Head down the road less wandered, past the splash of the local fishmonger, past the muted thud of cleaver against bone and wood, and you’ll discover this most curious of French restaurants. Illuminated in neon blue are the French words for “Serge and the seal”—a hint at the whimsical dishes that await beyond the heavy velvet curtains.
Now just over two years old, Serge is a little more grown-up—not that it looks much different, just that it feels more like an old friend. The front of house welcomes any guests that walk through the doors as though they’d been coming for years. The laid-back aura of the dining room remains, the cyan leather banquettes and plywood tables still as functional as the day it opened. The restaurant, opened by a trio of food-loving friends— Frédéric Peneau, Christophe Pelé and Charles Pelletier, who between them can count La Bigarrade and Le Chateaubriand in Paris among their experience—is getting more serious with a beautiful à la carte menu.
The joy of Serge has always been its laissez-faire approach to dining, where anything goes—the restaurant frequently makes use of its location next to one of Hong Kong’s most thriving wet markets to obtain the daily produce, supplementing it with top-shelf proteins from famed French butcher Hugo Desnoyer or the sweetest seafood flown in from Japan that morning.
Serge has become unafraid of letting simple vegetables speak for themselves: such as the jewel-like beetroot baked in salt, set atop an arresting contrast of jade-green fresh peas (each a pop of sweetness), and ignited with the blast of pickled shallots and karashi miso. Shellfish and crustaceans are still what Serge does best, treating each ingredient with reverence—witness the artful display of fresh razor clams, lightly cooked and topped with an expressive medley of diced pear, creamy burrata and microherbs. Or the sensual rareness of pigeon, unusually paired with cockles, whose tinny oceanic qualities seem to mimic the iron-rich flavour of the bird; salty samphire adds hits of flavour where it’s needed and the whole dish is brought together with a rich pigeon jus.
You can’t speak about Serge without mentioning its renowned dacquoise, the ethreally light almond biscuits with whipped cream and nougatine—the dessert is so popular that the trio once toyed with the idea of opening a shop dedicated to it. This year, a newcomer of baba au rhum with chantilly cream and orange zest sashayed through the pass and demanded our attention. We’ll never, it seems, tire of the surprises that come out of that tiny kitchen in this brilliantly pared-back space they call a restaurant. We hope that Serge will never, ever tire of being itself.