Date of Visit: August 26 2013
With a slew of of new restaurant openings in Hong Kong, each one surpassing the other in terms of interior design, style and theme. I narrowed my dining choice to Chinese – well, since I am in Hong Kong, Chinese cuisine is what the Hong Kongers do best, right? From my go-to mag for Hong Kong dining (Hong Kong Tattler’s), I found out that the latest ‘It‘ place in town is Duddell’s which opened recently in May. Wise choice it worked out to be because I really needed a place to chill-out over lunch after a solid 3-hours meeting in the morning.
Duddell’s is a ‘art-social-eating place‘, a duplex restaurant occupying Levels 3 & 4 of Shanghai Tang Mansion on historic Duddell Street, where the famous stone steps and the only 4 surviving gas lamps in Hong Kong are (info here).
The designer is Ilse Crawford from London – whom I had the honours of googling and found out to be the ex-editor of international decorating bible, British Elle Decoration before setting up Studio Ilse a decade ago. Her previous projects include Soho House New York, Aesop, Grand Hotel Stockholm, and Ett Hem hotels. (Samples of her work can be found in this blog, here and her interview with SCMP regarding her design on Duddell’s here)
The design of Duddell’s resemble a private residence of a gentleman art-collector with a salon, library, dining room, and a 2,000 square foot outdoor garden terrace (huge in urban HK’s standard!). We were met by a ‘butler’ aka ‘maitre d’ aka ‘bouncer’ in dark suits, upon entry. After checking out our ‘cred’ aka ‘booking’, we were shown to the 2nd floor to be seated at the salon area.
I was immediately impressed by the extensive use of travertine – that solid, heavy, so ’50s material with holes and troughs (high maintenance) – now back in vogue. The heavy solid travertine staircase linked the 2 dining floors and the bar/ salon area upstairs into one cohesive design.
Like a page taken straight out of The Conran Shop catalogue, the decors uses high-end expensive designers chairs and furnishings – notably Eames Chairs and Arco Lights.
Although there are a lot of notable pictures and paintings that decorated the walls, what moved me are the photographs of King of Kowloon‘s work aka Tsang Tsou-choi, a garbage-collector turned graffiti artist now an international artist (Hong Kong’s answer to Banksy) – which jazzed up the separate alcove with red banquette seatings. When he died in 1987, he had painted over 55,000 graffitis all over Hong Kong, sadly only 4 remained. The Hong Kong community is now fighting to preserve his works (read here).
To endorse itself as an art-gallery, Duddell’s also offers private membership with a year-round art programs, talks and rotating exhibitions curated by famous names in the global art scene.
Trying hard to enjoy the environment, my ears picked up faint babbles of noise travelling all the way from the main restaurant downstairs. This together with the weak sound-proofing meant that I can hear word-for-word the complaints of a woman about her ‘friend’ and thus pretty annoying – what a relief when she left! It is not my intention to eavesdrop but my advise to her would be: “Get rid of your friend if she is so annoying or tolerate her if you still want to continue the friendship. Otherwise – Shut up”!
Alright, enough talk about decor, art and what-nots, I hear you – you are hungry and want to know what I ate from the kitchen of a former T’ang Court (1 Michelin star) chef Siu Hin Chi… so let’s rock on!
The Barbecued Pork with Honey ($240) was well executed with soft BBQ pork glazed in honey. Having said that, this is a ubiquitous dish in all Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong. A BBQ platter is a must in every menu and the offerings are just as comparable but at lesser price.
Next up, Steamed Vegetarian Dumpling with Morel Mushroom ($60). I could smell the black truffles, but once in my mouth, I could only taste the mushrooms and none of the truffles. The dumpling skin was well-made, thick enough to be still translucent yet not stick to my teeth.
The Fried Rice Roll with XO Chili Sauce ($80) followed. I loved how my teeth cut through the crispy and slightly burnt bits on the surface into the soft doughy inside. The XO chili sauce gave a flavoursome spicy kick. Nice!
Baked Pork Puff with Scallion ($54) was delightful. I enjoyed the buttery pastry wrapping sweet BBQ pork pieces.
Deep fried Glutinous Balls with Pork Pieces ($54). Another pork pieces creation, but this time, wrapped in sweet crispy outer layer with a chewy skin and delectable pork filling.
Lobster Soup Dumpling ($110) was ordered individually for each of us. A very pricey choice but so delicious. The soup was light and flavoursome. Although I have shell-fish allergy, I did not get a reaction, so I can vouch for the freshness of the lobster.
Last but not least, the restaurant’s unique creation of a refreshingly mild Chilled Avocado Sago Cream with Chocolate ($50). This dessert soup gave me an idea for my Vitamix. A blitz of avocado, add in some sago then top with coco powder. This is an easy recipe to make at home and would be a nice dessert.
Duddell’s is best described as an art gallery within a restaurant. It is very pricey but in Hong Kong, one has to be acquainted with the idea for paying for the decoration. I like to say that service was very attentive and professional – looking smart in their beige waist jackets! In my next blog, I will show you my favourite lunch time place in Central where office-workers eat.
While at IFC, for my next appointment, I picked up a box of Pierre Herme’s macaroons for Gran. I much prefer PH over L’s. PH actually has ‘flavour’ as opposed to L’s sweetness. My Centurion Gran loves the soft chewy macaroon! 😄