Google Maps told me that Maison Eight was a 9 minute walk from Tsim Sha Tsui MTR. In any other city in the world, that would be a dream location, a stroll perfectly timed to help work up an appetite or help digest the petits fours. Maybe it’s a challenge in such a convenience-obsessed city as Hong Kong, but it shouldn’t be. First was that terrace, 21 floors up above the reverse side of TST, as it were.
Jazz action on the sound system – more on that later – serenades the arrival of champagne and a cocktail, before we are led through the long bar/ballroom where a band is drinking before their set. Into the restaurant itself at the end, affording different views over the city. The tables are generously spaced, the seats comfortable, the feel relaxed. But we’re the only diners.
This means that we get particular attention from the sweet and keen wait staff and hone in more to the soundtrack than we would otherwise, i.e. if there was a buzzing room full of people to gossip about. Virtual Insanity by Jamiroquai takes me back to 1997 in Fulham, a broke new graduate spending money on a CD (remember those?) that he couldn’t afford.
The Chef at Maison Eight is Joe Chan, a well-travelled veteran with stints at the Mandarin Oriental HK, a two Michelin starred gaff in Bordeaux and elsewhere. He’s delightful company when he pops out at the end of dinner and his plates generally hit the right notes. To start, however, the first Amuse Bouche wasn’t especially amusing. Billed as ‘cheese with tomato’ it tasted and felt like a cream cheese. It didn’t do much to tease the palate, which is obviously the point.
Another followed, a great little snail on puréed potato, showing an immediate improvement, well seasoned and herbed, just enough to hit the right notes and remind you that the menu skews firmly towards France.
From the à la carte next, two plump scallops were beautifully seared and came with a sweet and nuanced bed of tomato. The frisée lettuce felt a bit unnecessary, all a bit 2000.
Which is funny as exactly the same could be said of Craig David’s ‘Seven Days’ which played three times at dinner. In a row. Poor Craig and his career ruined by Bo Selecta.
Next came a soup which immediately made it into my list of best dishes of 2016. It was an absolute beauty, a brilliant French onion soup ($128) with a little Croque Monsieur – a Croque Garçon, if you will. The bowl contained a sort of onion confit, crowned by more caramelized onions and dotted with what I’m guessing was gruyère. The happy meeting was then flooded in a gorgeous stock and served with the crisp, oily and wonderful croque garcon. Only the unnecessary green garnish spoiled an otherwise brilliant bowl. I’d go back to Maison Eight for this dish alone. Even the soundtrack played ball, with Marvin Gaye was telling us how he was hot just like an oven.
Thereafter the main was perfectly pink lamb with marrow jus, a herb crust and the sort of hot and fluffy chips on the side which remind you what chips should taste like. ($418) Excellent ingredients, accomplished cooking.
Dessert bought the tidiest Eton mess I’ve ever seen, a good balance of flavours in an old British classic.
Maybe we landed on an unlucky Thursday – and in time, diners will come. The space needs it, to feel warm and welcoming. The food alone almost manages it regardless, which is no mean feat. Taxis right outside the door took us back to Causeway Bay in all of 13 minutes.
I was invited to dinner which ran approx HK$750 for four courses. A two course lunch is $178, there’s a three-course option at $218 or four-course at $248. Menus change fortnightly.