Spanish

Where:
The Optimist
G/F, 239 Hennessy Road
Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Phone number:
+852 2433 3324 (welcome to the future yo, online bookings)

Price:
HKD800ish per person before tip (no service charge included).  This included cocktails, wine and a mega-expensive steak.  You could definitely get out for less if you didn’t order the ball breakingly expensive rib-eye steak.  Maybe HKD500ish per person?

The deal:
239 Hennessy Road in Wan Chai is the new place for restaurants, now housing Zahrabel, Pirata and El Mercado.  I feel like I’m there every fortnight at the moment and to add to the mix, The Optimist has only officially opened this week after some sort of soft opening period.  Before I decided to try it, I loaded up their website and amongst the thoughtful graphics and cool typography came across one of my FUCK NO bullshit pet peeves – menus with no goddamn prices.  WTF restaurants who do this, is it because you like to trick people into your restaurant before fucking them in the ass with a dollar sign?? Yo HK restaurants, here’s a FYN fun fact – if people see a menu with no prices, people are just gonna assume that you’re really fucking sneaky and expensive as fuck:

FYN-optimist-no-prices

Regardless of the no price scenario, I was expecting good things from The Optimist given that it is run by the same crew as Pirata with Christian Talpo and Manuel Palacio setting up a three floor venue flogging Northern Spanish food.  The ground floor is The Optimist’s bar and the impressive Rocio Martinez Amoedo design is all green foliage, wooden tables and benches, geometric tiles and warm lighting.  That’s all dandy to conjure up the feeling that you’re drinking inside a greenhouse but what is more impressive are the cocktails.  I always maintain that the hallmark of a fuck yeah cocktail is when you can tell it’s strong but it doesn’t taste like it’s strong, meaning you want to launch yourself into six beautifully balanced delicious as fuck drinks and throw consequence to the goddamn wind.  I had the Gin and Ginger (HKD100) which is pretty much the cocktail of my wet dreams – gin, mint, lime, ginger beer and a large hunk of ice and I was definitely having my Sound of Music “these are a few of my favourite things, dog bites, bee stings blah blah” moment.   I also scammed some of my homie’s Old Fashioned which is one of my all time faves and oh my yasssss, it was fucking spectacular. It was truly with a fucking heavy heart that I grudgingly decided to stop drinking cocktails to actually have proper food.

The main dining room is on the first floor and it’s cute as hell with its peacock blue walls, framed drawings of birds and light oak furniture.  Passing through the artfully filled staircase, we get seated.  While we check the menu, we are presented with a board of bread, served with a tomato based sauce and some aioli.  The Optimist’s bread game is tight but it’s dwarfed monumentally by the fuck yeah aioli which is served with it.  I was seriously having a major fuck yeah moment and our helpful waiter filled our bread and aioli up once he saw we were empty.  After we smashed it again, he promptly came back and asked if we wanted some more.  I pondered how to stop the rampant thoughts in my head that were plotting how I could find a way to smear the aioli all over my body so I could luxuriate fully in its fuck yeah awesomeness.  Our waiter came back again, offering a third refill and this is what snapped me out of this eggy lust filled reverie because even though I was all “My body’s saying let’s gooooo”, but in anticipation of actually eating proper food I knew the right answer was all:

christinaaguileramyheartissayingno

Our attentive waiter came back to take our order and this is when I ask him what his favourite items are on the menu or what does he recommend.  In fuck no news, our waiter homie confesses that as he’s just started, he hasn’t actually tried the food yet and he’ll have to get his manager to give us some guidance.  It just bums me out when I hear my waiter homies haven’t had the opportunity to eat the food at where they’re working.  Like they’re expected to watch people having good times and eating fuck yeah noms, while they keep smiling and asking if everything’s ok but never getting to snack down themselves.  Sharing is caring (especially when it comes to food) and I thought of this sad fuck no insight throughout my whole meal, almost wanting to push aside a little bit of each dish for him so my undeservedly hungry waiter homie could get involved as well.

