ÉPURE

ÉPURE

Where:
ÉPURE (lolzzzz, string intro sound effects, feel dat Versailles Vibe)
Shop 403, Level 4, Ocean Centre
Harbour City,
Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong

FYN hot tip:  To minimise the amount of time spent in the hell that is Harbour City, enter on Gateway Boulevard near the Chanel store and take the escalators straight up.

Phone:
+852 3185 8338

Price:
HKD1,388 for the eight course tasting menu (+10%). After drinks and extras we were out just under HKD6,000 for two people. Yes, I’m eating a combination of instant noodles, bread and water this week month.

theofficebankruptcy

The deal:
As an obnoxious as hell HK food blogger, my raison d’être is to constantly name drop new restaurants and have completely unfounded opinions about whether I even want to check them out.  So I was surprised to learn that Épure, a high end French restaurant, had opened in June 2014, because I had no idea of its existence until May 2015 when I saw a gushing review by finefooddude.  I can only conclude from this that Épure’s promotion must have been so subtle and understated completely fucking non-existent considering the above average effort I put into reading any number of dreadfully woeful food publications and anaemic press releases so I can be an insufferable new restaurant know it all.

On the strength of finefooddude’s review, Sir Crunchalot and I decided to push the boat out and drop some serious cash for a celebratory dinner.  Executive Chef Nicolas Boutin is the driving force behind Épure with some heavy hitting credentials including stints at a number of three and two Michelin star restaurants in France and worked alongside Richard Ekkebus to open Amber at the Landmark Oriental HK. Unfortunately, the pedigree of the Executive Chef can’t prevent Épure suffering from the indignity of being a fine dining restaurant smashed into the shopping mall hell that is known as Harbour City.   As far as I could tell, there is no easy direct way to get there without pushing past the bombastic luxury brand name shops and the escalators packed with harried shoppers and their wheeled suitcases. Épure have done what they can to try and insulate their diners from the harsh Harbour City mall feel, their slick as fuck front desk ushering you quickly through the heavy front doors adorned with a golden stylised map of Paris and into the grand as fuck Yabu Pushelberg designed dining room.  Hues of gold, grey and bronze, broken up by private circular padded booths, architectural floral sculptures and painted green blue forest scenes complete with deer, all offset by careful warm low lighting.  However, fuck no, NO TABLECLOTHS.  You all know my feelings on linen and I snippily bitched to Sir Crunchalot that it seems crass to be dropping HKD1,000+ on a tasting menu and being forced to eat it off a synthetic plastic woven mat.  Despite the lack of natural fibres, there is no doubt that Épure’s shit is fancy as fuck and everything about its interiors has you set up well and truly for the expectation that you will be leaving behind a large chunk of change in Épure’s custody.

However, there’s something more striking than the interiors and it’s the really super fucking slick Épure service  As soon as you arrive, the front desk breezily checks off your reservation.  The general manager Olivier Le Guyader warmly escorts us into the dining room and attentively provides us with the perfect amount of choices to ensure you’re going to have the best night possible.  This nothing is too much trouble attitude has been drilled effectively into Olivier’s fleet footed waitstaff who swoop in to smile and offer the same genuine welcome.  Compared to other restaurants where the service starts off strong before petering away to a bored indifference, the Épure waiter homies powered on strong through the entire meal without dropping a single beat. They noticed everything that was happening at your table and communicated with each other with a subtle look, before executing whatever was necessary.  Each course was presented with precise synchronisation and each finished plate was whisked away with equal choreographed precision.  It’s been awhile since I’ve encountered such fuck yeah flawless service, whether it be in HK or anywhere else in the world. Bravo Epure waiter homies, cause I couldn’t fault anything and there’s nothing more I wanted from you, and I don’t often say shit like that.

Settled in, we were presented with the menu which offered two choices – either the six course tasting menu (HKD1,088 + 10% service charge) or the eight course tasting menu (HKD1,388 +10% service charge).  This is a hefty chunk of change but I note that when I was cruising around older reviews, it seems that Épure has moved its prices down over the last year or so (I’ve seen previous reviews quoting the six and eight course menus at HKD1,288 and HKD1,588 + 10% respectively). Sir Crunchalot and I predictably went for the eight course menu, because if you’re having a balls to the wall special occasion feed why would you want to miss out on another two courses, when one of those is the cheese course?  More importantly, is it even fucking possible to celebrate any special occasion without cheese??

