Party like it's 1965 as Peninsula's Chesa restaurant turns 50
Chefs revive original dishes for anniversary menu at hotel restaurant - which former manager admits was a gamble in a city not used at that time to consuming cheese or anything else Swiss
When The Peninsula in Hong Kong opened its Swiss restaurant, Chesa, in 1965 it was a risk, as Hong Kong people at that time weren’t partial to eating dairy products and didn’t know much about Swiss food, former hotel general manager Peter Borer recalled on Wednesday at a meal to celebrate its upcoming 50th anniversary.
That it would still be a fixture on the city’s culinary scene today was unimaginable. “Customers who were young children [then] are now bringing their children to Chesa. It’s wonderful to see,” said Borer, who also managed the restaurant and is now Peninsula group chief operating officer.
Felix Bieger, Peninsula assistant manager when Chesa opened and later the hotel's general manager, recalled madly decorating the ceiling of the small restaurant on the first floor. “We used torches to darken the wood because it was a blond colour and we wanted it darker,” he said.
The alpine lodge decor hasn't changed a lot since the restaurant opened on on August 27, 1965, and nor, for the anniversary lunch - available from August 27 - has the menu. Group executive chef and Swiss native Florian Trento researched the archives to bring back some of the dishes served in 1965.
Before the lunch, guests were invited to sample one of Chesa's signature dishes, raclette, with cornichons and pickled onions.
The meal began in earnest with a classic 1960s Swiss-style meat, duck liver and morel paté. It was probably much richer back then, but thankfully it was lighter here, with a small Waldorf salad and Cumberland sauce to accompany it.
Next came beef consommé with shards of beef and finely sliced vegetables and decorated with egg custard diamonds. Guests could squeeze a small tube of sherry into their soup for extra flavour.
For mains, the veal medallions with mushroom sauce on spaetzl with Emmental cheese gratin was the signature dish when Bieger was the manager.
The other option was poached dace fillet with a herb sauce, accompanied by buttered potatoes and a puff pastry fish.
Dessert was a light serving of Schnapps-marinated berries in a raspberry yogurt and sherbet.
The meal will be available to guests from August 27 to October 31 for HK$688 per person, or HK$1,088 with wine pairing.
From August 28 to September 28, lunch and dinner guests will be invited to take the Talerschwingen Challenge, an old game from the Appenzell region of northeast Switzerland which involves spinning a coin in a ceramic bowl. Anyone who gets the coin spinning in their first eight attempts will win a special treat for their table, and each week the names of the five guests who keep the coin spinning the longest will be announced on The Peninsula's Facebook page.
At the end of the four weeks, the overall champion will win a pair of round-trip tickets to Switzerland on Swiss International Air Lines.
Chesa, 1/F, The Peninsula Hong Kong, Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2696 6769