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Chef Akrame Benallal’s casual French bistro on Ship Street offers a relaxed atmosphere; the 60-seater 1,200 square foot space is playfully decorated with a butcher’s studio in mind, which may explain the various portraits of cattle breeds dotted along the walls. Warm woods, faux brick walls, and stainless steel accents play main fiddle here, with a discreet VIP dining area in the back for more intimate affairs. The restaurant is popular amongst young professionals and families alike, who enjoy their meals with French tunes playing overhead.
It’s all about meat and potatoes here, and following Benallal’s eponymous restaurant next door, Atelier Vivanda also offers a set-course menu. For appetisers, the vibrant beetroot risotto is creamy and flavourful, with a small slice of smoked haddock hidden beneath the glistening pearls of rice adding a hint of saltiness that contrasts well with the dish. Although the duck leg terrine is nicely seasoned, we found the dish to be a bit dry overall. For mains, the Persillé black Angus is cooked to our requested doneness and extremely tender, while the modestly portioned black Angus flank encapsulates all that we hope for in a steak, retaining its juiciness with each wholesome bite. To balance out the meal, we are offered unlimited portions of green salad, as well as potato side dishes that are cooked in five ways; our favourite of the evening was the pommes dauphines – addicting little crisp potato puffs that can easily be eaten as a snack on its own. Dessert options are also kept to a minimum, and while we enjoyed the caramel profitoclaire and crème brûlée, we felt that each dish lacked a richness and complexity to make it truly stand out.
The curated wine list comprises labels from various regions of France. There are only two by-the-glass options for both red and white wines, although we enjoyed the 2013 Moulin de Gassac cabernet sauvignon – a strong blend with hints of red berries, which paired nicely with our meal.
Although staff demonstrated a definitive knowledge of the menu, it is difficult to get the attention of wait staff when seated in the private room.
A filling meal for two including a glass of wine each comes to just over HK$1,000 – although a bit pricey for a bistro experience, there is still great value for money considering the convenient location and fine ingredients.