This relaxed Belgian beerhall is enjoyably authentic, with benches that encourage conviviality, and the alluring aroma of ale seemingly ingrained into the very walls. Frites serves a smashing array of Belgian brews – helpfully organised and described in its lengthy 'Beer Bible' – including Trappist, light, dark, extra-strong and fruity brews, among others.
Whether you’re stressed, tired or simply need a break, some ice cold suds is the ideal remedy to all that. And because we should never settle for anything less than perfection, Stella Artois, the world’s best-selling Belgian beer, has launched its new Draught Masters programme here in the city so thirsty Hongkongers can witness Stella’s signature four-step pouring ritual first-hand and savour a perfect pint.
What exactly is the Draught Masters? Essentially, it’s a cook-off for bartenders that started in June with more than 45 local bars and restaurants participating. Bartenders are judged on how well they execute Stella’s four-step ritual and the personal charm that they bring. Now down to five finalists, the folks manning the bar have to be ready at any moment since designated ‘mystery shoppers’ from Stella Artois are making anonymous visits to sample a pint without warning. That means every customer is treated with a draught poured to the highest standards. This is your chance to enjoy a beer like never before.
If that’s not a big enough draw for you, the selected finalists are all offering brilliant deals to celebrate their achievement, including Wyndham Street’s popular French bistro Pastis and Frites Causeway Bay, where the authentic Belgian beer hall is offering a happy hour deal Monday to Friday from 3pm to 8pm with Stella costing just $35 a pint. Boasting rustic benches, high ceilings, stained glass windows and an all-around welcoming vibe, Frites not only makes for the perfect spot to wind down and dig into hearty portions of European cuisine but to also sip beer poured and presented at the highest calibre thanks to restaurant manager and Draught Master finalist Ludovic Debord. We chat with the French bartender about how to pour the perfect pint and what he loves about working at the trendy beer hall.
How did you hear about the Draught Masters and what prompted you to participate?
It was pretty funny because the first time I heard of it, it was during my job interview at Frites. It was with one of the co-owners and he introduced me to the competition. I could tell how important it was for him, the company and for the culture of Frites. So once I joined, it was like: “Let's do it, let's make it!” And now I'm a finalist.
How much preparation did you do leading up to it?
Every two minutes. [laughs] It's not necessarily how much time but how you use it and using a lot of kegs. We are lucky since Stella Artois is a best-seller at Frites, we can practice every day. It takes a lot of practice.
Frites Causeway Bay restaurant manager Ludovic Debord expertly skimming the Stella Artois chalice
What’s the key to pouring a perfect pint?
I think the first step is to be natural, just be yourself, follow the steps and consistency and perfection will follow. Working in the F&B industry is all about pleasing the guests. There’s nothing fake about it – at least not from my part anyway. We focus on quality at Frites and pouring the perfect Stella Artois is just part of our normal day!
Take us through your four-step ritual.
First, the chalice must be clean and chilled to the same temperature as the beer. That way, the beer doesn't get warm later. Next, you don't want the first drops from the pipe in the chalice because they’re usually oxidised and not fresh. We just want the nectar. So we sacrifice the first drops on each pour to just keep the best one. When you pour, the inclination has to be exactly 45 degrees. Then, you have to skim any overflowing foam. Finally, we have to clean the glass. We have a sink just with fresh running water to clean the outside of the glass. So when the guest takes the glass – logo facing out – it's not sticky. And of course, we present it with a smile.
What's the best thing about working at Frites?
I was very surprised in the beginning by how much attention to detail and quality they pay here. For example, in the kitchen, all our dishes are homemade. We are very focused on how the guests feel. As you can tell, I always say guest. At Frites, we don’t have clients or customers. We have guests. It's what I really appreciate most about here.
Order fish and chips with a pint of Stella at a special price of $230 throughout October
What’s a good pairing with a Stella from the Frites’ menu?
Our popular fish and chips. There are two reasons for it. The first, the dish is made with Stella Artois beer batter. For the taste and palate, Stella brings out the freshness and crispiness of the traditional deep-fried fish. It's a beautiful marriage.
What would it mean to win for you?
To be proud of all my achievements these past years. To be proud to represent a brand that has the same values as me. I would be proud of myself, proud of my team, my company, the industry, and what we're doing.