EVERYBODY has an opinion about the Peak Cafe. Thousands of regulars obviously love the place. They don't mind the waiting, nor the predictable food. Others hate it, particularly the queues, the over-familiar menu and the obvious commercialism. It's off-putting when a restaurant displays souvenirs for sale as a centrepiece of the place, and super-hypes its umbrellas, sweat-shirts etc on the menus. But the fans say, at least you know what you are getting. And they are right. In three visits to the bistro-style restaurant during the last 14 months, change has not been a feature of the menu. Yes, said a management spokesman this week, but for good reason. Customers complained when they tried to change it (a long time ago) and the idea was abandoned. There are other irritations, too, notably the reservations system. The Peak Cafe does take bookings, but only two days in advance. The manager, Martin Tyler, told us he fills two-thirds of the room this way, and leaves the remainder for walk-in customers. That's popularity for you. But it does take the impromptu out of plans to eat there. You are hardly going to wake up and exclaim: ''What a lovely day. What about the Peak Cafe for lunch?'' when a) you know there will be queues, and b) you could be crowded into a bar that looks big but isn't. I say all this because I've been to hell and back, just trying to get in the door at the restaurant. My first attempt was lunchtime on Saturday. A bad decision, I know, but that's when a lot of people think ''Peak Cafe'' for lunch. With a Peak tram full of hungry American tourists ahead of me, I decided I did not have the time. The previous night, it had been the same. This time, they were Japanese. And very patient. But on Monday night, it was a goer. Straight through the door, smack into the efficient Maitre D', who suggested I wait at the bar for my dinner companion. ''Great idea,'' I thought, until he ushered me into a single space, beside the telephone. Was it because I was a single woman, and he did not want me sitting prominently alone? I hope not. I ordered a glass of white house wine, perused the bar drinks list and I nearly fell off my stool, in that order. Fifty dollars for a glass of Latour Chardonnay, plus the 10 per cent service charge! Forty dollars for a glass of Robert Mondavi Sauvignon Blanc and $45 for each of the four reds (plus 10 per cent service charge). The vodka cocktails seemed better value, at $45 and $55, but I am not so sure about the non-alcoholic drinks at between $35 and $45 plus service. You sip slowly at these kind of prices, especially when there are no nuts, so I had time to take in the bustling, renovated room which is big, and divided into three sections. The rectangular, interior space is decorated in hybrid Chinese/Spanish style, with caste iron chandeliers, Chinese vases, marble-topped tables and wooden chairs. The L-shaped bar is wrapped around the brass and brick open plan kitchen - a feature of theplace. Between the main dining room of this turn-of-the century former tram workshop there is a glassed-in conservatory, also set with tables, which leads to the two outdoor areas. One is a walled-in garden with no views, the other is the most popular place in the restaurant - a narrow terrace, where some of the tables have splendid water and park views. They were all booked on Monday, and when we asked if an outside table was available the waitress said yes, and then tried to seat us beside the serving island despite the availability of several more private tables. But it was a clear, balmy night, and very pleasant, especially when the draft beer ($38 a pint) and the bottle of Houghtons White Burgundy ($280) arrived. THE menu is divided into two sections. An all-day version which is Pan-Asian in style, with a touch of the Californias. There are popular starters like Basil Naan Bread with Balsamico Dressing, cream and smoked salmon ($98), Samosas ($78), and a prawn, avocado sea scallop and baby clam salad with mango and basil chutney ($105). The main courses follow the same line, satays ($80), Tandoori and Tikka chickens (both $89) and three hearty pasta dishes, in the range of $80-$92 each. There is a three item children's menu - Hot dogs ($38), Spaghetti and meatballs ($38) and fish fingers and fries ($36) and a three course set lunch for $138 plus 10 per cent service charge. We had curried pea and lentil soup ($55) and chicken tikka as starters ($89). The chicken was good quality and tender. The soup was hearty, and generous in size. The main courses received a mixed reception. Perhaps pasta cooking has been adapted for local tastes but nobody should swamp penne pasta with such a heavy clam, basil and tomato sauce ($92). Apparently, everybody loves it. The lamb chops were great, however. Nicely pink, juicy and with a lovely herb crust ($155). They were served Provencale style with a ratouille and without mint sauce. The waiter bought some mint jelly on request but that did not satisfy the traditional tastes of the chop eater. Chops without mint sauce, regardless of classic cooking styles, was not on. My companion's dessert - warm berry compote baked in puff pastry with rum raisin ice cream ($45), arrived in a large bowl, with the pastry overflowing the edges. The waiter pierced the crust and sank a dollop of ice cream in the hole. I liked mine, chocolate paradise ($42) but not that much. It was a light sponge cake square with a heavy dose of chocolate and a rich criss-crossed frosting, garnished with strawberries. Coffee for two was ($52) and liqueurs are in the range of $45 each. All up, a complete dinner comes in around the $1,000 mark for two with the service charges. And was it worth it? In hindsight, I still can't decide. There is an atmosphere of commercialism about the place that borders on the crass, and the staff are not the most sensitive in the world, but this is Hong Kong. The prices are steep but the place is nearly always packed, so the clientele must be happy (and affluent). In the end, it is one of those restaurants where you know you will pay through the nose, but it has good points that make it a nice place to visit in a city starved of this type of eating house. It needs some competition. Next door.