41-49 Aberdeen Street, Central
Tel: 9604 7777
Price: about HK$250 without drinks.
Ambience: welcoming, friendly and casual. The long room has a large bar (right), low padded sofa and stools for drinkers, and just a few small tables for diners. The French-speaking diners on the night we ate there all seemed to be on familiar terms with the staff. The decor is whimsical and eclectic.
Pros: the dishes - listed on a blackboard - are perfect for the casual, neighbourhood atmosphere. The reasonably priced dishes are mostly hearty, warming comfort food.
Cons: the moules gratinees (HK$90) had a delicious garlic butter that cried out to be sopped up with the restaurant's bread, but the mussels weren't the delicate, tender French black mussels we were hoping for; instead they were large and rather chewy. At that price, though, I should have expected it. A main course of a large portion of gnocchi with three cheeses (HK$140) was a little too heavy and rich. The large floor-to-ceiling glass windows and swinging doors at the entrance were ineffective at keeping out the chill on a cold weeknight.
Recommended dishes: wild mushrooms with cheese toast (HK$80) was just that - sauteed, well-seasoned mushrooms served alongside a thick slice of toast with melted cheese. Mint 'incredi_balls' (that's how it was written on the menu, HK$90) was one of our favourite dishes of the evening, featuring large, delicately textured minced meatballs with plenty of onion and seasonings in tomato sauce. The soup of the day was pumpkin (HK$80) and the bowl was literally overflowing with the light, creamy liquid. Boeuf bourguignon (HK$190, below), served with bowls of mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables, was a good version of this classic dish, with tender meat in a deep, winey broth. A half roast chicken (HK$150) had nicely charred skin and moist meat. We skipped cheese and dessert (there was only one choice on the menu for dessert, anyway).
What else? I didn't notice until after leaving the restaurant that they don't add the standard 10 per cent service charge, so should have left a larger tip for the efficient, smiling waitress.