catbabysharingfoodsmall

At this point a waitress shows up with some croquettes which we didn’t order.  We politely tell her that they’re not ours and she walks away quite confused.  This is where The Optimist’s slick restaurant manager glides in to smooth things over, explaining that these were on the house as he wanted us to try their Iberian ham croquettes.  Fuck yeahhhhh, free food.  But regardless of it being my favourite price, my cheese and ham croquette drug dealing homie has absolutely gamed me with my first free taste because I’ll be handing over cash for these deep fried fuck yeah croquettes next time for sure.  Especially as I smeared whatever precious aioli I had left all over these golden fuck yeah treaties.

For a starter we order a serve of the Tudela artichokes with baby squid (HKD150).  I was all heart in mouth, expecting the usual HK Spanish style of tiny-ass starters, anticipating that we were probably going to receive a singular artichoke leaf containing the tiniest curl of a baby squid tentacle for too many HK bucks.  But whoa, surprise on the upside, this starter could be shared between a few people just to have a taste and the artichokes, just charred baby squid, Iberico ham and confit onions was definitely a fuck yeah combination.

The Optimist has its own hashtag / tagline of #wegrillthings and I understand that their premise is that you’re meant to go and check out the market-like display of fish and meat before seeing what appeals and sending your protein of choice off to the charcoal grill.  I never actually saw this display but based on the menu we decided to go all in and order the Txuleta rib eye steak which range from 900g to 1.2kg in size.  As there were only three of us and as it’s HKD____ per 100g (lolzzzzz, I ain’t gonna treat you like idiots, it’s HKD110 per 100g), we were hoping to get one closer to the 900g.  Predictably, The Optimist only had large fuckers at the 1.2kg end of things which meant that we were all in for a ball tearing HKD1,320.  HELP ME, I’M NOW POOR.  The Txuleta is an on the bone Galician 45 days dry aged rib eye which is served with a side of roasted peppers and baked potatoes.  When it is presented, it’s as large and in charge as its price tag and you are immediately hit in the face by the smell of iron filled, dry aged beef.  We order ours rare and it’s most definitely hitting this bloody mark and just one juicy as fuck bite in, it’s all blue cheese and nutty dry steak fuck yeah feelings.  I’m less excited by the sides, partly because peppers / capsicum are one of the few food items that I can’t get behind ever and in sadder news, the potatoes just weren’t that exciting in texture or flavour.  Maybe I’m just a predictable fuck who only wants any sort of roasted or baked potato in my life to be a crunchy starchy motherfucker.

Upon reflection, while the Txuleta rib-eye was fucking incredible there’s a niggling feeling of “OH MY FUCKING FUCK, DID WE JUST SPEND HKD 1,320 ON A STEAK?! LIKE USD170 REAL BUCKS??”.  And while I very much enjoyed the fuck out of it, I’ve also enjoyed the fuck out of other much more reasonably priced beef based treats at other HK restaurants, including the magnificent 1kg T-Bone Bistecca Alla Fiorentina upstairs at The Optimist’s sister restaurant, Pirata, which is almost half the price at HKD750.  I fucking get it, I’m paying for the 45 days of dry aging but I’m not convinced I enjoyed those funky old beefy bastard dry aged references so much that I’d pile in again for that $$$ price tag.

We also ordered a serve of paella, billed as “Charcoal grilled rice with Iberian meats – Secreto iberico, jamon, boletus, vegetables” (HKD290).  Paella in HK often ends in so much sadness (refer:  La Paloma) but The Optimist smashed my HK battle-weary paella expectations hard.  There’s an awesome depth of flavour to its rice, the complexity built from the rich as fuck stock it was cooked in, shit tonnes of butter (yassssss), all the fuck yeah Iberian cured meats and a slightly smoky undertone from the charcoal grill.  The small pieces of boletus mushroom also provide a good textural contrast to the al dente rice.  The fact that the rice has a good al dente bite to it might seem like a small point but I’ve had any number of pathetically undercooked or mushy-ass paellas in HK Spanish restaurants.  The only thing that could have made me happier was to get a bit more socarrat crusty rice at the bottom to give me some fuck yeah crunchy feelings but this was most definitely a fucking awesome paella.

