23 Dec 12,000 Francs
G/F Elgin Building
43A Elgin Street
Soho, Hong Kong
+852 2529 3100 (but holy fucking shit, they have an online booking system that actually works. IT’S THE FUTURE AND HK, MY BODY IS READY)
HKD320 per person (including service charge) before booze.
12,000 Francs is a relatively new Elgin Street restaurant, run by Woolly Pig Concepts (the same gang behind The Beach House, Madam S’ate and the former Madam Sixty Ate in Wan Chai) and its kitchen is headed up by Conor Beach, former chef at the French Art wankfest Bibo and the Repulsive Bay, Balinese restaurant, TRi. I visited TRi before he left and I was into his detailed as fuck take on Balinese food (but not the frosty, nonchalant service I received from their entirely disinterested Russian waitress) so was looking forward to see what direction Chef Beach was going to take at 12,000 Francs. This was even despite receiving a press release for 12,000 Francs which declared that this was “A story of food, ambition and power“. Like holy fucking shit, R U for real HK PR firms, someone paid you to write this??
I’m into 12,000 Francs clean and modern aesthetic by an Aussie designer, Emma Maxwell – teal clad walls, white, grey and black mosaics, warm golden lighting from chandeliers made out of wine glasses and the occasional gold accent. A long, high table is run down the middle and some smaller tables are placed at the back of the restaurant. Fuck yeahhhh, restaurants which achieve a modern look without falling into the easy trap of just hollowing out a restaurant and leaving you to eat in a concrete cave in the pursuit of minimalistic, industrial modernism while saving the bucks on actually designing an interior. 12,000 Francs manages to feel intimate without jamming a billion tables in, so you’re not forced the indignity of continually bumping into strangers next to you.
Historical preservation techniques aside, 12,000 Francs is all up in doing everything from scratch and the providence of its ingredients. The menu is divided into four sections, Picked + Potted, Smoke + Salted, Vacuum + Fire and Sugar + Sweet. Bread isn’t doled out for free at 12,000 Francs (HKD40 +10% service charge) but it’s so fucking good – some of the best bread I’ve had in HK this year. A mixture of white and whole wheat flours from Japan, with barley malt for depth, this glorious carby dark angel is righteous as fuck. With a large open crumb, thanks to its high hydration levels you’ll want to slather the slightly nutty cultured butter all over it and get it into your face as fast as possible.
Our next few starters were all small plates. The Stracciatella (HKD130 +10% service charge) is a creamy fucker, served with sundried tomato, curry leaf, and chilli. Stracciatella is the creamy, GOOD SHIT found inside mozzarella and the sundried tomato gives it a small touch of acidity and sweetness, with the curry leaf and chilli providing a tiny bit of heat to round off the creaminess of the stracciatella. The duck rillettes (HKD130 + 10% service charge) are also major – made from confit spiced duck and a side of mostarda which offsets the fat of the duck rillettes. However, the King of Starter Town was most def the Foie Gras Parfait. 12,000 Francs might be tight on providing bread with their foie gras parfait with only a few pieces of bread but they are not stingy with the foie. Large and in charge, this foie gras and chicken liver parfait is fucking amazing and it’s served with some pickled jalepenos on the side, which bring the fire and the acidity to contrast against the rich and beautiful as fuck parfait, rounded off with a touch of mezcal in the parfait. OH and then no biggie, be still my fatty boombah heart cause they top this cardiac unfriendly treat off with crispy fried duck skin. YASSSS get that good shit onto bread, set my heart on fire with your textures and get into my life ASAP.
