It will not surprise anyone familiar with China Tang, the bar and restaurant opened in 2005 by Sir David Tang beneath The Dorchester hotel, that China Club in Hong Kong has a distinctly eclectic edge to its decor.
Sat in the bar in his Park Lane outpost, one feels as though one’s on a sexy ocean liner about to dock in 1930s Shanghai; in the dining room at China Club, atop the old Bank of China building, there is a similar sense of playful decadence. Colonial and kitsch collide: white-jacketed waiters glide beneath dark wooden fans, spinning lazily from the high ceilings, the walls covered in a miscellany of Sir David’s art collection, while shocking-pink and acid-green cushions cover the rattan seats of old chairs.
Once one is installed at a table in this unique old club, all runs like clockwork. I took the dim sum menu for lunch, and felt that my fellow diners were there as much to watch each other as to eye up their plates.
Nevertheless, the dim sum are more than sound: crisp, greaseless, frizzy-edged taro dumplings filled with chicken; little cakes of mandarin peel-scented minced beef, with a crunchy dice of water chestnut; fish balls and squid in a curried sauce; chicken feet and little spare ribs, both topped with black beans and slivers of red chilli; a spectacular “dumpling” soup with morsels of pork, sublime noodles and a glistening broth; and some fiercely spicy clams. There is a jolly good wine list too: go for the experience, stay for the food and order a decent bottle.
At Amber (pictured), Richard Ekkebus’s fêted restaurant in The Landmark Mandarin Oriental hotel – two Michelin stars, and the 38th best restaurant in the world, according to the annual San Pellegrino list – the design is more focused. Adam Tihany’s shimmering interiors surround his striking “chandelier” of 4,320 bronze rods that dominates the room.
The food is equally spectacular. Amuse-bouches include Ekkebus’s lollipop of foie gras with beetroot jelly; then, a stunning sea urchin, served in a china replica of its shell, with lobster jelly, caviar, puréed cauliflower and seaweed wafers, a shred of gold leaf affirming its opulence. It’s the kind of dish upon which reputations are made.
Then, gently chewy abalone with soft-cooked oxtail, the two artfully united with a sweet and spicy tomato jam and the background warmth of black pepper; next, grilled wagyu beef with seaweed, tomato “dust”, both raw and cooked tomatoes, and black garlic caramel, the beef fat sublimely rich and smoky. All top-notch stuff, and worthy of Amber’s accolades, but, come to think of it, I would happily return to Hong Kong just for another of those sea urchins.