Voyage of discovery

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 January, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 January, 2000, 12:00am

WE knew we were on to a good thing as soon as we saw the queue outside Marco Bistro. Having confirmed that those waiting in line were after supper and not McSnoopy, we made a reservation for the second sitting at 9pm and spent an hour in a bar a couple of doors down.

It was well worth the wait. Marco Bistro is one of those unexpected finds that makes you glad you dared make the trek to Kowloon.

The interior is nothing special - the walls are a mottled pink interspersed with Norman Rockwell prints and the furniture is unexceptional and pine. But the atmosphere is warm and friendly and that is largely thanks to Marco himself.

He is the gregarious kind of character that you instantly warm to and there is no doubting that he loves what he does.

He has the friendly patter of a professional and if Yan can cook, Marco can definitely serve it.

The bistro attracts a young, trendy 20-something crowd and this is probably partly to do with the reasonable prices.

You could easily get away with a two-course meal and coffee for under $200 a head. But the starters are not the best deal and if you are on a budget you would be best advised to skip the appetisers and move straight to the main course.

The salmon salad was beautifully presented and the Norwegian fish was deliciously fresh as appetisers, but, at $88, not cheap. Neither was the lobster soup reasonably priced at $68, although it was definitely palatable. It was the main courses that most impressed us.

The hickory barbecue chicken ($68) is the kind of dish that restaurants make a name with and it is an absolute must for chicken lovers.

The meat was tender and the sauce was an exciting concoction of orange peel, pineapple and tomato. It was served with fresh vegetables and chestnuts.

We loved the nuts - it is the kind of original touch that Marco Bistro is bound to become known for.

If you love cajun cuisine, order the salmon ($78). The generous portion of fish is cooked with cajun spices and smothered in a thick creole sauce. It is a hot and spicy dish served with fresh vegetables.

The Dover sole ($78) was covered with breadcrumbs and melt-in-the-mouth tender. It is served with lemon and the usual trimmings and although it is a relatively light dish, the size is bound to make sure you are not left hungry.

You cannot go wrong with the desserts ($35 each). In the interests of research, we ordered three of the four and were not disappointed. They were all homemade and clearly there was no skimping on the ingredients.

The tiramisu was deceptively light and made with fresh cream, the New York cheesecake was a classic and the chocolate pyramid just about finished us off.

As if to make us feel less gluttonous for our indulgences, we were told that the previous week a group of four women ordered 16 desserts between them - and all that after a full meal. A testament, surely, to the heavenly nature of these concoctions.

Our only complaint was that a couple of the dessert dishes were cracked.

The restaurant seats 30, but given the long queues outside - after just seven months - it is hardly surprising that Marco is already considering expanding.

We will definitely be back - this is one restaurant that is well worth the trip across the harbour. Hillwood Road is becoming a serious food street, with another new restaurant opening this week, but Marco Bistro is one of the few offering Western cuisine on the strip.

If you are shopping in the area, it is worth popping in for coffee and one of the divine desserts and the bistro also serves a snack menu.

Marco Bistro is just a three-minute walk from Jordan MTR: exit D, turn left, cross Austin Road and Hillwood Road is your next left.

Reservations are a must.

Marco Bistro, G/F, 13 Hillwood Road, Tsim Sha Tsui. Tel: 2377 3771. Opening hours: Monday to Saturday noon until last orders 11pm, Sunday closed from 2pm (after lunch)