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Mano started life as a coffee shop but in the summer of 2014 brought in chef Frederic Chabbert (who had just left the award-winning Petrus at Island Shangri-La) and the design muscle of Sean Dix to transform the space into a trendy brasserie. The skeleton of the space was left mostly intact, the industrial touches (exposed bulbs, concrete) softened with Gallic touches and uplifted with vibrant contemporary art. Verdant plants (a vertical garden takes pride of place behind the bar) and the soft glow of candlelight lends the restaurant a cosy atmosphere.
The menu does have close parallels with Petrus, with additions and subtractions that only serve to bring Chabbert’s culinary personality into sharp relief. Keen to bring conviviality back to fine dining, the restaurant is open all day, from breakfast to dinner, with bar snacks and cocktails available for pre- and post-prandial enjoyment. Many do opt for the tasting menu – cheekily titled “Fred’s Playground” – that serves to woo new diners as well as loyal patrons who have followed the chef from Admiralty to Queen’s Road Central. The key ingredient is listed on the left side, with its accompaniments and cooking methods on the right; eagle-eyed eaters will note familiar dishes such as the Burgaud duck breast topped with crunchy, fragrant coriander seeds. The duck is cooked to a deep pink, the meat juicy and complemented by the dark jus with a touch of honey; the slightly peppery cooked turnips are a sound accompaniment. There are some curveballs, too, such as the pulled-pork kimchi sliders (a nod to the restaurant's Korean co-owners) and a croque monsieur with Colonna bacon and Comté cheese. We also highly rate the mackerel, which is grilled on a searingly hot Josper grill before being served with fresh porcini mushrooms and a confetti of red quinoa, all brought together by an intense chicken jus. Desserts have been crafted by Petrus’ former award-winning pastry chef Claude Guerin, and are as good to eat as they are fine to look at.
A small but well curated wine list concentrates on boutique labels and attempts to offer good value for money – there are plenty of wines available by the glass, and you’ll also be able to find a bottle of Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV for under HK$900.
What’s reassuring is that despite the more casual surroundings, the presentation and service is still very much carried out in five-star fashion. The young staff are professional and adept at banter – many of them were retained from the original café, and so can whip up a perfect après-dîner coffee as well as explain the provenance of the beans to those who care.
Dinner for two with wine and service will come to around HK$1,800 – given the quality of the cooking, central location and the enjoyable experience, we would gladly come back more often.