The search for Hong Kong’s best Sunday roasts: Yorkshire puds, potatoes and all the trimmings
There may not be as many places in Hong Kong serving the traditional British blowout, but we selflessly visited a number of restaurants to test their various versions
There are few weekly meals as hearty as a Sunday roast – a plate bulging with slabs of succulent meat, a selection of vegetables and – the crowning glory – a Yorkshire pudding, all bathed in a rich brown gravy.
The secret to a good pudding is having the fat smoking hot before the batter is poured and placed in the oven, making it rise. “A Yorkshire pudding isn’t a Yorkshire pudding if it is less than four inches tall,” Britain’s Royal Society of Chemistry says of the golden concoction made from a batter of eggs, flour and milk that often baffles those who didn’t grow up with them.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, 20 years after Hong Kong’s return to China, it’s not so easy to find a traditional British Sunday roast as it once was. A good number of bars and restaurants that tout their great British credentials serve up a fine all-day English breakfast, but fewer offer the weekend special.
Neither Queen Victoria nor Churchills in Wan Chai serve weekend roasts, and nor does British chef Tom Aitken at The Pawn. Butchers Club’s Steak Frites restaurant, which boasted a gourmet version, has closed down. Gordon Ramsay’s London House recently took the dish off its menu. We did find a few, though.
Jimmy’s is an institution, having been around since 1928. We visited the Wyndham Street branch, with its air of a colonial-era gentleman’s club, complete with smartly dressed waiters. (There’s also a Jimmy’s in Ashley Road, Tsim Sha Tsui.) It’s a spacious, comfortable and relaxing environment for a leisurely weekend lunch.
That’s just as well, since its Sunday roast is only available as a set meal of three or four courses, for HK$378 or HK$398, respectively.
There are three options of Jimmy’s USDA prime beef rib on the bone, and British-style thin-cut 8oz is standard. A Hong Kong style cut 10oz costs an extra HK$48, while the New York style thick-cut 12oz will set you back another HK$88.
We opted for the basic British cut, which despite being advertised as thinly sliced was quite a big, thick slab carpeting the rest of the meal. The meat was rare, tender, flavourful and juicy, thanks to a fair amount of fat on the edge. One of us had a slice of beef served on the bone, while the other went without.
The pudding was a generous size, puffed up and crispy, yet had a thick base, while the plentiful gravy was rich and tasty.
Although the sweet, roast parsnips were delicious, the rest of the veggies were disappointing: two small, barely roasted potatoes, a couple of chunks of carrot, and too many peas to compensate.
Still, it was a satisfying meal, with a goat cheese salad appetiser, and potato and leek soup. Dessert is also available, but the Pimm’s jelly trifle was unavailable when we visited.
Jimmy’s Kitchen, 1 Wyndham St, Central, tel: 2526 5293
The word on the street says The Globe’s Sunday carvery is the best roast in town – and it was pretty tasty. Like Jimmy’s, however, it’s not available as a stand-alone dish so it’s not cheap. The Globe’s options are a two-course meal for HK$290 or three courses for HK$310.
It was money well spent. Quality is something The Globe obviously considers, importing its beef from Ashdale, a farm near Bath in southwest England, where the cattle are fed on grass and cereal.
It cannot be accused of being stingy,either – the huge chunk of gravy-covered beef in a perfect shade of pink, with just the right amount of fat, almost covered the entire plate. Only a giant Yorkshire pudding next to it could be seen.
Lift up the meaty lid and, voila – a bunch of fluffy-on-the-inside and crunchy-on-the-outside potatoes, smooth cauliflower cheese, caramelised carrots and fresh green broccoli with a sprinkling of peas.
And in typical Globe style, all was served in a buzzing Sunday afternoon atmosphere. The starter was soup of the day – carrot and corn – or dropped clam and laver cakes, while dessert was a memorable potted apple crumble and custard.
