The publicity machine may be working overtime as the opening day of the Mandarin Oriental's restaurant, Vong, draws near but if Europe's top food reviewers are anything to go by, September 10 will indeed herald a new era in Hong Kong's food history. The London branch of the restaurant has food writers drooling. Gault Millau calls the desserts 'fantastic in the literal sense' and says: 'It is not surprising that Vong is one of London's greatest success stories.' Egon Ronay calls it 'ultra-cool and sophisticated' with success resulting from the 'imaginative and skilled use of Thai and Oriental flavourings which are combined with luxury items from the classic French repertoire such as foie gras, lobster and halibut'. One of London's best-known foodies Fay Maschler mourns the periodic absence of the man who thought it all up in the first place - Jean-Georges Vongerichten. With hot spots Jojo and Vong in New York as well, Vongerichten divides his time between the two cities. Vong, she says, 'is the perfect culinary marriage of France and the Orient'. She also says that Vongerichten's transformation of Le Perroquet at The Berkeley Hotel into Vong at the end of 1995 was 'one of the more dramatic events in catering in the last few years'. Dishes worthy of special mention include sauteed foie gras with ginger and mango; cod coated with five-spice powder with curried artichokes and tamarind ketchup; spiced rack of lamb seared and cooked pink with a coating of cumin, fenugreek, cloves, sesame seeds and chilli served with taro root croquettes, French beans and a cucumber and mint puree; figs baked in port and Chinese honey with cumin-vanilla ice-cream; warm chocolate cake with caramel sesame ice-cream; and roasted Asian pear with sableuse cake and ice-cream infused with liquorice. Drooling Down Under Menus to try this week include the Australian Food Fair at the Hotel Nikko in Tsim Sha Tsui East (tel: 2739-1111) and the new summer carte at Stix bar and restaurant (tel: 2839-3397) in Causeway Bay. Dishes for the Australian promotion are prepared by guest chef Jean-Paul Bruneteau, who made his name in Australia by experimenting with indigenous ingredients such as native currant, quandong, warrigal spinach and wattleseed. The promotion, featuring dishes from Bruneteau's book TUKKA Real Australian Food, runs until September 21 in all of the hotel's bars and restaurants. At Stix, the new menu was created by Bryan Chan and includes Alaskan crab cakes with Cajun butter sauce, mesclun cress salad, San Francisco seafood pot with mussels, cherry stone clams, shrimps and cilantro. Macho milk punch Real men drink . . . milk punch. New research by historians at the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame in Waco, Texas, has found the he-men of the Wild West prefer to unwinding at the end of a long hard ride on the range with a Champagne cocktail, a Martini or milk punch, rather than whiskey or any other kind of macho brew. One of the most popular drinks of the day is a mix cowboys call a 'thunder' - wine, egg, sugar and cayenne pepper shaken and strained over ice.