My fellow dining homie also ordered a side of roasted peppers (HKD90) as she desperately hoped it to be similar to some green pepper dish she had in Spain.  Yes, there’s always some #wandercunt chasing that authentic traveldouche moment they had in one of their global adventures.  As I’m not into peppers, I’m gonna sit out on the judgment here but really, just how excited can you get about roasted vegetables though?

The dessert menu looked pretty tidy but I was more interested in going back to the bar downstairs to launch myself into at least two to three post-dinner cocktails.  Unfortunately for me, my dining partners had mistakenly put on their Soft Cock Pants versus the requested Hard Cunt Pants so they were all pitiful complaints of “I’m sorry, I’m just too full…I gotta go home” and while my lust for well balanced fuck yeah cocktails is strong I decided it wasn’t gonna be quite the same making my face numb on my own.  Note to self, I gotta make sure I’m clearer on the dress code next time I ask people out to dinner.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah!  While the service was at times a bit all over the shop, it was well intentioned and definitely not catastrophic considering how long The Optimist has been open.  I probably wouldn’t repeat the bank breaking Txuleta $teak but it’s a cool as fuck space with decent sized fuck yeah Spanish eats and an affordable wine list which should guarantee some fun times.  If anything, I’m absolutely getting my lush self back to crush their cocktail list.

FYN Update 06 January 2016:
GUISE – I’m an asshole at the best of times but I like to give credit where fuck yeahhhh credit is due. I recently revisited The Optimist Hong Kong and shit has improved since I went in November 2015. Things to note:

  1. Their website now has prices. I definitely gave them a pizzling for that on FYN. Yo Optimist homies, thanks for listening to the feedback
  2. Service is on point now and the waiter we had definitely knew the menu and had tasted the food. Fuck yeahhhhh feeding your staff.
  3. Cause ordering ball breakingly expensive Txuleta steaks at HKD110/100g wasn’t enough for me, I went even higher and ordered the Chateaubriand at HKD150/100g (HOLY FUCK). Chateaubriand was an expensive though delicious FUCK YEAHHHH though.
  4. Aioli still remains fucking amazing and I continue to want to rub it ALL OVER MY BODY.
  5. I ordered the Arroz caldoso seafood rice which is good but the seafood charcoal crispy rice is superior. Spend the extra HKD20.

Where:
La Paloma
1F/183 Queen’s Road West
Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2291 6161

Price:
We got out at HKD500 per person for food and sharing a jug of sangria. No service charge.

The deal:
La Paloma is the relatively new tapas bar in Sai Ying Pun, opened by the El Willy Group, with Chef Willy Trullas Morena and Chef Alex Fargas behind it.  The El Willy Group are behind the inoffensive Fofo by el Willy in LKF (I haven’t been since the renovation) and when you read the promo for La Paloma they mention phrases like ‘casual and laid-back modern Spanish cuisine’ and lots of references to ‘sexy tapas’.  Their logo specifically references that it’s a ‘sexy chiringuito tapas bar’ and even their Google listing makes it clear that it’s La Paloma – Sexy Tapas.  Y SO MUCH SEXY, EL WILLY? Y U SO SEXY IT HURTS?!

lapalomasexy

I’d heard some less than favourable reports from my homies (one of them went as far as saying it was the worst meal he’s had in 2015) but there’s also been a shit tin of favourable reviews in the press and other food blogs.  FOR WHATEVER THAT’S FUCKING WORTH IN THESE DISINGENUOUS DAYS.  I’d been lobbying for a different venue for dinner but one of my homies wanted to check it out which is why we ended up at La Paloma.  The first thing you’ll notice when you walk in is that La Paloma have gone for that quirky, fun and mismatched vibe which equates to multi-coloured everything.  Rough wooden tables are surrounded by multi-coloured lampshades, chairs and bird decals.  There’s fucking birds everywhere (yes, even in the toilets), which would be explained by the fact that ‘La Paloma’ translates to ‘Little Pigeon’ in Spanish.  I just imagine La Paloma’s interior designers, Flappy Flap Flap Aviary Productions*, pitching for the project like this:

portlandiabirds

* FYN disclaimer:  May or may not be the real name of the interior design firm used by La Paloma

