My boyfriend and I are celebrating our anniversary. And lucky me, he is one step ahead and has booked a table at an unknown location. I love surprises huzzah.
We ascend in the lift to the top floor on 11 Stanley Street and as the doors open I know exactly where we are. I’ve read umpteen reviews for Liberty Private Works and seen a multitude of saliva-inducing-pictures so I know this open plan kitchen well and I spot the head chef Vicky Cheng immediately; he’s captivating a few of the diners with a description of their next dish.
I’ve barely eaten half a peanut today to save myself for this evening so I am salivating when we are seated and I see tens of plates lined up in the kitchen slowly being filled with the immaculately prepped ingredients. Our waitress is supremely friendly and hands us both menus . I look down and use my pinky to count the number of courses; my eyes do loop-de-loops and I look at my man and clapping my hands together I let out a long “eeeeeeeek”. 10 courses! Oh my goodygumdrops I am going to pop with happiness!
I look around the space and see there isn’t one spare stool – that’s surely a sign of good things, and this is a Tuesday. Diners are seated around the open plan kitchen eye-balling the artistry on the plates in front of them. The space for the culinary-team is tiddly-tiny yet somehow they manage to work seamlessly within this confined space and with each other. No hip bumping or head banging in sight, just a sense of unbreakable and organized precision here and clearly this is very well practiced as their performance is flawless.
Without further ado we are both furnished with one of those flat sardine tins full to the brim with some fish dip of sorts; we are told to use some home-baked bread sticks as dunking material. We eagerly plough in; the dip is delicious - I put the stick to one side and instead plunge my fork into the tin in order to consume fuller mouthfuls and do so at a faster pace. This by the way, is just a little snackette to get us rocking and rolling. As we munch, Mr M orders us a delightful dry Riesling that turns out to be the perfect choice for our dinner. The wine list isn’t huge and for whatever reason, the whites are half the number of the reds – yay for you if you like vin rouge.
While we wait for our vino we sit quietly (as couples do after many happy years together), and we observe our surroundings. Music; that doesn't necessarily correlate with the interior design nor the funky staff but we ignore, as the notable music here is the chat-chat-chat of the diners who look as excited as me about the food tonight. There is not one piece of soft furnishing in sight, so combined with the immensely vast ceiling the noises that fill this room bounce around your ear drums adding to the pace of anticipation for course number 1.
I have listed some of my favourites of the evening as a narrative of ten courses might just send you off to sleep.
The “Egg, truffle, Parmesan and Caviar” was surely going to be up there at the top. The egg is encased in a delicate pasta parcel, surrounded by a sea of cheesey and truffley cream. This is Naughty with a capital N and if I had my wicked way I would kidnap everybody’s bowl, pour it all into a saucepan and then run away to a dark corner, sit on the floor and gorge for hours with a big spoon. Hmph, getting carried away there. It was divine, subtle, gentle, quiet and dreamy and in the context of a 10-course menu, a pretty generous portion too. The caviar lends a saltiness which compliments the woodyness of truffle. I think I see angel wings when they furnish us with warm petit-baguettes to mop up the cream on the plate.
The John Dory was tender, moist and bouncy and its accompanying hollandaise was velvety, slightly tart, not heavy, a beautifully light spouse for the fish.
Of the desserts my favourite by a mile was the “Corn, Coconut, Mango, Kaffir Lime”. Resting atop meringue that has been toasted on the slate is mango & rice “sushi”. The sticky rice and sweet mango are a divine combination and with a nibble of the chewy meringue and a tiny scoop of the coconut I find myself taking smaller and smaller mouthfuls so that I can prolong the pleasure of eating this outstanding dessert.
Least favourite was probably the Tuna & Sea Urchin; the latter which always reminds me of unpleasant things that I’d better not reveal here. The dish looked beautiful but I fear that wherever sea urchin is present, any fellow ingredients on the plate are totally overpowered and thus serve little purpose other than perhaps, for texture.
The evening is concluded with course number 10 - a basket of madeleine’s straight from the oven, warm and light and fluffy. But I am truly defeated I cannot managed even a nibble so surrender the basket to Mr M who of course tucks into …errr, the whole lot.
Four hours after we arrive we agree that we had a really enjoyable evening, full of eye-candy, food-porn, and fun. I am immensely impressed with the military precision of the operation here – the way they cope with the confined space, the efficient service and the smooth turnover from one dish to the next. We loved watching the dishes come together and witnessing true passion at work and real technical skill is a pleasure for even the most disinterested diner. This is like watching artists paint in a studio except the brushes are their hands and the paints are stunning, inspired ingredients. There were certainly some daring concepts in the menu tonight, some that I loved and others that didn’t excite too much but we most certainly will be back.
For more Hong Kong food reviews, read my blog "Eat My Musings" - google it !