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Set on a vast open terrace on the 7th floor of Hysan Place, Shelter offers alfresco dining surrounded by herb gardens, water features and twinkling coloured lights. The flood of pink lighting feels a little misplaced here (we feel the hue is more appropriate for bar and club environments) and may be a little garish for some tastes. Nothing about the décor feels particularly Italian, but the large space itself is very pleasant and a perfect place to gather with friends for a relaxed, but refined, Italian meal.
Despite Shelter’s somewhat flashy ambience, executive chef Simonetta Garelli serves up fare which is delicious, simple and authentically Italian. A petite serving of deep fried calamari with spicy tomato mayonnaise is served in a brown paper bag, which keeps it crisp and hot, and adequately whets our appetite. The tortelli di bufala(buffalo cheese tortelli with green pea sauce and guanciale) is scrumptious; perfectly cooked fresh pasta encases generous dollops of rich, fresh cheese filling and the pea sauce adds sweetness. The restaurant’s signature dish, handmade strozzapreti vongole e carciofi, is wonderfully seasoned. A silky sauce of garlic, fresh herbs, salt, olive oil and generous portions of sustainable New Zealand Diamond Clams coats handmade pasta that is cooked al dente. For mains, the maialino da latte al forno (baby suckling pig) is tender and nicely seasoned, though it’s not a standout dish. The tagliata di manzo (prime natural beef rib-eye with arugula, cherry tomatoes and parmesan) is cooked to our preference of medium rare, juicy and well seasoned. The red prawns in the gamberi “carabineros” e foie gras (red prawns with pan-fried goose liver, fregola and balsamic reduction) are incredibly sweet, firm and juicy. The foie gras could have been slightly more seared, and we weren’t particularly keen on the combination of the prawns and liver with the balsamic glazed durum wheat. For dessert we bypass the vegan organic cheesecake with blueberry at the recommendation of our waiter and go instead for the coppa gelato and tiramisu. The four scoops of gelato are delicious and peppered with fresh raspberries and mini macarons. The tiramisu, on the other hand, was not as well received, with individual flavours mysteriously bland.
In addition to an extensive selection of champagne, the wine list sports a good array of old and new world wines, with more than a dozen available by the glass, and bottles ranging from HK$430 up to HK$8,880.
Overall, service is proficient and friendly, and wait staff can recommend a few dishes on the menu when asked. English is limited, so don’t expect staff to launch into the intricacies of items on the menu. All items arrived swiftly and were served at perfect temperatures.
A filling meal for two will cost approximately HK$1,800, and while we enjoyed our dinner at Shelter and felt the starters, pasta and risotto were good value, some of the mains were overpriced. No doubt you pay a little more for the festive, outdoor setting in Causeway Bay.