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Following the closure of Domani, the classical Italian haunt for Admiralty’s business lunchers, David Collins Studio – the team behind the look of London behemoths The Wolseley and The Delaunay – moved in swiftly to makeover one of the CBD’s most coveted buildings, designed by Thomas Heatherwick. The interiors are a dream, rendered in a spectrum of gold and emerald, of parquet wood floors and cloud-coloured marble. We love the aesthetic that is styled after the grand cafés of Europe, those iconic spaces that have throughout history been the setting for great romances and the coming together of intellectual minds alike; settling into one of the comfortable leather banquets, the table illuminated by retro globe lighting, it’s difficult not to feel like you’ve travelled through time, back to a different era.
British chef and food writer Rowley Leigh consulted on the menu, which is a concise single-page carte encompassing all the familiar things you would hope for from a brasserie. There are fresh fruits de mer, of which we relish sweet and briny gillardeaus and fines de claires; salads; and grilled meats and fish. A section of plats du jour include European classics, such as bollito misto on Thursdays, bouillabaisse on Fridays, and a traditional roast beef rib on Sundays. For those familiar with Leigh’s Le Café Anglais restaurant in London, it’s a disappointment that the chef’s iconic parmesan custard with anchovy soldiers is nowhere to be found; however, a parmesan soufflé suissesse with tomato and anchovy sauce might be a close consolation. But nevermind, because there is much to enjoy from this menu, as long as you do not come with delusions of grandeur – the food is simply prepared, with their bold flavours shining through, and plating is basic. Just as it should be, when you’re dealing with the likes of a gorgeously rich fish soup with a supremely garlicky rouille, or a plate of Josper-grilled hangar steak with a cashmere-soft béarnaise. A country pâté with cornichons could have come straight from any Parisian bistro worth its salt, while pappardelle with artichokes and pecorino is indulgently slicked with butter and seasoned à point (the artichokes themselves are a little tepid, however). No stomach space is wasted with the final act, the pain perdu with roasted pineapple, which is as light as you could wish for.
There is a respectable number of wines by the glass, mainly French and decently priced between HK$75 to HK$130 a pop; the by the bottle options are kept tight, too, with many options averaging between HK$400 and HK$600 with a mix of old and new world labels. A special “reserve” section offers bottles to impress, from Louis Roederer Cristal 2006 to start and Château d’Yquem sauternes 1966 to end.
Oddly, at some points the otherwise adept staff dropped the ball over simple things – our mixed oyster platter was set down without an explanation of which varieties were given, nor in which order we should be eating them, until requested. But overall, staff show a high level of professionalism, and we appreciated some small gestures, such as splitting an order of soup between bowls when we indicated that we would be sharing.
A fulfilling three-course dinner for two with a glass of wine each would average HK$1,500 – given the atmospheric central setting and reliable cooking, this is not unreasonable. The Continental also has a small bar area out front, where cocktails and bar snacks can be had.