Papillon, 1/F, 8-13 Wo On Lane, Central. Tel: 526 5965. Hours: Noon-3pm; 7pm-1am, Mon-Sat. Closed Sundays. WHEN a restaurant partnership ends, it usually brings to the fore which of the party was the real driving force behind a successful enterprise, who was the real talent, who had the bright ideas. But when Frenchmen Patrick Herbet and Michel Emeric finally went their separate ways last February, it only revealed that La Rose Noire definitely was a joint effort. Herbet started La Rose Noire in 1986, but being too busy with his wine business to do it justice, he enlisted Michel Emeric as partner. Emeric did such a glowing job tending the Rose that, by 1989, it had become so much more Emeric's than Herbet's. The wine man sold his share to concentrate on his first love. Last year, however, those urges restaurateurs occasionally get came back and Herbet sought to buy back his restaurant. Emeric graciously accepted. Emeric took the restaurant's name and established a new breed of La Rose Noire in Pacific Place while Herbet on the other hand is appealing to another market altogether now; a less highbrow form of French fare for an expanding audience of expatriates, compatriots and locals. He is one restaurateur less concerned with cosmetics as he has kept the vestiges of the old Rose, but considerations have been made where it really counts: namely, keeping a pleasurable dining experience within the realm of the average diner's budget. Apart from an a la carte menu which changes seasonally, he sees nothing wrong in having set menus, which he changes every Wednesday. The evening menu is good value at $198, while the set lunch, pegged at $118, is outstanding value. Papillon could not be accurately designated a wine bar, a bistro or a restaurant yet serves all three purposes equally. It would be a trifle twee to describe it as quiet, intimate and romantic, but that's exactly what it is. Beneath a ceiling that is asea of stars are cream walls adorned with lithographs (some for sale). To the side is a veritable lovers' lane with cosy curtained nooks and grey curved couches. In the centre of the room is a bar on which to lean while pondering and procrastinating over an impressive wine and spirits list. Sure, Papillon has its token butterflies. They pop up here and there among the flowers. But Herbet wasn't thinking on such a metaphysical level as he named the erstwhile Rose after his beloved bow-ties. The only fluttering you are likely to hear is manager Yannick Chervel's fingers producing some truly inspirational jazz piano. Herbet is a wine man and he sells it like it is supposed to be sold, with about 12 wines you can buy by the glass. Most regions of France are covered and many are not your common garden varieties. The house wines from Jean Herbet are $295 a bottle and $39 per glass. Most others are in the vicinity of $75. A Regnard Chablis set me back $78, Louis Roederer Champagne a bit more at $95. Vegetables get preferential treatment and are served in an ideal state, with flavour and texture intact. If the humble potato is the king of vegetables, the onion and its relatives are princes. They are all related to the lily or fleur-de-lis, which is the heraldic emblem of France. So it is only right that chives, leeks, garlic are used with care and affection at Papillon. The waiter knew the menus by rote, described vintages and specials of the day, albeit self-consciously. He needn't have been; there are many in this city who would kill for even a soupcon of his sterling silver service. There have been enough glowing reports about Papillon's meat dishes, the beef fillet with morel and armagnac sauce and the lamb with thyme flowers in particular, but its fish dishes should not be ignored. Fish and seafood are cooked in a number of ways, primarily poached or pan-fried, with herbs and a splash of wine giving added gusto. You don't find crocker all that often in Hong Kong. It is from northern Chinese waters and is rather like a soft haddock, with flesh that is solid yet slightly transparent. The fish was teamed with a sauce of odd flavour and consistency that just begged to have the accompanying vegetables and bread dipped into it. Don't pass up the chance for a souffle. Papillon has a choice of about six flavours so why not combine a couple to produce an exceptional banana and chocolate version? They cost $60 and are worth a wait of 15 minutes or so. This particular meal ended with the cheese plate from the set menu and it is with profound sadness that I must say that it was only dismal thing I've ever come across here - just a few slivers of soft cheese and a bit of greenery. The cheeses themselves were not significant enough to be enjoyed on their own but would have been fine with a slice of apple, a few grapes or even a chunk of crusty bread. Lunch is served between noon and 3pm but one regular says she has whiled away the hours through to dinner. At this time of day the menu takes on a slightly different dimension, although it is still as traditionally French as they come. The snail ragout with wild mushrooms is something to die for and the simple goat cheese and tomato coulis a must for a light repast. And even if you are not a great fan of eggs, try the scrambled eggs with liver pate. Memories are surely made of this. Dinner for two, with wine, costs around $700.