We ordered a variety of things and we start with the Tiradito de pescado blanco, a Kingfish “Tiradito” (crudo/ceviche) with avocado and green chilli sauce.  Served on some pureed avocado, this is fresh and bright enough, a good mix of chilli and citrus fuck yeah flavours.  I’d already come to this restaurant with my greedy heart in my cavernous mouth because Spanish food in HK usually ends in me going home SO HUNGRY and this food for ants starter didn’t dissuade me from this belief with three of us sharing this HKD78 dish to get a scant, though tasty, half a bite each.

Patatas bravas (HKD45) is never a revolutionary dish but always a good yardstick to judge a Spanish restaurant by, cause what hope is there if you fuck up deep fried potatoes?  I guess the potatoes were warmed through and came with a good amount of tasty paprika aioli style sauce.  But I expect patatas bravas to be crispier on the outside which leaves La Paloma’s deep fried potatoes patatas bravas decidedly underwhelming.

The Callos (braised tripe, HKD55 +10% service charge) is served in a stew containing, chorizo, morcilla (blood sausage) and chickpeas and it’s fucking delicious.  We asked for more sourdough bread so we could scrape out every last bit of the fuck yeah stew.  However, it’s also really fucking tiny – you only get three small-ass pieces of chorizo and morcilla, and I’m not being facetious in the slightest when I tell you that you can count the number of chickpeas in your stew with no major effort or numeracy skills. HK Spanish Food, Y U always so food for ant$??

We also ordered the salted cod and egg tortilla (HKD60) which was boring as all hell.  It didn’t really taste like anything at all and we left a quarter of it unfinished.  Our waitress picked this up and did ask if everything was ok and we let her know that it just wasn’t that interesting.  She then conducted some sort of an autopsy at the table, using a knife to gingerly peek into the eggy tortilla mess to see if some sign of life was hiding out in there which we had failed to detect.  Unable to find any indications of life, she took it to the open kitchen and we watched the bow-tied Executive Chef Vito Chiavacci ask the waitress what was wrong while he continued the tortilla autopsy. Nothing more was said to us regarding this sad ass dish. La Paloma Tortilla Autopsy Results:  INCONCLUSIVE BUT DEFINITELY BORING AS FUCK.

The Churrasco De Buey beef short rib with roasted potatoes and shallots was fine but not fucking amazing.  Some people might even find it a bit gristly in texture, cause the top part of the rib served is quite chewy.  We certainly ate all of it but I wouldn’t tell anyone going that they had to definitely order it, which is the true hallmark of a fuck yeah dish and it ain’t cheap at HKD398.

Our Paella de bogavante (lobster and saffron dry paella) arrives and it looks like it’s gonna be fucking incredible – a large metal paella pan arrives at the table with the lobster claws / shells arranged in the middle.  Our waiter serves us the lobster pieces and then stirs through the aioli, revealing what looks to be a well cooked paella with a fuck yeah looking soccarat crust of caramelised, saffron infused rice.  After scavenging through the largely empty lobster claw shells (La Paloma, where my lobster meat at?!) we turn our attention to the rice itself and that’s when shit moves immediately into fuck no territory.  There’s no distinguishable pieces of lobster in the paella, with only a few tiny pieces of overcooked squid kicking about.  However more heinously, this was unequivocally the fucking saltiest paella I’ve ever eaten in my entire life.  It may even be the saltiest dish I’ve ever fucking eaten, because I certainly can’t remember being so physically aggrieved by the salt levels in any other dish I’ve consumed.  I don’t know what happened, maybe someone salted the rice itself and forgot how salty the lobster shell stock they used to make it was but all I know is that I imagined the chefs at La Paloma preparing my paella and salting the absolute living fuck out of it like this:

