Colonial classic redux
When The Repulse Bay closed down for several months for renovation, regulars waited with bated breath for the results of the overhaul. After all, like the Mandarin Oriental makeover, or the earlier Peninsula extension construction, the trick is to introduce new elements that won’t detract from the original charm. And The Verandah – with its lawn terrace overlooking Repulse Bay, window shutter that opens in the summer and ceiling fans spinning lazily overhead – comes with a lot of historical baggage.
So it’s to our relief that the sprucing up of this grand dame is just a mild nip/tuck, more Meryl Streep than Cher. The highlight is the new airy foyer called “The Hall”. Featuring comfy loungers and connecting to the refurbished bar, it’s a great place to grab a pre-dinner drink. Moving into the dining hall itself, the new design elements include beige flooring, lighter basket-weave rattan chairs and new gleaming white marble table tops. The grand piano still holds pride of place, as do the various trolleys that have always made The Verandah’s tableside preparation such a draw.
If, like us, you’ve been coming to The Verandah for 20 years, you’ll be curious to know if they’ve changed the menu. Our waiter, a 15-year veteran, explained that most of The Verandah’s classic menu (such as Caesar salad, black pepper steak, French onion soup and baked Alaska; $658) remains, but the dishes have been given more modern presentations. We decided to test his words and ordered all of the above, plus the smoked Scottish salmon (also part of the classic menu set), the soup degustation ($108), and Australian duck breast with foie gras ($298). These might not be the most adventurous of choices, but given they’ve been churning these out with remarkable consistency for more than two decades, it’s easy to see why they’ve held firm.
The soup degustation arrived as three espresso cups filled with their bestsellers: lobster bisque, classically prepared with a hint of sherry and a touch of fresh cream; mushroom with truffle soup; and cream of asparagus, adorned with a small crostini with a stem of asparagus on top. Served piping hot, they complemented one another perfectly.
On to the Caesar salad, and our waiter wheeled the trolley over to prepare it before our eyes. Served, as we’d requested, with less garlic, no anchovies and light on the dressing, as well as swirls of Parma ham, the portion is big enough for two people if eaten as an appetizer.
One thing truly noteworthy about The Verandah is their black pepper steak, a juicy tenderloin flame-cooked tableside covered with a rich sauce of beef stock, cream and, of course, black pepper. We asked for it medium-rare, and it was as good as it’s always been. Served with a simple helping of vegetables and potatoes, it’s pure comfort food joy. Most of the classic dishes at The Verandah (think sole Meuniere or lobster thermidor) are cooked with little salt, a trick that makes rich food less filling (as salt tends to make one down copious amounts of wine). Same goes to the Australian duck breast with foie gras topping, a rich combination that leaves one more satisfied than stuffed. The combination is complex – a duck leg confit and black truffle crushed potatoes make up the base note, giving interesting textures and flavours. We ate each layer separately to appreciate everything on its own.
The baked Alaska dessert (cake and ice-cream covered in meringue and lit in front of you) is heavy, so if you want something lighter go for the bestselling soufflé – fluffy warm goodness.
With the autumn breeze gently blowing through the dining room, it's still the perfect place to quietly celebrate.
A word to the wise: since the renovations, they have been booked solid every weekend with weddings and parties, so make sure you book in advance. Leslie Chan
109 Repulse Bay Rd, Repulse Bay, 2292 2822. Daily noon-10.30pm.
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109 Repulse Bay Rd, Repulse Bay