Be part of the in-crowd and receive exclusive party invitations and fabulous offers.SIGN UP WITH TATLER
Following on from smaller-scale projects in Wan Chai – the vibrant duo of tapas bars, 22 Ships and Ham & Sherry – Jason Atherton and Yenn Wong have made light work of their latest dining concept, a split-level casual fine diner positioned at the belly of Central’s newest cultural hub. The “social” shtick is fast becoming an Atherton signature (the chef also owns Pollen Street Social, Little Social, City Social and Social Eating House in London) and it’s best understood through the experience of the dining room’s electric ambience. Shanghai-based design firm Neri & Hu have given conviviality a visual language, with shades of celadon and copper contrasting with warm wood and masculine leathers, and cabinets of curiosities hinting at the coming together of creative and intellectual minds. The effect is rather exhilarating, giving ASS a welcoming vibe that redefines the notion of haute cuisine. The ground-floor bar is ideal for drinks before or after a meal and, in fair weather, the alfresco terrace is excellent to lounge in.
Atherton’s penchant for cheeky humour and a streak of mischievousness is evident in much of the menu, if not the acronym of the restaurant itself. The Yorkshireman has made his name championing a very particular style of contemporary British cuisine, one that is not bound by tradition but built on cornerstone ingredients prepared simply and presented creatively, as evidenced in dishes such as the CLT – an evolution of the BLT, one of Atherton’s most famous creations that was immortalised in the BBC reality show Great British Menu. With head chef Chris Whitmore at the helm, the sweet crabmeat that lends the name its “C” is artfully paired with lightly soused tomatoes of varying colours and sizes, each imbued with a tantalising smokiness, and matched with crisp little-gem lettuce leaves and thin Melba toast. The flavours sing, and each mouthful harmonises on the flavour and texture scale. Or take the starter of Suffolk pork ravioli, with Berkswell cheese and peppered hearts and kidneys – on paper, a rough-and-ready mash of working-class ingredients, pampered into chichi Soho sophistication, a delicate pasta parcel finished with fragrant sage. Desserts by Andrés Lara, who joins from Atherton’s Pollen restaurant in Singapore, are as far from the stodgy British puddings of yesteryear, with key flavour notes plucked from around Asia: calamansi and Madras curry spices in the signature JAAL 75% chocolate dessert, say, or tamarind adding acidity to an apple-and-pear number with caramel toffee, soy and brown butter.
There is an excellent by-the-glass wine selection that incorporates offerings from a diverse range of regions, from German Riesling to Spanish reds and a special “Pollen Street Social Selection” white from France. We would definitely recommend having a cocktail to bookend your visit, as bar manager Neil Rivington’s dangerously drinkable libations won our 2015 award for Best Cocktails. Try the Spanglish, a refreshing cobbler, or the whisky-based cocktail named Just What The Doctor Ordered.
Service was probably one of the weaker points of the experience here, as we were not given a wine list to begin with and it took some time to catch the eye of a waiter in the room.
A meal for two with wine and service will come to around HK$1,800. It may seem a little pricy for the convivial atmosphere, but the ingredients are top class and the location prime. Lunch and brunch offer a more wallet-friendly experience.