alwayssunnygetouttaheresnail

Due to the Dead Sea like salt levels in our expensive as fuck HKD498g paella, we abandoned this pricey salty fucker half-eaten, but no La Paloma staff asked if everything was ok or if we’d enjoyed the dish.  Instead, we were offered dessert menus.  In the end we didn’t order dessert because the waitress took fucking forever to come back to see if we wanted anything after giving us the menus and by that stage, my kidneys were in hyperdrive and the pursuit for hydration seemed far more important than dessert.  Overall, La Paloma’s service was attentive when they remembered and they’d do that good shit like fill your glass up or ask how things were, but over the whole night it was only just average most of the time, the staff seemingly caught in a slightly confused fugue.

When I got home from La Paloma I took to my phone to fervently send out distressed messages to four different homies, an anguished repeated cry of “SO SALTY”.  I only paused mashing my phone screen with shaky fingers to chug a litre of water, desperate to ensure that my cellular walls didn’t collapse upon themselves from the severe electrolyte imbalance that my body was enduring.  In between typing out “SO SALTY” over and over for 15 minutes, I received the following text back from my fellow dining homie:

lapalomabody

I paused for just a second to compose my two word reply – “SO SALTY”.

Verdict:
FUCK NOOOOO. La Paloma is trying so fucking hard to be that sexy, modern tapas bar but I guess an inconsistent, modern tapas bar with patchy, mediocre service doesn’t have quite the same goddamn ring to it.  La Paloma’s dishes range from being tasty but food for ant$, to being boring as fuck and then how will I ever forget, the searing fuck no of the saltiest abomination of a paella I’ve eaten in my entire existence.  SO SALTY. LIKE MY FEELINGS TOWARDS SPANISH RESTAURANTS THAT CAN’T FUCKING EXECUTE A PAELLA.

Where:
Vasco (fuck yeahhhhh informative and useable website.  Yo HK, isn’t it like 2015?  Why is it even a talking point if a website is useful?!)
7/F Block B, PMQ
35 Aberdeen Street,
Central, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2156 0888

Price:
Three course lunch set is HKD389 (+10%)

The deal:
I was getting all nostalgic and shit, reflecting upon the first quarter of 2015 and you know what?  I’ve had some good eats, some shithouse eats but there’s really been very few stand out, fuck yeah ‘fine dining’ times this year.  Not that dem saucy forthright HK restaurants bitches have been shy about charging super high fine dining prices for hit and miss food with patchy service.  Are my expectations so unattainable that I expect that if you’re charging more than HKD400 for a main, your shit has gotta be on point for food, service and ambience?  Out of all the meals I’ve had in 2015, there’s only two where shit was fuck yeahh on point across the big three food-service-atmosphere – lunch at Arcane and a dinner at Penthouse by Harlan Goldstein.  FYN Public Service Announcement: If you haven’t had Harlan’s uni/sea urchin pasta your life is less fucking awesome than it could be.  For real homies, you gotta fucking get on that sea urchin jam pronto.

I’m having a fucking whinge but fuck, as I am living in the first world, these are the kind of heart breaking first world struggles that I’m fucking doomed to have.  Seriously guise, this is my life right now in respect of eating out in HK:

struggleeveryday

So against that backdrop of new restaurant disappointment, I was sceptical as fuck when I booked into Vasco for lunch.  This was despite the big up that Vasco is led by Chef Paolo Casagrande and predictably has worked his ass off at some two Michelin starred establishment (Lasarte Restaurant in Barcelona).  For a start, my eternal fear when it comes to Spanish food is always leaving fucking starving despite the big fucking bankruptcy sandwich you get to reliably snack down on at almost every fucking Spanish restaurant.  Add in the PMQ hotspot of the moment factor and the website wank which included phrases such as bringing “gastronomy to new heights in this stunning restaurant” and my bullshit alarm set to fucking search and destroy.

