Hands down, Le 188 has the best views in Hong Kong. Better than The Peak, better than Aqua, and better than a helicopter ride around the harbour. Here, one can have wine inside or out, snack from a raw bar, and dine with 188 degree views – hence the name. On the downside it's another restaurant that locals and out-of-towners will visit time and time again for its stunning vistas, but settle for a passable meal.
Views to kill
Hands down, Le 188 has the best views in Hong Kong. Better than The Peak, better than Aqua, and better than a helicopter ride around the harbour. Here, one can have wine inside or out, snack from a raw bar, and dine with 188 degree views – hence the name. But it is the last part that we are somewhat worried about. Though this newly opened eatery has five star views, it has a less than stellar menu. Tragically, it’s another restaurant that locals and out-of-towners will visit time and time again for its stunning vistas, but settle for a passable meal.
Located in the fresh-out-of-the-wrapper Harbour Grand hotel, Le 188 still has that new car smell. The entrance is grand, lined with the Earth’s finest stones, stunning chandeliers, and double height floor-to-ceiling glass, showcasing a stunning world city from three sides. One look at the first-class setting and whimsical interior will have you planning the seat for your next visit. Sadly, that feeling doesn’t last long after the arrival of the first course.
Before we move on, though, we’d be remiss not to mention the bread basket. It’s not often that we wax lyrical about rolls, but we do when they involve squid ink and apricot. Rather than ruin the mystery, we’ll leave it at that; just don’t blame us when you’re stuffing your face with them.
Our first courses were liquid nitrogen prawn salad, and lobster bisque. The prawn salad was brought to the table enveloped by dry ice – we thought, who in their right mind would serve what looked to be popcorn on top of salad? Oh the joys of molecular gastronomy. The ‘popcorn’ turned out to be freeze dried Thousand Island-Champagne dressing, and it was delectable, but, as so often with chemistry experiments gone wrong, the whole isn’t equal to the sum of its parts. The dressing overpowered the rest of the dish, masking the natural flavour of the prawns.
Unlike the liquid nitrogen, the cloud of foam in the lobster bisque was superfluous. It only served to add salty overtones, with the drizzle of balsamic vinegar heightening the effect. However, the rest of the dish was more successful. A deep brown and reddish hue, the soup was rich and hearty – a lobster head floated in the bowl like one of the many vessels plying their trade in the harbour far, far below. Fishing around, we were surprised to find one perfectly al dente piece of ravioli in the bowl; stuffed with artichoke it complimented the bisque perfectly.
Next up was the potato gnocchi. Though it’s often seen as a heavy dish, it needn’t be. Unfortunately, in this case it had a texture comparable to an overcooked shu mai, not helped by the bed of parsnip mash. Who puts mash with gnocchi? The dish was redeemed somewhat by beautiful green pea foam that tasted as though it had been freshly picked from a garden on the beautiful roof deck outside. It screamed summer; if only the gnocchi didn’t sit like rocks.
Their sirloin steak, much like their duck breast, foie gras, lamb loin, and raw bar, pretty much ticks the box for all things luxurious and Western. Everything comes in portioned meat, starch, and vegetable rations, in an almost military dedication to dietary guidelines. That said, the fresh steak was decent. Thin-cut, evenly marbled, and nicely seasoned, it came with a stack of potatoes and an array of mixed vegetables and mustard sauce. While it won’t set the culinary world alight, it was a pleasing take on continential cooking.
In sum, diners at Le 188 will be rewarded with gracious service from servers who know their craft, and prices that won’t break the bank. However, the restaurant would be more of a hit with our stomachs if the food wasn’t so uptight, and was better suited to the relaxed atmosphere of the place. But we’ll still be back for the views.
41/F, Harbour Grand Hong Kong, 23 Oil St, North Point, 2121 2688. Daily noon-2.30pm, 6.30pm-10.30pm.
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41/F, Harbour Grand Hong Kong, 23 Oil St, North Point
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