The Globe, 45-53 Graham St, Central, tel: 2543 1941
THE CANNY MAN
The Canny Man is in the basement of Wan Chai’s Wharney Guang Dong Hotel, and it was a relief to get down there, away from the smell of cleaning products in the hotel foyer.
Reminders of Scotland (think deer antlers, a huge bull’s head, swords and shields) decorate the walls. On this wet Sunday there were just a few patrons sitting at the bar chatting, while in a tartan-wrapped booth a chess game was under way. The atmosphere livened up later in the afternoon when several guitarists turned up to play.
We weren’t here for the folk tunes – or haggis – but the weekend roast. For HK$168 there’s a choice of pork, lamb or beef, and a starter – tomato soup that was heavy on the veg, or a light pepperoni salad with plenty of cherry tomatoes.
The roast didn’t come with a Yorkshire pudding, but in its place was the option of fries or mashed potatoes. Maybe it’s a Scottish thing.
The generous serving of thin-cut lamb slices were a tad on the tough side, but the lashings of flavoursome gravy made up for it. The beef, equally thinly cut, was a little overcooked, but tasty nonetheless. Our beef eater got a small bowl of horseradish, but no mint sauce came with the lamb.
Sliced, rather than chunky, potatoes came only lightly roasted, but were sweet and tasty, dusted with chopped parsley. The veggies were fresh and perfectly cooked, and included crispy snow peas, cauliflower, broccoli and carrots. Altogether a bit too much starch in this dish, but satisfying nonetheless.
The Canny Man, Wharney Guang Dong Hotel, 57-73 Lockhart Rd, Wan Chai, tel: 2861 1935
Venturing farther afield on a sunny Sunday, we secured a table in the Sai Kung pub’s al fresco space.
Steamers offers a choice of roast beef, lamb or chicken, and dished up a satisfying meal for HK$168. We didn’t order the chicken, but a diner at another table did, and was served half a bird.
Both the lamb and beef roasts were thick slabs of tasty, succulent meat minus any fat or gristle, served on a large round plate.
The beef was neither too pink nor overcooked, and came doused in a thick, delicious gravy flavoured with thyme. The lamb was so succulent it almost melted in the mouth. There was no toughness to the meat, which came with its own mini bowl of mint sauce – from a jar.
Steamers’ selection of vegetables was a good mix of fresh string beans, peas, broccoli and chunky cut carrots.
Although it was a decent dinner, the roast potatoes were a little undercooked, and could have been left in the oven a while longer for a crispier exterior.
There was a bonus, however: not one but two Yorkshire puddings which, although a bit on the small side, were evenly baked to perfection.
66 Yi Chun Street, Sai Kung, tel: 2792 6991
We’ve had some decent grub (steak sandwich, fish and chips) at this British pub, tucked away on a small Tai Po lane among a few other bars. It was disappointing, though, that its HK$188 roast failed to tick many boxes.
The menu was straight off Old McDonald’s farm: beef, lamb loin, gammon ham and turkey (diners can choose two meats each). But maybe a “less is more” philosophy should be adopted, because none of the carnivorous offerings really impressed.
The beef, while flavoursome and tender, was too fatty, the tiny lamb loin chop was tough. The ham and turkey cuts were both of the processed kind.
The token greens (broccoli) were more like token yellows – “it’s spent too much time in the fridge”, one diner said. But the biggest disappointment was the absence of crunchy, golden roast potatoes. In their place instead were anaemic boiled new potatoes that were both undercooked and underwhelming.
The highlight, however, was the Yorkshire pudding – even the Yorkshireman among us gave it two thumbs up. Still, it was a pricy meal for what we got.
If you’re looking for friendly staff, buzzing atmosphere, a good selection of beers and ciders, and sports on the TV, then this is your bar. But if you’re looking for a decent roast then, as one diner put it: “I wouldn’t travel here for it.”
Shop C, Mei Fung Building, 6 Wan Tau Kok Lane, Tai Po, tel: 2663 3550