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22 Ships is without a doubt a fun place to dine, packing diners into its small, square, buzzing setting. Perch up at the U-shaped bar and watch the chefs as they prepare the various dishes, or sit low in the window looking out onto Wan Chai’s ever-trendier Ship Street. With a no reservations policy, the choice of seat may not be in your hands, but the spot to be is bar-side to chat with staff and watch their preparation, even if the seats are cramped – just tuck in your elbows and get stuck in.
Tapas is the order of play at 22 Ships but it’s less traditional than you might expect. There are modern twists and contemporary innovations and, most importantly, portions are generous. Staff recommend four to six dishes between two and diners should stick to the higher end. The scallop ceviche is light and refreshing, with yuzu dressing and small cubes, spheres and slices of green apple and radish. The menu descriptions provide only part of what appears on the plate with each dish featuring more-than-garnishings of herbs and unusual salad greens, set atop sweepings of complementary sauces in beautiful plate displays. Yellow and red salt-baked beetroot is juicy and comes with a salty rich goat’s cheese. The hamachi is a modern take on a tuna niçoise salad, with saltiness from a rich olive tapenade and sprinkling of anchovies, sweet sun-dried tomatoes and sharp capers as well as small ratte potatoes and mini haricots verts, which all go so well in their combination of flavours and feel. The artichoke salad comprises huge oyster mushrooms sliced thinly into sheets, with a citrus zing to the Asian-inspired miso dressing. The signature iberico and foie gras burgers have a pulled texture from the pork, sweetness coming from barbecue sauce and pickles, and are accompanied by sour, crunchy pickled cucumber and a silky avocado dressing. Slow-cooked lamb shoulder with cumin and cubes of sweet potato brings Middle Eastern flavours to the table and is served with lashings of baba ganoush. For dessert, the goat’s cheese ice cream is both sweet and savoury and sits atop buttery biscuit-like granola in a combination reminiscent of cheesecake, and topped with crunchy honeycomb and tangy raspberries. Eton mess comprises fresh and freeze dried (made there and then with liquid nitrogen) berries for disparate textures, a richly sweet raspberry sauce and contrasting light unsweetened cream topped with a sprinkling of crisp miniature meringues.
Spanish sherries are the recommended accompaniment to tapas here and they present a desirable option with a range of around 16 different types to choose from, whether you like something dry and salty, or something more rounded with a warmer nose. All accompany the food well. If sherry doesn’t take your fancy, pick from a range of sangria and cocktail options or from a comprehensive wine list that provides thorough tasting notes.
Service comes from all sides and is rarely lacking. Bar seating offers ample opportunities to ask questions and request recommendations direct from staff members and chefs who are affable and knowledgeable.
Tapas for two with drinks comes to around HK$1,200 which is good value given the excellent all-round dining experience. Don’t forget to add a tip as the bill does not include the customary 10 per cent service charge.