Located near the tram station and the racecourse in Happy Valley, Saint-Germain takes over the corner space previously occupied by The Stable, a typical English pub. Saint-Germain retains the same basic layout as the old pub, with a long bar occupying half the restaurant. What the owners - who also manage Pastis and Le Boudoir in Central – have done, however, are add touches of their characteristic Gallic charm to the space, including painting the walls a soothing shade of pea green and adding glass partitions, mirrors and a green and white chequered floor. Not having been open for too long, there are a few kinks: some parts of the restaurant are noticeably warmer than others and it can be quite loud if you are seated under a speaker. But these are just minor flaws, which will surely be smoothed out before too long.
Saint-Germain does not have an extensive menu, choosing instead to focus on bistro classics such as escargot, tuna nicoise and beef fillet. We start with two summer dishes: an asparagus salad with foie gras, frisee and mousse; and a risotto with summer truffles and beef jus. The asparagus salad is a lovely light starter for a warm day, with stalks of asparagus and an asparagus mousse perfectly complemented by the thin slivers of goose liver and a frisee salad that is seasoned with just the right amount of lemon juice. The risotto is also excellent: the portion is small enough to be a light starter with a generous amount of truffle, with the beef jus adding extra depth and flavour. For mains, we order a beef fillet with shallot confit and a seabass with a herb cappuccino. The beef fillet is at least an inch and a half thick and is flavourful, juicy and evenly cooked. The meat comes unadorned apart from some jus and the shallot confit, plus some French fries that do not taste like they have been fried in the freshest of oil. We would also have preferred more jus, as we had already greedily wiped it all up when there was still half a fillet to go. The seabass has a lovely crispy skin, but the rest of the fish is on the dry side. We had asked to replace the risotto galette that came with the dish with a ratatouille, an excellent choice as the Provencal stew is well-cooked with each vegetable retaining its individual texture. For dessert, we had an apple tart with vanilla ice cream, and a chocolate cake with pecan and coffee sauce. The homemade tart comes with generous slices of apple layered on a thin and flaky pastry and the dish is successful in its simplicity. Our only critique is that it is a tad heavy-handed with the vanilla sauce, which overwhelms the delicate dessert. The chocolate cake is fine, but not much better than what an accomplished home baker could whip up. For those expecting the usual molten chocolate cake, it is worth noting that both desserts are served at room temperature at Saint-Germain.
At the time of the review, Saint Germain does not yet have an alcohol license. On the plus side, there was also no corkage. In the future, the wine list will be 99% French, apart from some Prosecco as a sparkling wine.
Unlike the Parisian stereotype of surly wait staff, the service at Saint-Germain is uniformly friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. Where possible, the waiters will accommodate dietary requests and although the menu may seem meat-heavy, the kitchen is happy to substitute and amend all dishes on the a la carte menu to suit vegetarian needs.
A three-course dinner for two, without wine, comes to just under HK$900. This is not a steal, but nor is it a lot to pay for a pleasant environment and honest, simple and well-executed French bistro fare.