Hong Kong brunch options cater for all tastes, often washed down with free-flow Champagne, wine and beer
Brunch started as a lighter alternative to heavy post-church meals popular in 19th century Britain, before crossing the Atlantic
A weekend is not complete without a leisurely brunch with family and friends. Although brunch is an established concept in Hong Kong, more restaurants are offering new menu choices, from Chinese and Korean to traditional Western fare and, of course, it is more fun with free-flow Champagne, wine and beer.
Brunch started as a lighter alternative to heavy post-church meals that were popular in 19th-century Britain. People who brunched back then enjoyed a late morning meal after a late Saturday night carousing. The trend crossed the Atlantic and was in vogue in the United States by the 1930s.
Hong Kong brunch menus are far from light as most are buffets or semi-buffets and, like a new brunch at The Envoy on the third floor of The Pottinger Hotel, they hark back to British traditional staples alongside colonial-inspired dishes.
“I was born and raised in India before moving to Hong Kong at the age of 12,” says chef Chetan Kohli, who worked with Sebastian Jose Guevara at Wooloomooloo, Simon Evans at Sheraton and Arron Rhodes at Dot Cod Seafood Room before joining The Envoy as the chef de cuisine. “And my early exposure to diverse cultures helped foster my respect, and a desire to explore different culinary scenes.”
His brunch menu includes The Envoy traditional breakfast - better known as full-English with eggs, sausages, bacon, beans, tomatoes and sautéed potatoes, eggs Benedict and roast of the day lies alongside butter chicken waffles and seared slow-cooked New Zealand lamb rump with spiced potato and okra, cucumber yoghurt and red bell pepper jus.
The Milo lava French toast - a thick-cut toast with peanut butter, Nutella and vanilla ice cream is a nod to his Hong Kong heritage. “It is a Hong Kong thing,” he says. “The base originated from a lava cake, you have the hot fluids from the inside pouring out.”
Malaysian-born bar manager Amanda Wan whose strength is also in tea, herbs and spices, complements the dishes with colonial-inspired drinks such as pandan latte and yin yang latte.
The Bostonian Seafood and Grill at The Langham Hong Kong recently reopened after a makeover, and has added more international fare to its previous American-inspired ingredients and dishes.
“Bostonian before was all about American [dishes], now we like to be a little more international. We not only bring cuts from the US, we bring the best products whether they are from Europe, Australia, New Zealand, we also have very good cuts from Canada, Spanish Iberico pork and lamb from Australia,” says The Langham Hong Kong’s executive chef, Pedro Samper.
The brunch has had a makeover too. The buffet part consists of salads, cold cuts and seafood, followed by surprise dishes by the chef, including the sea urchin and blue crab in béarnaise sauce. The mains rotate regularly with seasonal dishes. Recently the Dijon mustard-crusted beef mignon, chorizo hash with roasted corn flan pepper jus was a popular choice for Sunday brunch diners.
Video: Matthew Furniss
Samper’s desserts are worth saving space for. The mini magnums are four different dessert flavours made in the mould of magnums.
“We wanted to develop a new concept for dessert, so I was thinking of different flavours,” the Spaniard says. “And I saw something like this magnum shape in Europe and thought I would try the same. I thought, why don’t we do different kinds of dessert like a panna cotta, chocolate mousse, passion fruit with white chocolate, so I talked with our pastry chef, and we developed four different recipes for these mini magnums.”
One of the city’s favourite Sunday brunch hangouts is at W Hotel’s Kitchen and its Bubbly Seafood Sunday Brunch. One reason it is so popular is that it has free-flow Champagne, wine or beer in addition to bloody Marys, different flavour vodka shots and sangria but, as the bar manager told us, these can change each week.
Seafood is the mainstay here. “Hong Kong is a city that loves seafood,” says culinary director Alain Allaire, who describes his Sunday brunch experience as a festive family occasion. “It’s the key to the success of our brunch at Kitchen. The average Hongkonger consumes more than 70kg of seafood every year.
“Sunday brunch in the kitchen is a sight to see, we have created a walk-in food wonderland. At the entrance on the left side, you are greeted with a cool yoghurt wall, fresh juice, detox vegetables juice, as well as easy canapés - salmon sausages, the tuna and mozzarella skewers and cherry tomatoes,” say the Frenchman, who has been a chef for more than 25 years. “The focal point of the kitchen is a counter with three faces showing a generous offering of prime quality seafood - oysters, shrimps Boston lobster, king crab, mussels - hot dishes such as sautéed vegetables, truffle potato purée and Sichuan shrimp, roasted suckling pig; breakfast favourites and our famous eggs Benedict, including crispy bacon, roasted potatoes; and a steamed whole ocean trout, sushi counter, and a selection of steamed dim sum.
“Just past the sushi counter is a long table lined with various kinds of meat, including Iberico ham and Italian salami, a selection of impressive premium cheese and huge selections of healthy salads.”
“For dessert, there is a colour selection rainbow. Häagen-Dazs ice cream and our delicious cupcakes that come in a number of flavours including yuzu with milk chocolate, chestnut and banana, raspberry and dark chocolate, orange and Earl Grey, plus marshmallows and fruits to dip in our chocolate fountain.
“Adding some carnival feel to the brunch is the churros counter with condiments. You can also indulge in Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut NV Champagne or wet your whistle with W’s signature cocktails, wine or beer.”