Many reviews of The Press Room seem to begin and end with their frites (chips to us Brits). Or should that be FRITES!!! And yes, they are delicious but there’s more to The Press Room than that.
Aiming for a modern European brasserie style, with menus on blackboards and pictures scattered at random on the walls (a random-ness I’m sure took hours to achieve!), it has a nice relaxed atmosphere. For dinner, the lights are dimmed and it’s a rather cosy kind of darkness, even when the place started to get packed around 8pm.
When the boyfriend and I arrived around 7pm, we were the first diners in, meaning our service was second to none. Bread (below right) was served almost immediately and our dishes (all hot, I should mention) arrived within 10 minutes of their being ordered, with mains rolling up almost as soon as we’d polished off our starter.
We both opted for the 2-course menu at $260, where you can choose any starter/soup/dessert from the regular menu, with a choice between lamb, sea bass, skate, pork belly or hanger steak as your main. Go with your significant other, with one of you opting for starter and one for dessert, and (as long as your partner isn’t a total gannet) you effectively get a 3-course menu that, given the quality of the food, is a bit of a bargain.
We started with escargots de bourguignon (snails to us Brits, normally $92; above left, click for enlargement ). At many HK restaurants, these are often cooked to the point of apocalypse and arrive at your table dried-up, shrivelled, rubbery imitations of their former sluggy selves, with some overpowering cheese sauce drenched on top attempting to disguise this fact. Here, they were cooked perfectly, allowing their unique texture and subtle taste to shine through. Garlic butter is the norm for escargots but there was an interesting addition of almonds here that was just as tasty – a shame that there wasn’t the usual bed of mashed potato to mop this scrummy juice up!
We tried to use our bread to soak it up and alas, this was the only disappointing aspect of our meal. My boyfriend (ever the comedian) commented that ‘this bread must have lost its absorbing properties a day ago’; I don’t think the bread was actually stale, just that fancy bread that was never soft to start off with. Not a fan – given that the menu is vaguely Gallic in its feel and the French practically orgasm over the breaking of the bread, I did expect better.
Anyway, onto the mains. Only one word: divine.
For those seeking a few more words, I had the roast pork belly with pomme purée (mash to us Brits), apple sauce and cider jus (sauce to us Brits, $202 ; shown left, click for enlargement). The pork belly was absolutely sublime – stupidly delicious, ridiculously soft and tender and dreamy, with fantastically crispy crackling on top. I hate restaurants that give you one artful drizzle of sauce that isn’t enough to wet your upper lip never mind your whole dish, so I was very pleased at the amount of cider jus, which had just the right amount of tang to bring out even more lush flavours from the pork. One of the best mains I’ve had in HK, no question.
The boyfriend (a chip connoisseur fyi) went for the hanger steak and frites (above right, $248). Again, there was a decent amount of sumptuously rich red wine sauce to complement the beautifully tender and juicy strips of steak. It came on a bed of spinach that my boyfriend, not being one for greenery, largely ignored so I have no idea how that tasted. And, of course, the frites…
They arrive in their own canister, they’re so special. What more can be said about them that hasn’t already been said? Crunchy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside, just the right side of salty and with the texture and taste of having come from a quality spud. Chips that have some skin on are always the best kind, aren’t they? You may remember me being similarly cock-a-hoop about the chips at SML – SML, The Press Room and The Pawn are all run by the same group, so I’ve only got to try the latter to confirm that their chips are uniformly good (edit: I have and they were!). What’s more, they’re incredibly more-ish; even though I couldn’t finish my mash, I found my fingers creeping to them far too often! The chip connoisseur was happy too (less happy that I munched my way through so many though!).
We rounded things off with the baked chocolate (above, $78) and quite frankly, I could have put away two of these on my own. I’m not entirely sure what it was – some hybrid between cake, sponge, brownie, fudge and warm chocolate – but it was definitely good. The consistency was wonderfully smooth and light but the hit of richness felt like pure chocolatey goodness and its soft creaminess contrasted well with the crunch of the tuile biscuits. The raspberry sauce was a little too tart for me but the waiter did offer to leave it on the side rather than pouring it over, so it’s my own fault (tbf, it did look prettier)!
A few hints for any prospective diners – the Hollywood Road address may fool you into getting off at Central MTR but it’s actually way closer to Sheung Wan (albeit uphill – work up that appetite!) and pretty easy to find as it’s just a stone’s throw along from Man Mo Temple (even if you have no idea what it looks like beforehand, you really can’t miss it). I also noticed an early-bird dinner offer, which looked amazing value, but even so, try and get there earlier if you want a quieter dinner as it clearly attracts a lot of custom from folk in Central getting straight off work.
I’m practically chomping at the bit to visit again, in case this review leaves you in any doubt. Don’t believe everything you read in the papers but do believe all the good stuff you’ve heard about The Press Room – it offers a quality dining experience. And the FRITES!!! aren’t bad either.
The Press Room, 108 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong, 2525 3444