough croutons to act as a platform for all the flavour.

LILY & BLOOM HONG KONG

You can see by the plates that less is more, a case in point again with asparagus served with dots of fermented garlic and a dainty quail egg.

Those were the ‘small plates’. The first of two bigger boys was steamed toothfish with sautéed water spinach in lemongrass broth, finished with a tempura prawn. I can’t overstate how life-affirmingly good that broth was. Call it fish soup for the soul, but spoons were called for. It was also again clean eating, well-proportioned.

LILY & BLOOM HONG KONG

The final hurrah came with slow-braised short rib, the must-have ingredient on any menu, it seems. The deep, dark, rich, sticky red wine and port reduction could have varnished a table with its sensational colour, while baby beets joined curls of leek and goat cheese to accompany.

LILY & BLOOM HONG KONG

To round off an excellent dinner came a passionfruit semi-freddo with raspberry, strawberry and shards of phyllo. Precisely the way you’d want to wrap up.

LILY & BLOOM HONG KONG

Grare and the gang prove that reinvention is possible, taking Lily & Bloom somewhere you’ll want to head. The online menu calls the cuisine ‘refined American classics’, but for me while steaks are still a big part of the menu, they’re more global and nuanced in outlook with their other dishes.
Incidentally the bar upstairs still runs one of Hong Kong’s best happy hours, where the first drink is $50, the second $25 and your third…HK$5. Happy indeed! They also have an ‘All American Brunch’ every weekend for $490 which includes all you can eat and freeflow. Sounds like another dangerously good deal. Finally, the headline is of course a throwback to this classic. It seems that the student commentator in question is now a full time TV guy, so all’s well that ends well.