However, despite the high levels of cynicism, Vasco chipped away at my scepticism so methodically that I gotta give the fuck yeah props.  The Joyce Wang designed restaurant is fucking stunning – exposed metal, wood, curtains of copper and glass everywhere.  Fuck yeah that they’ve considered acoustics too and have added tall, plush banquettes to allow to ensure you’re not just bouncing around noise in a sleek industrial space.  You know my feelings on tablecloths too and fuck yeahhhh that Vasco hasn’t cheaped out on providing linen by claiming that they want to be modern and informal.

In a rare HK occurrence, service was so consistently a fuck yeah from everyone who served us.  One of my biggest fuck nos in HK is that I often don’t believe that most restaurant staff have actually gotten to eat the goddamn food they’re serving.  When I was being talked through the menu, the waitress talked intelligently and passionately about each dish and the ingredients.  Fuck yeah, she even sounded like she genuinely gave a fuck.  I fucking love it when service is so good at a restaurant that I don’t even have to think about flailing about like a waving inflatable tube man to try and get some more water because your waiter homies are just on their shit.

Before our ordered food arrived, Vasco wheeled out four complimentary amuse bouches which were a fuck yeah.  All fancy clams and miniature packets of seasoned pistachios.  Sometimes amuse bouches can just feel like random shit left over in the kitchen but Vasco’s were tiny and beautiful as fuck.  I ate them in sequence per the waitress’s careful instructions and my excitement levels were rising in anticipation of our actual lunch.  However, more decisions had to be made when the bread rolled in, served with five different types of flavoured butter and a selection from five olive oils. I gotta be real, is it entirely necessary that I need to be talked through the flavour profile of five different olive oils before I have some bread at lunch?  Fuck no, but I can’t lie – grassy, creamy and fuck yeah olive oil with fuck yeah bread is always gonna have a place in my gluten filled heart.  OH AND HOLD THE FUCKING PRESS, Vasco served a brioche roll that didn’t want to make me storm the kitchen to pelt it at high velocity at the nearest chef while hysterically sob-shouting “Don’t waste your fucking time on brioche bread if it tastes like a dried out piece of fucking dish sponge”.

Fuck yeah brioche, knowledgeable servers and I’m thinking shit just seems too good to be true.  For my first course,  I ordered the “seared Hokkaido scallops with glazed pigs trotter and fresh pea ragout” and even though I feel that the shaving of black truffles over a dish is sometimes a culinary crutch, I lay down the HKD99 for some of dat luxury fungus shiz.  It arrives all fancy fucking art and delicate placement.  I don’t know if the black truffles added that much more because this glazed pig trotter deal was already a massive fuck yeah.  You better believe I’m writing an “A-Z Book of Nobody Knows the Food Related Trouble I Seen” and under B I’m listing ‘Being Bored of Black Truffles’.  Is that the most fucking obnoxious thing you’ve read today? I sure fucking hope so.

Despite my fuck no feelings towards meat and fruit, I went with the “Iberian Bellota pork fillet with roast pineapple cream, tarragon pesto and espelette sauce”.  However this wasn’t a fruity, red hot mess with the savoury balanced fucking perfectly against a hint of fruit.  The tarragon pesto and espelette sauce (that’s French chillies in case you didn’t know) was dotted and smeared just-so, ready for Instagram glory if that’s your jam. Fuck yeah, pork times!

I was full as fuck by this stage, but as the saying goes, I powered on through pudding cause I’m a hard cunt, ordering the banana cake with coconut ice cream and toffee sauce.  Vasco continuing the fuck yeah art with squares of cake, puffs of ice cream and no fucking surprise, dessert times at Vasco were rad as fuck.  There’s a nice touch with a presentation of some mignardises in some over the top blown glass vessel but my fat fuck pants blew up at this point, which meant I moved into sneaky fuck mode and shoved the nougats into my pockets for later consumption instead of my cavernous food hole.