This is the sort of meal that is food blogging mana from heaven, if I wasn’t such a stubborn asshole who prefers to cram food into my face versus taking a shit tonne of photos.  It’d be so fucking easy, you’d take some shots of some amuse bouches with some artistic lighting and some blurred out micro-sprouts chilling in the background. Bump the contrast to all hell, copy and paste the PR release while changing a few adjectives around and then call it a night.  Everything we ate at Épure was so fucking beautiful – the sort of meal that if you did photograph every single course and shoved it up on Instagram / Facebook, heaps of your homies are going to throw likes in your face and then jump all over your shit to ask where it was or just to say trite things like ‘Wowwwwwwwww’ or ‘OMG looks so delish!’.

Instead I’m trying to describe this shit to you without just going through each course one by one, because I hate the idea that someone would go to Épure and there would be no surprises.

First of all, Épure’s bread game is a major fuck yeah.  I always judge a restaurant by its bread game and Épure’s bread is punching hard. Six different types of bread and two types of butter (unsalted and a mild chilli) were giving me the fuck yeah carb feelings, in particular the baguette and the cheesy puffs (technical nomenclature, yo).  Our smiling waiter homie happily refilled our basket while giving us a gentle reminder not to stuff ourselves too full of bread, which meant we only powered through two servings even though I desperately wanted to eat at least two more baguettes and a generous handful of cheesy puffs.

After getting some solid bread times in, everything we ate at Épure was fucking exceptional, well thought out and not just being inventive for the sake of it.  Just to take you through a few highlights, the second course, le foie gras de canard and encornet was a generous seared slice of duck foie gras served on a thin slice of Atlantic squid, resulting in a phenomenal fuck yeah contrast of textures between the caramelised though tender foie gras and the firmer bite of the squid.  A sauce made from black figs and piquillos (a variety of chilli with a minimal amount of heat) had just the right amount of acidity to cut through the fatty foie gras but with enough sweetness to highlight its subtle flavour.

Another example of seemingly simple dish done right was the soup course.  Sir Crunchalot went for the le champignon de Paris  (Paris white button mushroom soup) versus my choice of the moules de bouchot & mais bio (organic corn, bouchot mussels soup) and while my soup was most definitely a fuck yeah, he definitely had the superior soup choice. It’s no surprise this is one of their signature dishes with this being a fuck yeah example of something so simple being immaculately executed. A creamy, silky smooth mushroom soup poured over tiny perfect spinach leaves, wafer thin slices of button mushrooms and miniature spinach ravioli. This tasted like the fuck yeah mushrooms of my dreams would and you can imagine how hard it generally is to get that fucking excited about mushrooms.

However, between these immaculate courses and fuck yeah faultless service, it becomes apparent that Épure’s marketing team’s lacklustre efforts weren’t just restricted to its opening because at 8pm on a Saturday night we are still the sole patrons of the entire, grandiose restaurant.  At one point, Sir Crunchalot goes to the washroom and I cut a lonely well-fed silhouette, sitting deserted in this looming quiet space.

idontwanttobealone

A bit later another couple show up for dinner, but this is the only other table that is occupied ALL night.  I’m all for private and intimate dining affairs but I can’t shake the uncomfortable feeling that we’re in a restaurant which isn’t going to survive long.

Pushing whatever lingering doubts I have about Épure’s financial viability and how boring it must be for the waitstaff, I fucking loved that in every dish the focal point is provided by one key ingredient and isn’t overpowered with a red hot mess of complex techniques and luxury items such as piling truffles, caviar and fancy liqueurs just to prove that they can.  With the le rouget barbet de petit bateau (seared red mullet), I was prepared for it to be the obligatory fish dish but each piece of seared fish tasted so specifically of sweet red mullet and the green olive puree blobs or tiny onions all added something to the dish, rather than being there for decorative optic purposes.

For my main, I austerely went with the standard option of the le canard de la maison Burgaud (roast Challans duck).  While it seemed ridiculous at the time for the menu to specify that the dish would be accompanied by Provence blackberries, each air freighted druplet of those blackberry bad boys tasted so intensely of blackberries that I tried not to think of the carbon footprint my meal at Épure had inflicted on this fragile planet, just so I could get my fuck yeah noms on.  Predictably, standard main courses never fit Sir Crunchalot’s insatiable lust for luxury and the good life, so of course that a$$hole took the +HKD300 upgrade for the le boeuf Japonais and got that seared wagyu beef A5 from the Gifu Prefecture into this life. Despite the financial damage that his choices were wreaking upon us, I gotta say that our pampered Japanese bovine homie died for a delicious fuck yeah cause.

