The Wildfire chain is going through a swapping of identities. It first started in Stanley as a family-friendly chain with very sharable portions and a children’s play area. Then it entered the Soho market to cater to singletons complete with full bar. Now, with its newest branch opening in the World Trade Centre shopping mall, they are yet again tailoring it to their local market. This time that market being the angry shopping crowd of Causeway Bay.
On a recent lunchtime visit to their new outlet, we found the place nearly empty. Floor to ceiling windows give a great panorama over the yacht club and harbour. Inside, leather and dark wood dominate, as well as the flames of the open pizza oven for which the place was named.
Alongside a fairly standard selection of grilled meats, pastas, pizzas and salads, the menu offered a few surprises. What is a lone Moroccan tagine doing amidst the Italian-American menu? We plumped for their specialties, starting with crostini ($65) and a Caesar salad ($74). Creamy buffalo mozzarella, parma ham and a fresh basil leaf topped the crostini making for tempting little morsels. What let them down was the spoonful of seemingly straight-from-the-tin tomatoes on top. This, along with the only very lightly toasted bread, conjured the taste of uncooked pizza. The Caesar salad wasn’t the best rendition either: too much rich dressing clung to the lettuce, and the standard anchovies and parmesan that form the base of this classic dish had been replaced, to no great effect, with a mean amount of crisped Serrano ham and a sprinkling of asiago cheese.
Touted as a highlight of the menu, the slow-braised bbq pork ribs ($168) were the biggest disappointment. The meat didn’t melt off the bone as should happen after long, slow cooking and, instead of being marinated, the ribs were smothered in thick barbecue sauce just before serving. The sauce, which was too sweet with little heat or smoky tang, not only drowned the meat but the limp vegetables and greasy potatoes that it was served on. We hoped that everything would be saved by the mushroom pizza ($118) as we’ve had excellent crisp-crusted pizzas before in other branches of Wildfire, but we were let down once again. It had an unforgivably stodgy base and despite boasting a tempting array of toppings – roasted garlic, truffle oil, fresh spinach, pine nuts and parmesan – we found it overly rich and lacking in flavour. All in all a very mediocre performance from a chain that has potential.
Meal for two: around $500.
Shop p211a, World Trade Centre
280 Gloucester Rd, Causeway Bay
|Opening hours:||Mon-Thu noon-10.30pm, Fri-Sat noon-11pm.|