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.
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.
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.
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.
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.