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We’ve been fans of Osborn’s cooking for a long time—in 2012, he took home our prize for Best New Chef for his work at the Alan Yau-owned restaurant St Betty. Three years on, the IFC Mall restaurant is no more, but Osborn has found his own wonderful space in a quiet cul-de-sac in Central, with a verdant terrace where he grows his own herbs, fruits and vegetables that are fashioned into the thrilling platefuls, which have evolved since he arrived in Hong Kong a few years ago. Tasteful art and a muted colour palette creates a soft and understated setting in which to enjoy the vibrancy of Osborn’s cooking. Some may find the tables quite closely set. The chef’s counter, where guests can watch the kitchen at work, is recommended for those who like to get some extra culinary insight.
It’s not easy to describe Osborn’s cooking, as is often the case with chefs from the southern hemisphere; his experience at Pied à Terre in London has worked in a dash of European flavour and flair, and no doubt his present home has further added an arsenal of deliciousness to his repertoire of fresh, consciously boundary-breaking creations. The menu at Arcane is modest, described as modern European, with a handful of selections for starters, mains and desserts. Each dish is a melodic combination of ingredients, which hint at a chef’s mind that’s full of possibilities.
There are flavours so assertive you have to wonder, upon reading the menu, how they could possibly combine in harmony on the palate—but they do, without fail. Silky avocado is paired with spanner crab mayonnaise, the oceanic hum of the sweet shellfish somehow magically enhanced and not masked by its bedfellow of cooling, piquant gazpacho, anointed with grassy coriander and sesame crisps. Osborn works magic with the delicate, sensual softness of raw Hokkaido scallops, which are paired with the contrasting crunch of fresh black radish and water chestnuts, bridged with tender butternut squash, and given a bracing blast of acidity with lemon and bittersweet pomelo.
And what of desserts? It’s incredible that Osborn’s talented sous-chef Ching Tso (who worked with him at Pied à Terre for four years in London) is also responsible for the thrilling sweets that come from the kitchen. The signature yuzu and lemon posset with mikan orange, mandarin and yoghurt ice cream is sensational in every way—a dessert that is absolutely perfect in its execution
Arcane’s extensive wine cellar (of over 1,000 bottles) is a celebration of fine French wines—the Burgundy selection is particularly lavish—with notable picks from the New World. Surprisingly, despite Osborn’s Australian roots there are only a handful of wines from Down Under. We rate the by-the-glass option, which offers reasonably priced gems as well as dessert and fortified wines, and staff are knowledgeable enough to guide diners to their ideal pairings.
There is a certain charm about Arcane that reminds us more of a comfortable neighbourhood restaurant than a stiff, fine dining institution. Much has to be said about Osborn’s hospitality—we’re convinced the chef has a photographic memory, as he greets every returning guest by name and with a smile—and the laid back but professional floor staff.
A three-course dinner for two with wine and service will come to around HK$2,500 which we think is a fair price given the Central location and exceptional wining and dining experience.