Fairly self-explanatory – my five favourite desserts in Hong Kong from 2018. As ever, better late than never… let’s say I was aiming for Chinese New Year instead, shall we?
Basically anything, Bakehouse
If you have even the mildest of passing interests in baked goods, Bakehouse is basically the most important opening in Hong Kong in the past decade (yes, nothing like a grand overblown statement to kick things off). Ever since bona fide pastry genius Gregoire Michaud left his position of Executive Pastry Chef at Four Seasons Hong Kong far too many years ago, carb addicts have been waited with baited hungry breath for him to open up his own bakery shop.
Finally, the clouds parted, the angels sang and the dessert gods rained sugar and butter from the sky as Bakehouse – Gregoire’s lovely bakery-café in Wan Chai – opened early last year. In all honesty, I could select anything from here as one of my 2018 favourites, but you’re getting their divine sourdough egg tarts because that’s what I happen to have a photo of – gorgeous golden eggy custard with the sexiest of glossy wobbles, encased in a flaky shell that has just the right amount of bite. But I also love their pain au chocolats, their strawberry croissants, their chocolate tarts, their cruffins, their doughnuts, their Danish pastries, their cookies… you get the picture.
Bakehouse, 14 Tai Wong Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Arbor was probably my favourite new restaurant of 2018, and part of that was because of how exquisite their desserts are. Their chef Eric Räty is sickeningly talented and is that rare unicorn in the world of fine dining – a head chef who pulls double duty as pastry chef, and is seemingly equally brilliant at that.
I love his tofu dessert, a wonderfully creative and refined play on traditional Chinese flavours – soy milk ice cream, thin sheets of yuba bean curd skin, salted egg yolk crumble and black beans glazed in Kowloon Soy sauce. However, just for the sheer, pure beauty of their simplicity, I have to give my vote to Eric’s madeleines. Fresh out the oven, slight crunch on the outside, invitingly warm and soft within, with the merest delicate twist of citrus to lift up all that buttery goodness. Remember to save room for these at the end of the meal, or repent at leisure.
Arbor, 25/F, H Queen’s, 80 Queen’s Road Central, Hong Kong, +852 3185 8388
Egg tart, Nobu
For the past few years now, Hong Kong Tatler Dining has been running events featuring culinary crossovers between some of the city’s best chefs, celebrating local cuisine. The first year was based around dim sum and this year, the theme was “Hong Kong Memories”, which is where the slam-dunk of this earth-shatteringly perfect egg tart comes in.
Created by Joanna Yuen, the pastry chef at Nobu in the InterContinental Hong Kong, words simply don’t do this beauty justice. The pastry was SO short, SO buttery, SO delicate (I’m still in mourning for the number that got accidentally crushed by people who underestimated their fragility); the gloriously indulgent Parmesan egg custard filling held together long enough to look enticingly stunning before spilling into warm gooey molten indulgence once bitten; the single flake of white truffle, for once not superfluously tacked on for Instagram fame, but there to actually enhance those beauteous rich flavours even more. I lost count of how many of these I swooped up on the night, and I have absolutely no shame that I may have gipped others out of their share – being a greedy, grabby cow was never more justified. By the way, I have no idea if Joanna is currently serving these at Nobu… but now’s the time to start the campaign if she isn’t!
Nobu, 2/F, InterContinental Hong Kong, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, +852 2313 2323
Pain perdu façon “Cyrus”, La Petite Maison
I’m a sucker for a good French toast, and La Petite Maison’s is one of the best I’ve had in recent memory – especially fitting as the French toast that made last year’s dessert rundown no longer exists in Hong Kong, as Terroir Parisien closed down this year.
Anyway, back to La Petite Maison’s rendition of this French classic, which is every bit as spectacularly indulgent as you could hope for. A seriously sexy golden brick of brioche, a come-hither crunchy caramelisation that yields an oh-so-satisfying crack, a sinfully pillowy soft interior that gently oozes milk when pressed, and a scoop of spiced ice cream on the side for balance, contrast and all-round happiness. This is a warm generous hug of a dessert, and was the undoubted highlight of my meal at LPM. (Note: the apple tart and chocolate mousse are also well worth your time and in those circumstances, who gives a fig if it’s socially acceptable to have an entire meal consisting solely of desserts?)
La Petite Maison, H Queen’s, 23-29 Stanley Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2887 1113
Cardamom Portuguese egg tart, John Anthony
OK, I’m aware this list has taken on a weirdly egg focused leaning this year, but screw variety, because these egg tarts were also awesome. John Anthony is Maximal Concepts’ latest venture, a modern Chinese that’s like the funky younger sister of Mott 32, with utterly gorgeous interiors that are somehow more Wes Anderson than an actual Wes Anderson film.
Just when I thought I had reached peak egg tart with this list, along came these bad boys, offering an inspired fresh take on the Portuguese-style pastel de nata. The hit of cardamom is truly clever stuff – inviting, fragrant, elegant – and lifts these well beyond your usual dim sum fare. Fresh out the oven in all their wobbly wonder, they’re simply perfect with a cup of tea. Yay for yum cha portions of three per order. (Yes, I know there are four in my picture, there were four of us there that day, OK!)
John Anthony, Shop B01-B10, Basement One, Lee Garden Three, 1 Sunning Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, +852 3105 3668
Everything Nicolas Lambert ever made, Caprice
I didn’t feel it was fair to taunt you by putting desserts you could no longer have in Hong Kong on here, but it didn’t feel right doing my annual round-up without mentioning for one last time all-time ultimate dessert bae Nicolas Lambert, the former pastry chef at Caprice in Four Seasons Hong Kong and stalwart of my dessert lists since his arrival here.
Sadly for us Hong Kongers, Nicolas departed to pastures new this year (hands up who fancies a trip to Four Seasons St. Petersburg??), but his desserts still remain the most exquisite, delicious, incredible, delectable creations I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. We did pay him one last visit this year, and this “Three Chocolates” dessert was my highlight. The intricacy! The delicacy! The textures! The flavours! The number of exclamation marks I’m using to try and make my point! Simply sublime. Now allow me to cry into the pixels on my screen that I’ll probably never get to taste it again…
Caprice, 6/F, Four Seasons Hong Kong, 8 Finance Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 3196 8860
Other honorable mentions: the mille-feuille at Epure, the salted egg yolk dacquoise by Bibo’s Nicholas Chew at Tatler’s Dim Sum Duets, the mille-feuille at Belon, the egg tarts (yes more!) at Dragon Tann