Guests invited to a preview event at Jamie Oliver’s first Hong Kong restaurant were left hungry after the celebrity chef’s team provided miserly morsels – although the latest addition to Causeway Bay’s dining scene left décor fans with plenty to chew on.
Ge Er, who runs food and travel blog Coco the Sailor, described Jamie's Italian – which opens to the public today – as an impressive space dressed with a wall painting, a high ceiling and a semi-open kitchen.
“But I was surprised that there was so little food,” she said.
Ge and her friends stood right by the kitchen door for half an hour, but all she could see being taken out were two trays of appetisers.
“Most restaurant openings serve plenty of food. Maybe I had expected too much.”
Magazine editor Reggie Ho also complimented the stunning space after the preview last Friday.
“But it was disappointing to go to a restaurant opening party and leave without knowing a single thing about the food,” he said. “I was there at 8.30pm and the party was only halfway through. Surely there should still have been food.”
Jamie’s Italian’s Hong Kong publicist said the event was to host friends and business associates to preview the restaurant space. “It was never the intention for this to be a grand opening [or] red carpet event or a full service tasting experience,” the publicist said in an email.
Hongkongers who were invited to dine at the restaurant in the past week during trial openings were very impressed with the food.
“It was a very happy meal,” said diner Teresa Kwong, who was invited by a friend working at the restaurant.
Oliver, star of The Naked Chef television show, first proposed to set up shop in Hong Kong in 2009, but the plan fell through and his chain opened instead in Singapore last year.
The current 200-seat place on the second floor of a new building in Tang Lung Street is a joint venture between Oliver and local partner Big Cat Group.
Kwong said she had dined at Oliver’s London outlet Fifteen before, but preferred his Hong Kong outlet. Her group of five had appetisers, three main courses and drinks that came up to HK$280 each – which she said was reasonable considering the high rents in the district.
“It’s the price at Fat Angelos but at a much higher quality.”
The staff members were knowledgeable about the dishes served and able to make honest recommendations, Kwong said.
Oliver is not expected to attend the opening today.
In June fellow celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay announced that he will also be opening a restaurant in Hong Kong.