Chef Julien Royer’s contemporary brasserie Louise in Hong Kong offers Asian-inflected French culinary flair in an enchanting heritage setting.

Warm, humid Hong Kong evenings are miserable. Especially when you’re swatting at persistent mosquitoes having a meal of you while you wait for a restaurant to open for your own. My relief is palpable when doors finally open. I’m finally ushered to my seat, as much grateful for the air conditioning as I am to escape the relentlessly biting critters.

PMQ is absolutely charming. This historic building in Hong Kong’s Central district was previously police quarters, but repurposed in 2014 into a mixed arts and design hub. Louise, where I’m dining, leans into its, uh, arresting timeless architecture.

For those not familiar, Louise in Hong Kong is one of Chef Julien Royer’s ventures, he of multiple award-winning Odette fame. Louise is actually Royer’s second dining concept, not Claudine in Singapore’s Dempsey dining enclave as some would believe. Opened in 2019 in collaboration with JIA Group – one of Hong Kong’s leading hospitality operators that’s behind a dozen concepts such as the likes of Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant Duddell’s and contemporary Indian eatery Leela – Louise comes with the flair Royer is known for, if not Odette’s fine dining inclinations.

Interior of the Dining Room at Louise in Hong Kong

Louise – named for Royer’s paternal grandmother, just as Claudine is named for his maternal grandmother – received its first Michelin star just a year into opening. I was there to see how it measured up.

First, a confession. I’ve never been to Odette. I did, however, rather enjoy Claudine.

Casual fine dining Louise shines a spotlight on traditional French classics with a contemporary lens, leaning on quality seasonal ingredients and established classic culinary techniques with some Asian inclinations. You can avail yourself to its à la carte menu, but the best way to experience Louise is through its signature tasting menu.

I was in luck. Louise was hosting a wine dinner the night I was there; one of the region’s leading wine trade fairs, Vinexpo Asia, was taking place in Hong Kong that week. Burgundy’s Domaine Roux was in attendance. Who was I to say no to a paired wine flight?

Angel hair pasta tossed with Kristal caviar, black truffle, and kombu.

The first course, featuring angel hair pasta tossed with Kristal caviar, black truffle, and kombu, impressed with its execution and flavours if not for any mind-blowing originality. It’s also spargel season; next comes white asparagus sourced from the Loire Valley, drenched in a moreish wild garlic and Chinese yellow wine emulsion alongside a scrumptious stuffed morel mushroom I could not get enough of.

Far more impressive was a dish of a dreamily crusted sweetbread, served simply with petit pois that’s the perfect hat tip to French culinary tradition. Which worked perfectly well with the Cotes de Beaune white wines from Domaine Roux, particularly the Chassagne Montrachet. Sebastian Roux was in attendance, elaborating on his maison’s winemaking mastery.

Then comes line-caught Atlantic meagre, lovingly pan seared. It sits on a creamy nori-lashed sauce and topped with shredded leek, both of which bring out the fish’s delicate sweetness. It pairs well with Chardonnay too.

Chef Loic Portalier of Louise in Hong Kong

Louise’s signature roasted chicken arrives. A perfect mashup of culinary cultures, this is a splendidly roasted whole local yellow chicken, served with a cocotte of rice like some fancy Singapore-style chicken rice. Perfectly brined to bring out the bird’s innate flavours, along with indolent Japanese Niigata rice that’s been tossed with crushed crisped chicken skin. It’s truly fabulous, enough to impress even this diner of Hainanese heritage.

The execution here is flawless, yet familiar. It has a similar DNA with Claudine. Then I find out the head chef at Louise is Loic Portalier, recently transferred from Claudine in Singapore. The Lion City’s loss, and a massive gain for Hong Kong’s dining scene.

I head back out into Hong Kong’s oppressive humidity. Well sated too, much like the mosquitoes that feasted on me before I started my meal.

[Photos courtesy of Louise Hong Kong]


Louise

Address PMQ – Staunton, 35 Aberdeen St, Central, Hong Kong (Google Maps link)
Opening Hours 6.30pm to 11pm on Tuesdays; 12pm to 2.30pm and 6.30pm to 11pm on Wednesdays; 12pm to 11pm Thursdays to Sundays; closed on Mondays
Tel (852) 5722 3269
Web www.louise.hk
Instagram @louise.hkg
Reservations book here


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