When it comes to celebrity British chefs, we’ve had a double dip over the past couple of months. Jamie Oliver hit the city first when he opened Jamie’s Italian in Causeway Bay in late July – but that joint failed to spark rave reviews, particularly from us. So it’s now the turn of the foul-mouthed titan of the kitchen, Gordon Ramsay, to impress with his Bread Street Kitchen and Bar in Central. He has Michelin-starred pedigree, he’s known for his precision and skill in running any kitchen and he has that volcanic on-screen temper that’s made him the star of hit show after hit show. And with Dining Concepts behind this venture, surely BSK is going to be, ahem, f**king brilliant.
BSK London, opened in 2011, has been a Ramsay hit. The English urban brasserie-esque restaurant is a mix of vintage and modern, with an ever-changing menu of Brit classics and international fare. And the HK, version which just opened at the LKF, Hotel takes on exactly the same ethos, attempting to appeal to the masses with its chic industrialist décor, casual atmosphere and strong drinks list. In fact, it’s almost a replica of the London base, with its chessboard floors, plush yellow seats and hanging lights. The menu is also similar – rustic English dishes are given an Asian twist and there’s an international feel to it all, with some tip-top punches and cocktails available at the bar.
We visit a few days after Ramsay’s appearance at the opening of the restaurant (yes, of course there were themuch-anticipated expletives along with his friendly rapport with the media – see our interview here) and we can’t wait to taste what his head chef Gilles Bosquet, who has worked under Ramsay in both London and Qatar in the past, and his team are cooking up. So we begin with the honey-glazed beef short ribs with pomelo ($178), which is an immediate winner. The ribs are crisp and rich, with a glaze that encases the fat so well that the juices literally burst in our mouth before the pomelo cleanses the palate with its tart citrus notes. But then we lay into the tamarind spiced chicken wings ($128) and these seem like they’ve been sent over from hell’s kitchen. The murky tamarind sauce is far too generously slathered on to the bird – and it’s so sour that our eyes actually shed tears. Two starters. Two entirely different experiences.
And that theme bizarrely carries on into the mains. The steamed snapper ($208) is a prime piece of perfectly cooked fish in a shellfish dressing that works up enough sweet notes on the tongue to bring out a symphony of sea flavours. But the slow-roasted Dingley Dell pork chop ($198) is overcooked. The famous stress-free meat is aromatic and the flavours are what you’d expect but the meat is way too tough for a Ramsay joint. You’d think about complaining in a cha chaan teng about this meat – and you’d expect the head chef to f**king murder his staff for it. The shepherd’s pie ($188) fares better, though, as the herbs in the dish subtly balance out the pieces of lamb and we also appreciate the crusty layer of parmesan on top of the potatoes.
A real mixed bag then, so far. And this theme really does end our BSK experience. We adore the Eton mess ($78), that classic English dessert with fresh strawberries and crunchy meringue. The Chantilly cream really brings the whole ensemble together and the flavours dance tantalisingly on the tongue. But then the banana sticky toffee pudding ($88) has a mealy texture and is so sweet we can’t finish it.
Sure, we know this place has just opened and there’s work to be done. But this is Gordon Ramsay’s first Hong Kong venture and we were still hoping every modestly-priced dish would be stellar. Some really are worthy of many a complimentary ‘f’ word but others are Bread Street Kitchen nightmares. It certainly beats Oliver’s army in CWB but work needs to be done here to make every meal outstanding – however, if anyone can, Gordon can. Maybe we just need some profanity in the kitchen, some angry shaking of fists and some quick changes behind the scenes – and then we’ll be coming back to a true Ramsay special.
|Venue name:||Bread Street Kitchen & Bar||Contact:|
33 Wyndham Street
|Opening hours:||Mon-Fri: 12:00-15:00; 18:00-23:00 Sat: 12:00-23:00 Sun: 11:00-23:00 PH: 12:00-23:00|