So, it’s taken me a while to try Vasco cause Vasco’s prices are not for the faint hearted poor fuckers (lolz, why mince words?).  However, lunch was so fucking impressive that I’m seriously contemplating putting down the significant coin to check Vasco’s shit out at the much pricier night time prices.  For the moment at least, I take a moment to inhale sharply before I slide my longing gaze over Vasco’s functional website as an errant finger caresses the HKD980 (+10% service charge) price point listed on their informative, tasting menu PDF.  Or I catch the eye of a pricey as fuck HKD590 main consisting of “oven baked suckling pig with bitter lemon cream, pineapple chutney and mustard sauce” from the a la carte menu.  Instead, I listen to my computer hum to no one in particular except my broke, fat ass.  I ponder the potential for more culinary disappointment as a lonely tram slides by, a melancholy ding whirring into the heavy night sky.  While trapped in this trying and desolate HK experience, I dream of what could possibly be as a single tear rolls down my cheek   A wave of ennui washes over me as I whisper longingly into the ether “Fuck, if only I could get back that HKD1,100 I wasted at Holy Crab“.

Let it be known my homies, the first world can be an unforgiving master cause dis HK dining struggle is real.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah on pay day.  Sure, shit ain’t cheap but Vasco’s lunch set is accurately priced for the overall experience from the restaurant setting, quality of the food and the level of service. Hey Vasco, you can be my number #3 ‘top highlights of 2015’ cause FUCK YEAHHH, QUALITY LUNCH TIMES. 

Where:
Catalunya HK (Holy fucking shit, functional HK website – fuck yeah!)
G/F Guardian House Morrison Hill
32 Oi Kwan Road
Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2866 7900

Price:
HKD680 for unlimited buffet/mains/desserts/free flow juice.  HKD230 for sangria / cava freeflow.  +10% for service charge and no, coffee/tea is NOT included.  If you want oysters, they’re HKD40 a piece.

The deal:
After receiving a last minute request from some visitors in town, I was calling around at 11am trying to get a champagne brunch booking for the same day.  I was frantically googling for reviews but they were largely meaningless because people just take a few fucking photos of the desserts (which don’t normally taste half as good as they fucking look), drink a lot of champagne and get blinded by booze and the view as to whether the brunch buffet was any fucking good.  I caught a lucky break though as someone ditched their booking at Catalunya and was able to roll my slightly dusty self into cold cuts and cava, to bring me back to life.

My biggest complaint with champagne brunches in HK are either too much fucking choice and quality starts to get spread pretty fucking thin or the mains are just disappointing as fuck.  Catalunya don’t make you choose mains – you hit up the buffet and they’ll bring around a selection of mains.  You can also order eggs in a number of different ways, but there was so much fucking food that I didn’t get involved.  The buffet covers a good range of bread, charcuterie, fish, cheese and salad.  Remember my buffet tips though, don’t fucking fill up on bread though because you have to smash your way through the higher value proposition items.  Make an exception for the toasted sandwiches they bring around – dat Bikini sandwich with its Iberian ham, cheese and truffle knocked away the hangover blues pretty fucking quick smart.

It’s then SHOW TIME and the staff are going to come out with the mains, dancing and displaying the mains to you, all to the strains of a live trumpet player.  They appeared to be genuinely enjoying themselves (versus the soulless dead eyes of an Abercrombie & Fitch flunky, dancing her life away in one lonely spot on the stairs, in a pungent heritage building while shouting over and over ‘HEYYYYYY! HOW’S IT GOING’).  Full fucking marks for the mains which are served right at your table though – the portions are pretty bang on and were a FUCK YEAH to the baby suckling roast pig ‘Segovian’ style (complete with dramatic chopping of the pig using a plate and the subsequent smashing of said plate), squid ink risotto and the salt crusted whole fish.

