New Hong Kong restaurants: Old Bailey serves superb Chinese dishes from Jiangnan at Tai Kwun, Central
From the Liangxi crispy eel to mala xiaolongbao to sautéed river shrimp, Old Bailey impressed with a variety of wonderfully prepared dishes from a Chinese region that encompasses Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou
It took us ages to decide what to order at Old Bailey because the menu was far too tempting. What we ate didn’t disappoint.
The restaurant, the newest establishment by the Jia Group, specialises in the cuisine of Jiangnan, an area that includes the cities of Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou. It is an elegant space with a lively, somewhat noisy atmosphere.
Our helpful waitress recommended the fresh local bean curd with sesame oil (HK$38). It was a perfect starter – delicious, cooling and palate-whetting. Liangxi crispy eel (HK$98) was also excellent. The pieces had a gentle crunch and a thin coating that was not too sweet.
Shengjianbao – pan-fried Iberico pork dumplings (HK$68 for three) had a juicy, flavourful filling encased in a light, tender wrapper. They were so good that one of my guests insisted on ordering a second portion. The wrappers of the mala xiaolongbao (HK$98 for four) were thin but resilient enough to hold up to the soupy filling that had a nice gentle touch of Sichuan peppercorns.
The larger dishes were also good. A pair of red-braised lion’s head meatballs (HK$188) were made with organic pork that had been hand-minced, giving them a smooth and delicate texture. Supreme Hangzhou duck soup with hand-pounded fish balls (HK$398 for a half portion; HK$768 for a whole) had a cloudy, subtle broth and ethereal fish balls.
While we liked the mild, sweet flavour of the partially de-shelled sautéed river shrimp (HK$238), we found it tiresome to keep removing the tails from our mouths. We mentioned this to the waitress and she explained it was to indicate that the shrimp were fresh (which we could taste); she said that frozen shrimp are fully shelled. She also told us we weren’t the first diners to complain about the shells.
The only disappointing dish was the sautéed sweet peas with Jinhua ham (HK$188). The teardrop peas seemed past their prime; instead of being sweet they were starchy, and they were also overwhelmed by too much ham, which made them very salty.
We finished the meal with hairy crab and scallion oil noodles (HK$138; two portions was sufficient for four). The thick, toothsome noodles really absorbed the rich, deep flavours of the crab and scallion oil.
Old Bailey, 2/F JC Contemporary, Tai Kwun, 10 Hollywood Road, Central, tel: 2877 8711. About HK$420 per person without drinks or the service charge.
While you’re in the area