The only problem with the above starters is that due to my sloppy ordering choices, all of the above needed to be eaten with bread and then add in the two extra serves of malted sourdough I’d thrown in, even this rapacious carboslut was in serious BREAD TOWN by now. Maybe I was just overwhelmed by my delicious New World wine or numerous choices on the 12,000 Francs menu but by this stage, I wish I hadn’t ordered everything ever that had to be eaten with all the bread. I know right, call me the WAHmbulance, I’m dying here in delicious, sourdough breadtown. FYN NOTE – NOT A FAULT OF THE RESTAURANT, RATHER MY INABILITY TO GET MY ORDERING SHIT TOGETHER:
Ploughing into the large sharing mains, we bypassed the Fire Roasted Suckling Pig which sounded fucking amazing but also came with a 90 minute preparation warning (so FYN homies, if you’re into dat porcine good life, be organised and call that shit in). Instead we opt for the Short Rib Pastrami (HKD450 +10% service charge) and it looked so fucking delicious when it arrives, delicately pink inside and charred on the outside, sitting alongside a clean long rib, accompanied by sauerkraut, vibrant green pea shoots and a mixture of barley and rye risotto. I get where this dish was trying to go, the smokey spiced slightly fatty pastrami should have been playing off against the fresh pea shoots and the earthier barley grains, while the sauerkraut should have been that piquant counterpoint against the fat of the pastrami. However, fuck noooooooooo the pastrami short rib was squarely on Struggle Street – while the flavour of it was well done, it just couldn’t save the cut of meat from being far too fucking fatty which was exacerbated by it being served at a far too cool temperature. This results in you having to choke back a congealing, fatty piece of meat which eliminated your carefactor about every other component on the dish because no amount of well pickled sauerkraut or verdant, fresh pea shoots can save a fucking disgusting piece of cooling fat, no matter how well spiced it is. GROSS.
12,000 Francs recovers with the Merguez Lamb with Beef Sausage (HKD160 +10% service charge). This reminded me a lot of the Middle Eastern influenced Modern Australian food I used to eat, with its spicy and earthy Middle Eastern vibes being kept fresh by the onions, sumac spiced yoghurt and fresh pomegranate sacs, bursting with sweetness.
Barrelling into dessert, we order both options that are available. The first is the boldly named, Better Than Nutella (HKD98 +10% service charge), I mean duuuude for real, you’re gonna pit yourself against Nutella, with all of its childhood nostalgic memories that people harbour for this sweet, hazelnut spread?
The alleged Better Than Nutella is a combo of warm chocolate hazelnut mousse, bread pudding and milk sorbet. I’m not the biggest chocolate slut out there though so I’ll level with you, I don’t get that stiff for chocolate heavy desserts, but I imagine if you did, this would probably be your jam. It’s well thought out, a mixture of temperatures with the warm mousse and the cold milk sorbet and the bread pudding and toasted hazelnut pieces give it enough texture to keep shit interesting against the mousse. But shit gets real when it comes to the KA Pastry (HKD80 +10% service charge), the coyly abbreviated Kouign Amann. For those that don’t know what a kouign amann is it’s a Breton cake which translates to CAKE BUTTER and is traditionally a mixture of dough (40%), butter (30%) and sugar (30%), which is the sort of maths that I can get behind. The Cupping Room sells them and last year, I was so hard up for these souped up croissants on steroids with their delicious as fuck caramelised sugary crust, flaky butter stuffed pastry and the salt which pierced through the buttery fat. That was until The Cupping Room a) never had any and b) when they did, they were skinny and burnt as fuck. However, the 12,000 Francs version of the kween is next level, adding a maple syrup gel to the kouign amann pastry, serving it with caramelised maple pecans, pumpkin and cumquat spiced puree and a cannelle of vanilla ice-cream just chillin’ on top of the kouign. It’s an immense fuck yeah – I’m feeling Autumn, I’m feeling sweetness, I’m feeling salty, I’m feeling butter and most importantly, I’m feeling LOVE FOR THE KWEEEEEN, now, always and forever:
So what brings the feels at 12,000 Francs is actually that every dish on their menu is considered and hasn’t been thrown on there just the please the masses. There’s something intensely personal about what they’re trying to do, to show case the produce and ingredients that they use through certain techniques and how they’re paired off and contrasted against each other. When you’ve been to enough new restaurants which scrawl a bit of graffiti on a wall, throw down some liver into the menu and label shit ‘nose to tail’ and then blare some generic Spotify playlist called “Williamsburg Brunch”, I gotta give props to a restaurant where every element has been thought about and still comes out at a decent price point per person. Enough props that I can even look past that gross, cold, fatty as fuck pastrami short rib.
Fuck yeahhhhh – check this shit out now if you’re in need of a small dinner or a cool date spot in Soho with a bit of vibe and won’t leave you bankrupt. But honestly, I reckon that 12,000 Francs is really going to hit its stride in about 3-6 months. MY 12,000 FRANCS HOMIES, MAY THE FICKLE HK RESTAURANT GODS BE KIND TO YOU, I wanna see what you guys accomplish in the long run.