Esmé at Maison Eight Sticks to Old-world Charms
First Bite: We tuck into the hottest new tables in town.
Want to come face-to-face with the richest man in 19th-century Hong Kong? You can at new TST dining destination Maison Eight: Sit in the company of the bald, stern-faced noble merchant Howqua as you savor craft cocktails from world-renowned bartender Salvatore Calabrese underneath a thousand twinkling chandelier lights. To your left is the “Ballroom” for late-night dancing, and to your right—the world’s first Bollinger champagne room, housing some 2,300 bottles including their Special Cuvée blends and key vintage Bollinger bubbles.
Starting to sound like another snooty place to drop a fortune? Despite having all the makings of a style-over-substance fine dining establishment, prices at Maison Eight remain surprisingly fair—and the quality is consistent enough to make this a place we could return to regularly, especially to skirt the island-side crowds while enjoying a unique vantage point of the harbor.
Maison Eight’s 8,000-sq.-ft space is separated into four distinct sections: the bar Salvatore at Maison Eight; the Ballroom, with retro Art Deco-style furnishings and jazzy tunes on the weekend; the Bollinger champagne room Le Club 1829; and Esmé, a refined French restaurant. Heading up the kitchen at Esmé is executive chef Joe Chan, who honed his skills at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong before coming to Maison Eight. Soft-spoken, chef Joe’s style comes through in his food, which progressively impressed us as the night wore on. There’s not a strain of modernist cooking here, which is a breath of fresh air; instead you’ll find simple, beautifully presented interpretations of classic French dishes executed with modesty and attention to detail.
We started off the meal with a savory mille-feuillle of Scottish salmon, pressed between layers of buttery homemade puff pastry sheets with a tart Bollinger rosé champagne reduction. Our smooth saffron-tinted mussel soup poured tableside was a refreshing taste of the sea, while the lobster thermidor had a broiled creamy cheese topping insulating perfectly cooked lobster flesh. The rack of lamb arrived cleanly Frenched with a seasoned garlic and herb crust, again showing off the kitchen’s simple yet elegant philosophy. Desserts—a bitter chocolate tart and vanilla panna cotta—didn’t blow us away, and you might be better off ending the meal with the selection of French cheeses accompanied by bread and fruits.
After dinner, head to the champagne room bedecked in bold blue and red to end the night on an extravagant note, or simply grab a drink to savor at the bar—where the watchful gaze of Howqua will make you feel as swanky as you wish to be.
Recommended: Salmon mille-feuille, lobster thermidor, creamy mussel soup, roasted duckling.
Prices: Starters $100-200, mains $250-450. Cocktails $88-138.
Open: Daily noon-late.
21/F, 8 Observatory Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui, 2388-8160.