Head back to the 60s in fine dining style
Dinner dances. Boozing in the office. Women with voluptuous bodies sipping champagne, nibbling on posh canapés and talking about the Beatles. Dishes like creamed spinach and potato gratin taking centre stage in posh upscale restaurants. Such was the high-end food and drink scene in the West during the 1960s. And it was also commonplace in Hong Kong, for the elite, at least. Think scenes from 60s-themed hit American TV series Mad Men. Sophistication and decadence was commonplace despite the world changing radically outside all those restaurants for the privileged.
These images may seem like a forgotten dream now but the just-opened Maison Eight, perched on top of a new building on Tsim Sha Tsui’s Observatory Road, is here to bring the glamour and style of the 60s back to the present. You get that as soon as you enter the beautifully spacious and elegantly chandeliered restaurant up on the 21st floor. Upon entering, you encounter the Salvatore bar, which boasts cocktail recipes concocted by mixology maestro Salvatore Calabrese. Behind the counter is his protégé Fabien Marcault, who shakes up creative cocktails like the Breakfast Martini ($108) and the Tennessee Squirrel ($108). A look to the left takes our breath away as we marvel at the 270-degree view of the city. There’s an open terrace where guests can sit outside and enjoy the spectacular vista while others take in the exquisite surrounds inside.
After a tipple, we’re ushered into the Esmé dining room. Floor-to-ceiling cedar wood panels, red velvet curtains, retro inset black speakers and gloved waiters in uniforms make this space a feast for the eyes as well as immediately garnering nostalgia for the 60s. And then we scan the menu. Maison Eight’s executive chef Joe Chan is a Hong Kong veteran who has years of pan-European experience under his apron. But his menu, which features the likes of onion soup, bresse chicken and duck confit, tells us he’s leaning to the classic French side here. We look forward to an old-school meal to match the ambience.
As Sinatra’s Fly Me to the Moon croons from the speakers, our onion broth ($118) arrives. Served with cheese and a thin French toast on the side, the soup is thin in texture but rich in flavour. It’s also absent of any thickeners. We’re pleasantly surprised, as well, to find the toastie has a thin slice of ham sandwiched inside, which piques our palates. The classic flavours are all here but the slight twists with the ham and the textures actually brighten up the whole dish. We’re impressed. Next up, we dig into the king scallops ($178) which are chopped up and served in a rich anise sauce with crispy bacon shards on top. This recipe is so traditional it incites childhood memories of eating in French bistros.
We select a traditional lamb rack ($398) for our main. Crumbed in a garlic and herb crust, the coin-sized medallions are extremely tender. Our only lament is that, for the price, we wish there were more. Fortunately, the pork chops ($418) make for a heartier portion. Thick cuts of meat sandwich a crispy cracker which soaks up the cider vinegar glaze while adding interest to the bite. In combination with the apple and fennel compote on the side, it’s an excellent dish.
Ending the meal on a sweet note, we order a crème brûlée ($88) to go with the classic theme of the evening. We like the rhubarb compote lying on a bed of apple crisps. It goes well with the dessert. The glazed custard is a bit dull and adds little to the ensemble but that’s just a side point as the brûlée itself shines. It’s just a shame that, perhaps, a premium ingredient or an extra twist hasn’t been added to create a stellar sweet.
You won’t find any wild innovations at Maison Eight. But that’s not what you come here for. You come for some outstanding classic French dishes, some incredible surrounds and for a feeling that you’re dining with the high-flyers back in the 60s. There are minor modern twists with the food and drinks to keep it all interesting and, with a rooftop bar expected to open in September, the views play a major part in the experience too. We recommend a journey back to the Swinging Sixties. Okay, there’s not much swinging to be done at Maison Eight – but there is plenty of fine dining and nostalgic elegance to lap up. We challenge you to visit this place and not come back.
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Tsim Sha Tsui