Diner’s Diary
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Chef Pierre Gagnaire tests Hong Kong brunch dishes for his Pierre restaurant at the Mandarin, even though he’s not a fan of the meal

Hong Kong’s Pierre will be first of acclaimed chef’s restaurants worldwide to serve brunch. He let us sample some of the dishes being considered for the menu in January

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 December, 2016, 1:42pm
UPDATED : Friday, 09 December, 2016, 5:17pm

Top chef Pierre Gagnaire doesn’t eat brunch. Nevertheless, the Frenchman was recently at his restaurant Pierre in the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong to create a brunch menu – something he’s never done before in any of his 15 restaurants around the world. There’s a first time for everything.

His team in Hong Kong, led by chef de cuisine Jacky Tauvry, is already hard at work when we drop by the kitchen to see how preparations are going. Not many kitchens in Hong Kong have windows, and this one on the 25th floor boasts one of the nicest views in the city, looking out over Victoria Harbour on a sunny day.

WATCH Pierre Gagnaire at work in the Pierre kitchen

Gagnaire says the brunch is “a way to show we are always here, that we have respect for the city and create a new link with the place”. Given he doesn’t eat brunch himself, he says he’s trying to find where to draw the line between brunch and lunch.

Pierre isn’t currently open on Sundays, a big day for brunch, and the Mandarin Oriental has until now only served brunch four times a year – New Year’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, and Boxing Day.

While the brunch menu will begin in January, a lot is still up in the air – prices, how often brunch will be available on Sundays, and the dishes, which are still a work in progress when we drop by.

We start off by sampling a pretty dish featuring tuna mixed with avocado and yogurt, garnished with slices of raw chestnut, radish and salmon roe.

We start off by sampling a pretty dish featuring tuna mixed with avocado and yogurt, garnished with slices of raw chestnut, radish and salmon roe. We also sample a plate of sardine paste, with smoked sardine, salmon, cucumber and a yellow cucumber foam that Gagnaire spoons out of a pot.

You may think eggs are a simple ingredient, but Gagnaire, a chef with multiple Michelin stars, elevates them to a new level. He says scrambled egg isn’t easy to cook well, especially when you don’t want them to turn out solid (like how most of us make the dish).

He whisks the eggs non stop in a pan that he holds over the solid top stove, switching hands when one gets tired. Periodically he takes the pan off the heat for a bit, but continues whisking.

[Brunch is] a way to show we are always here, that we have respect for the city and create a new link with the place
Pierre Gagnaire

Then cream is added, and the mixture whisked a bit more, before the custard-like concoction is poured into shallow bowls and finished with generous shavings of pungent white truffle. We eat the dish in silence, leaving the bowl clean.

Other candidate dishes for the brunch may need some tweaking. Fresh oyster topped with diced apples and a shallot granité is very tart, while grilled sliced ham paired with a concoction of endives, grapefruit and tomato, and topped with chopped snow peas, while colourful, has a curious taste.

Oyster with pan-fried foie gras, bits of sausage from the south of France, seaweed and broccoli purée is an interesting combination. A hearty, rustic and sweet winter dish, it needs something to cut through the richness.

As for desserts, pastry chef Alexandre Brusquet has a delightful mini Mont Blanc – chestnut mousse with cubes of blackcurrant jelly and bits of meringue. Also sweet and refreshing is passion fruit, pear and ginger cooked together, cooled, then topped with a mixture of burrata ice cream, champagne and Campari.

To finish off we taste Gagnaire’s version of hot chocolate. With fresh cream already in the glasses, hot Vahlrona chocolate is poured on top, then it is garnished with muscat jelly, honeycomb, juniper berries and caramelised hazelnuts.

With a few more weeks to go, the dishes’ ingredients, their cooking and presentation will be further refined. And, as with Gagnaire’s other menus, the dishes will change according to the seasons.

The chef himself may not like brunch, but we can be pretty sure his will find some Hong Kong fans.

Pierre, 25/F, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, 5 Connaught Road Central, Central, tel: 2825 4001