Succumb to the quick seduction

THE Harbour Side at the Regent Hotel purports to be a coffee-shop. But it's a fooler. Though it has the efficiency one associates with a quick bite get-away, the room, the view, the food seduce. You linger, dine instead of eat, and, if you're not careful, end up with a fancy bill.

The Regent's version of an open-kitchen is really a tease. In this kitchen, soiled aprons, finger-licking and tempers at the boiling point are never seen. But pizzas are assembled in customers' view, so are fruit tarts, which parade hourly from the multi-tiered pizza oven.

Expect the din and traffic of a coffee shop. Bus boys, always trailing in the waiters' wake, keep an eye on the table. Getting attention or the bill is never a feat.

Prices are what you expect from any five-star hotel. Entrees range from lamb leg provencale with ratatouille on pappardelle pasta ($135) to macau sole with shrimp on Chinese greens ($165). A humble cheeseburger ($75) crouches under the sandwich heading with tuna and Singapore noodles.

Thin-crust pizzas change daily ($120), anything from duck sausage and cured ham to smoked chicken. A special request for a vegetarian was honoured with a bushel-basket load of mushrooms, miniature corn, carrot, onion and tomato. The crust, thin and puffyaround the edges, upheld the harvest and passed the no-droop test, when hand-held. The restraint with the cheese was appreciated.

A decent meal could easily be made with two appetisers, a couple of breadbaskets and a entree salad.


But the eyes overtook the stomach, and the vegetable lasagne and salmon pasta arrived post-haste.

The pasta, a shell variety with a toss of fresh spinach, mushrooms and tomato, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, was out of this world. Light, fresh-tasting and zesty, it was the hands-down favourite.

The lasagne put us over the top. The grilled vegetables, layered with egg noodles and enriched with three types of cheese plus a white sauce was overkill. With so much richness, who needs dessert? Allow 15-minutes for the individual fruit tarts ($43). And this dessert is worth it. The crust changes - one day a short pastry, then next, puff pastry. Toasted hazelnuts added texture to the pastry shell. Atop it was blue-berries, apricots and raspberries. Served warm, it arrived with a sublime vanilla ice cream.

Dinner for two, including wine and beer, was $720.