Sunday brunch is always a marathon and not a goddamn sprint, so we rounded the corner into SWEET TREATS and watched another impressive as fuck, cavalcade of desserts dance around us with the token inclusion of some fruit salad.  Welcome to HK punching stations though, because sweet treats are not served at your table.  Life pro tips – don’t ever get between Asians and a freshly filled buffet, cause we will fuck your shit up.  We weren’t quick enough to get to the churros (serious super pro Asian buffet athletes were in attendance who deftly elbowed their way up to the table in lightning speed) but our waiter homie was kind enough to get the kitchen to make some more for those less gifted athletes in attendance.  Coffee/tea is NOT included which I give a FUCK NO, given the booze + food price tag of HKD1000, I don’t think it would have killed Catalunya’s profit margins to press some beans through some hot water for me.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah on pay day – at HKD1000 all-in for booze + food (and NO fucking coffee) this is not a cheap day out.  Pre-warn your friends if you book so they don’t suffer bill $hock afterwards.

Where:
Zafran (better information available on their FB page though)
Basement, 43-55 Wyndham St.
Central, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2116 8855

Price:
Choice of 3 tapas for HKD99 (+10% service charge).  Add HKD20 for coffee/tea.  Add HKD28 for dessert.  Add HKD28 for certain tapas. Probably about HKD130-150 per person all in.

The deal:
I emailed Zafran once to get their lunch menu because, in true HK tradition, their actual website was devoid of such useful information.  No surprises, but they never emailed me back so I never actually ended up going.  But just the other day, I was stomping my way up to one of my reliable lunch stalwarts, CVCHE, because I hadn’t booked and it was past 12:30pm when a Zafran spruiker caught me and because I’ve walked past their place a few times, I decided to finally succumb and check it out.  I’m always wary of TAPAS restaurants/bars because while it might officially mean bar snack, I’m always convinced it really means Spanish Food for Ants.  So the Zafran girl led us through a maze of very empty restaurant – through the empty bar, the empty lounge and then into the almost empty, icy cold dining room.  I don’t mean icy as in so styling Iceman achingly cool icy but It was fucking freezing. I’ve never understood why so many HK restaurants are intent on freezing their customers to death.

A big fuck yeah to Zafran’s eagle eyed General Manager, James Ward (YES, totally got this stalky information from their FB) who runs Zafran with the laser precision of a fake handbag seller spotting HK expats at Lo Wu mall, with an insistent missy missy ready at 20 paces. James was spotting issues (ie. turning the air on to normal after seeing his patrons were freezing to death) and deploying his staff to actually take care of the restaurant (vs most HK restaurants which just seem to like to hire 20 waiters to stand at the side to look decorative and well intentioned).  Service was spot on at Zafran with my empty plates never staying long on the table and constant refills of water without having to knit a sweater with my eyebrows to attract some attention from the waiters.  James recommended that with two of us, we should just order all of the tapas options and share, skipping the Zafran big breakfast because it was big and suitable for hangovers. I’ll take it as a compliment that I didn’t appear to be the solid nommer which I am or hungover.  The food itself was deftly done and was well presented – it would definitely be Instagram food fodder if that’s your thing, but our lunch included a wilted baby spinach salad with pinenuts, raisins and apricot (I was sceptical, because I’m generally not down with apricot in savoury food), deep fried cod croquettes, a stand-out roast pork belly and celeriac mash, baby squid, a tomato stuffed with tuna and fish roe (sounds lame, but was delicious) and what was essentially a posh cheesey pork toasty. A pretty good mix and for the price, I think quality/range definitely outweighed the price.

My dining partner went off the set menu to get dessert, as she wanted to avoid some lavender dessert monstrosity they were offering as part of the set. I’m always a fuck no to desserts with lavender, I mean, out of all the delicious flavours in the entire world, why do people even bother with lavender?? Lemon, chocolate, coconut, strawberry, peach, mango, vanilla and all its delicious dessert appropriate friends getting stood up for that low rent fucking floral soap bullshit. Shit be cray and tastes like an old lady, but I’ll still get behind affordable, tasty as fuck tapas with staff who give a shit and go beyond when it comes to service.  We left to a chorus of thank yous as we wandered out the maze of Zafran back onto the street.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah!  Wyndham Street lunch sets continues to be my JAM.

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