Diner’s Diary

Simon Kealy brings an eccentric charm to The French Window

With his one-name dishes, playful presentations and quirky cooking, Welsh chef Kealy is offering fine-dining without the pretension or stuffiness

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 September, 2017, 12:45pm
UPDATED : Monday, 18 September, 2017, 8:44pm

The French Window in IFC Mall is having identity issues, constantly changing its concepts. Several years ago it was uber fine dining, then it went casual bistro, and now with new chef Simon Kealy at the helm, it’s back to fine dining but without the stuffiness.

Part of the restaurant is sectioned off for happy hour patrons who are welcome to stay on for dinner, while prime tables are by the windows for diners to enjoy the view overlooking Victoria Harbour.

We were recently invited to meet Kealy and sample his tasting menu, a six-course dinner at HK$980 per person, with an additional HK$200 for wine pairings. It was a pretty solid meal, though it started slowly. The dishes have one-word names such as Pork, Pea or Beef.

A few amuse-bouches to start and it was evident early on that Kealy likes to be playful on the plate when we were served a pink macaron – wasn’t it supposed to be sweet? But in fact it was beetroot flavoured with some foie gras. Savoury decadence.

This was followed by pressed pork terrine, thoughtfully accompanied with refreshing Sauternes jelly, pickled carrots to balance the meatiness of the dish, and some curious crunchy bits that were called pork popcorn, and mustard dressing.

Next came what looked like a garden on the plate, featuring beetroot carpaccio, asparagus, radish, broad beans, jelly and beetroot purée. We like the inclusion of more vegetables particularly in French menus and this dish was very welcome.

Next came seafood in the form of squid that had been slow-cooked for six hours and cut up to look like risotto – more quirkiness from Kealy. It was topped with a perfectly cooked scallop and some Oscietra caviar. Lemon and herb oil was added to give lightness.

The main course arrived. Bresse duck breast was cooked beautifully rarer and came with broad beans, beetroot, and duck cannelloni made from confit duck leg meat.

It needed few more greens on the plate to balance to the gamy duck.

At this point we were quite full, but we still had a pre-dessert and dessert to go. On the menu the former says “gin and tonic” which turned out to be a sorbet of the cocktail that was very refreshing and light.

Finally – the last course is called strawberry. A strawberry semifreddo with pistachio and milk jelly and meringue chips for crunchiness and sweetness.

It’s a good start for Kealy – who seems in his element playing around with flavours, textures and appearances. We’re wondering what he’s cooking up for the next menu ...

The French Window

3101, Podium Level 3, IFC Mall, 8 Finance Street, Central, tel: 2393 3812

While you’re in the area

Newly opened Terroir Parisien in Central – Yannick Alléno’s French bistro has finally arrived

Restaurant review: Mugung Hanwoo Beef Specialist, Central – good for beef lovers, but other dishes are disappointing

Newly opened Tempura Taki in Central – artful tempura omakase