The Saint, Hong Kong: Review date, February 15
60 second review, so no score
McSorley’s Old Ale House in the East Village is hailed as the ‘oldest Irish tavern in New York City’, open since 1854. It’s certainly not lacking in character, with no item of decoration having been removed since 1910, while women were only reluctantly admitted from 1970 onwards. Like a total schmuck, I managed to embarrass myself on my only visit by asking for a pint of Guinness – they only serve ‘dark’ or ‘light’ ale – and not by the pint.
McSorley’s in Hong Kong opened in 2006 and had absolutely no history, no claim to fame and was about as Irish as C Y Leung. What it did have however was a decent selection of beers on tap, a solid burger (especially latterly), multiple screens for watching sport and good staff, not least of whom was former manager Andy Curtis, an all round good-egg and quizmaster par excellence. Frankly, this was all you needed in a decent pub – and especially when it was the only ‘proper’ pub in Soho.
But, as a result of someone’s infinite marketing wisdom, McSorley’s was recently removed from the Hong Kong history books (although branches still exist in Macau and DB) to be replaced by somewhere called ‘The Saint’. Their website calls it a ‘Gastro Bar and Social House’. Save me. I can just imagine the conversation: “Gastropub is wayyyy too 1995, what about..gastro…bar!” And ‘Social House’, really? Has Jason Atherton not fully trademarked that yet?
Maybe they are trying to channel their inner Roger Moore but whatever the reason, the premise of The Saint is as confused as the premises. On arrival you don’t know – and can’t tell – if it’s a pub or restaurant. There’s no welcome, although we’d called and booked a table, so we sat ourselves. The interior is dark to the point of lugubriousness. Maybe they’re still renovating – I’ll update if that’s the case. But there also seems to be only one screen – a bizarre oversight if they are thinking of enticing a sport-watching crowd.
However in fairness the menu is interesting and certainly different than its previous incarnation. Bone Marrow or Boar Scotch egg were never options that I could recall back in the day. There’s also a great Mark Twain quote on the menu (when is it not Mark Twain?) saying: “Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like”. Quite.
When fork met plate, ‘Baked Camembert’ was unfortunately neither. The problem is that Camembert is not a trademark (Only Camembert de Normandie is protected) so any round and vaguely white cheese can qualify under the name. This was pretty insipid stuff, needed longer in the oven and came under what looked like muesli but was apparently ‘garlic and almonds’. There were two of the advertised pickled onions, although they were tiny. The bread was good, but overall it needed some quince or fig or cranberry to lift it away from the very mundane.
What sounds better in life than an IPA beef pie? Not much, that’s what. It made a theatrical entrance given that the pie pastry lid was detachable using a special clamp.
But, once again, it didn’t live up to its billing or branding. It didn’t taste of IPA (India Pale Ale – so called because it was brewed with a high alcohol content to handle the 6 month journey from England to India) nor of beef, just vaguely of sweet HP sauce. In fact there was almost no meat in it, just huge chunks of parsnip. Where’s the beef indeed. And who serves a pie in a pub with salad? I assumed spuds would appear in some format, mais non. With tax it was HK$240. We passed on dessert, leaving the Jerry’s final thought section of this review that some things in life are just best left alone. McSorely missed indeed.
Approx $300 per person for two courses:
The Saint, 55 Elgin Street, Soho, Hong Kong. Tel:+852 2522 2646 https://www.facebook.com/thesainthk/info?tab=overview