We were presented with five cheeses billed as a ‘selection of mature cheese by Xavier from Toulouse, France’ with a homemade plum preserve and thin slices of fig and hazelnut bread. FUCK YEAHHHHHHHHH it was fucking amazing, except that I could have done with a slightly larger serving.  That is probably more a reflection on my extreme greed for fuck yeah cheese vs stingy portions from Épure.  Perhaps I’ve just been spoilt at other restaurants when it comes to hefty cheese servings (Zurriola and Amber, imma lookin at you) because I always want MOAR CHEESE.

I can’t remember what the second cheese was but I do remember that it was my favourite but unfortunately, we were given just the tiniest amount.  I lovingly smeared a scant amount of this ungodly fuck yeah cheese onto my fuck yeah fruit toast, hoping that this moment could last forever.  I did ask the waiter for the name of the cheese and hoped that he’d offer to give me MOAR CHEESE.  However while he helpfully provided me the details (which I promptly forgot AGAIN), all I got was the assurance that we could buy some to take home later.  This turned out to be a goddamn cocktease though because by the time we resigned ourselves to the fact that we were going to have to buy some take away cheese, this wasn’t even possible because when we stopped by the cheese room on our way out, our fuck yeah favourite was all sold out. Perhaps those two small ass pieces that we got was all that was left in the entire restaurant.  Either way, TOO SAD.

alwayssunnycheese

Behind the desserts at Épure is Head Pastry Chef Matthieu Godard (ex-Head Pastry Chef from Amber) whose desserts have universally gotten a massive fuck yeah from all who’ve been.  I can’t say I was super excited about the la pomme de nos vergers, which was a fancy ass baked apple done in tatin style with a Granny Smith sorbet, but took it as a bit of a palette cleanser before we stormed home with the final desserts.  The signature le soufflee au Grand Marnier (Grand Marnier souffle with mandarin sorbet) was everything one could hope for from a faultless souffle but in retrospect I probably should have swung with the chocolate option, but that’s more down to personal preference than a reflection on the souffle.

To round it all off, a tower of petit fours is presented and they’re all tiny, beautiful as fuck dessert based art pieces.  The pistachio financier was a stand out with its jasmine cream making it a fresh as fuck, stand out but most importantly these single fuck yeah single bites were just enough to finish an all-in-all spectacular as fuck meal.

After settling the very large and in charge bill, our congenial waiter homies sent us on our way with a macaron to go and we pushed our way from the plush sanctuary of Épure and into the harsh indignity of Harbour City’s fluorescent lighting. Descending an escalator, we cruised straight past a bank of LCD TVs on sale at Fortress and I can’t help but think that this is never how anyone wants to end a high end fuck yeah dining experience.

So while the meal we had at Epure was one of the best I’ve had this year and definitely a notable standout from a HK perspective, I fear that things are not going end well with Épure because of its location.  Despite its inventive and precise fuck yeah food and absolutely flawless service experience, who is Epure’s target audience?  With its sky high price point, this isn’t a casual experience that most people will try just to see if they like it (although, it does offer far more affordable lunch and brunch options starting at around HKD400+).  Unfortunately, most assholes who have the cash and inclination to splurge on fancy ass dinners aren’t going to want to leave the Island to traipse through Harbour City in TST to get to Épure. I can already imagine all the people who ask me for food recommendations for a special occasion and once I mention ‘TST’ and ‘Harbour City’ they’re going to immediately glaze over and end up going to Amber, Caprice or L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon instead because omfg guys, dark side lolz.  Add into that mix the non-existent marketing and profile that this restaurant has (I’ve talked about my meal with a few of my Foodie Asshole Homies and all of them asked ‘What’s Épure?’) and the very fact that there were only TWO tables there on a Saturday night, how can a restaurant survive?  Sure, we broke bank on our meal but even my HKD6k isn’t going to be enough to fund an alleged 25 strong kitchen staff, the front of house staff and the TST Harbour City rents.  There’s talk that Epure will get its Michelin star this year which will inevitably increase its profile.  However, Épure better figure out its marketing strategy ASAP because it would be a crying shame that a restaurant which is punching it out on all levels would slip away just because no one even knew it existed or couldn’t be bothered crossing the harbour.

Verdict:
Fuck yeah but most definitely on pay day or when you’ve robbed a bank day. An accomplished, nuanced meal on all fronts which warrants the price tag.

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