And so, my blog sputters into life once more, with the whoosh of the sugar rush that comes from rounding up my five favourite desserts in Hong Kong from 2019.
Whilst it’s been a tough year for Hong Kong – for reasons that I’m sure you’re all aware of and that people far more articulate and knowledgeable than me can explain – that has meant that the joy I’ve found in these brief moments of bliss has been worth savouring all the more.
Lemon posset, Cornerstone
People should be writing love songs about the lemon posset at Cornerstone – and let’s face it, desserts have definitely brought me much more joy over the years than the majority of my relationships!
Cornerstone is the latest project from Shane Osborn, the chef behind my favourite restaurant in Hong Kong, and whose genius the world now knows thanks to a stint on Netflix show The Final Table. The vibe here is more casual, but the focus on fantastic seasonal ingredients treated with respect remains – and this lemon posset is divine proof that desserts don’t need to be showered with unnecessary bells and whistles to create something truly incredible.
The texture was so smooth, so light, so creamy – spun by angels, fairies and every vaguely magical being you can think of. The taste – pure fresh lemon, with that shivery pleasurable tartness bursting through like an exhilarating ray of sunshine into the darkest of shadows. A topping of strawberries, mint and a crunchy meringue crisp – the perfect foils to this bright, vibrant delight. Practically the only reason to look forward to Hong Kong’s meltingly hot and humid summers is the chance to eat this again… and again… and again.
Cornerstone, 49 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong, +852 6809 9771
Apple tart, Roganic
Roganic is probably my favourite new restaurant of the year – again, it’s all about fantastic seasonal ingredients treated with respect and bursting with flavours (shameless plug: I wrote the review and best service write-ups for Hong Kong Tatler’s Best Restaurant Guide) – and in the nine months or so since it opened, its triumphant apple tart has already become something of a legend in Hong Kong.
I mean… just look at it. Doesn’t it just look utterly, wonderfully, ridiculously perfect? Gossamer-thin ribbons of sunset-golden caramelised apple, curled onto an impossibly thin, delectably buttery pastry base. Thankfully, there’s no nonsense about deconstructing, reinventing or adding five million irrelevant foams or gelees or whatever the latest Masterchef buzzword might be. It’s the knowledge that bright flavours, quality ingredients and flawless technique speak for themselves. It’s simple, it’s classic, it’s downright delicious, and I could probably eat about twenty of them in one sitting.
Roganic, UG/F 08, Sino Plaza, 255 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, +852 2817 8383
Mille-feuille with salted caramel and caramelised pear, Louise
I really love my friends, and I love nothing more than eating with them. But I have to admit to feeling positively gleeful when my friend Charmaine announced that she had to leave our meal at Louise early and therefore couldn’t finish her dessert, so would I like to finish her leftovers? She’d not even finished her sentence before I was unashamedly hoovering up her plate… and that plate was a second helping of this truly top-notch mille-feuille.
Is there any sound more exquisite to dessert lovers than the snap, crackle and shatter of smashing your spoon into a perfectly-cooked mille-feuille? The one at Louise delivers all that onomatopoeia and then some, with layers of masterfully flaky pastry – golden-brown, beautifully caramelised, rich with butter but still ethereally light – sandwiching oh-so-lovely, cashmere-dreamy vanilla Chantilly cream.
However, what really swung this home run for me were its seasonal accompaniments – salted caramel ice cream, caramelised pear and a further drizzle of salted caramel on top for good measure. I know that the phrase “match made in heaven” is a bit of a cliché but guys… This. Is. It. The unbridled indulgence of that sticky-salty-sweet caramel really is the most wondrous of sparring partners for the soft mellow sweetness of a caramelised pear, let alone the rather fabulous mille-feuille itself. Now if only I could engineer a sure-fire way to get second helpings of every dessert that I loved…
Louise, PMQ, 35 Aberdeen Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2866 0300
Lots of things, Butterfly Patisserie
Think of this entry as the equivalent to a movie Best Ensemble Award, since I couldn’t possibly pick a favourite thing at Rosewood Hong Kong’s dessert paradise, Butterfly Patisserie. My memories of the afternoon I spent here are a blur of joy at the magical powers of sugar, butter and flour, and anger at being too full to eat more… yet still managing to shove in dozens of “one last bites” because everything I tried was so bloody delicious.
Let’s start with the White Cheese & Yuzu – so much better, lighter and lovelier than it sounds, and shouldn’t every cake from now on come with its own gem-studded mini pillow on top? Impossibly airy and delightfully fresh, thanks to that zesty yuzu, making all other cheesecakes seem positively pedestrian in comparison.
The Caramelised Chocolate Tart was a heady blend of salted caramel, caramelised chocolate cream and a feather-light sponge – basically all the ingredients needed to spark off all my synapses and send me hurtling to dessert nirvana. Rich and light and salty and sweet and creamy and silky and all the other best adjectives, all at once, and all pitched perfectly. And yes, I’ve already got a mille-feuille in this list, but the Tahitian Vanilla Mille-Feuille here was really quite wonderful as well. Adding another layer of vanilla cream on top? Genius! After all, more cream is so often the right answer. The best part? This is the mere tip of the iceberg of Butterfly Patisserie’s offerings, and I can’t wait to go stuff my face – ahem, I mean, sample in a very ladylike fashion – everything else they’ve got.
Butterfly Patisserie, Rosewood Hong Kong, Victoria Dockside, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, +852 3891 8732
Pandan ice cream, Nhau
Sometimes, all you want in life is a good ice cream – and Nhau’s rendition is a very good ice cream. On paper, ice cream sounds simple, but I’ve watched enough cooking reality shows (and hilarious Try Guys videos) to know that the path to a good ice cream lies littered with versions that are too icy/custardy/grainy/watery/gummy/not set/flavourless/insert whatever other ice cream complaint you’ve had here.
Nhau’s ice cream is excellent. Beautifully creamy and rich with genuine pandan flavour – that unmistakeable fresh but mellowed out green sweetness. The accompaniments – sticky rice honeycomb cakes, puffed rice and basil meringues – are thoughtfully done, adding clever Asian-inflected sprinklings with that all-important crunch. It’s essentially a more sophisticated ice cream sundae, one that’s grown up, gone to South East Asia and found itself in some eat, pray, love-style spiritual journey. It’s a wee bit pricey, but the portion is generous and good for sharing… that is, if you’re a more generous sort than me.
Nhau, 12 Circular Pathway, Central, Hong Kong, +852 9166 4409
2000 Feuilles, Pierre Hermé Lounge
Hang on, what’s this, a sixth entry? Well, Pierre Hermé Lounge is located in Macau, and the blog title does actually say “in Hong Kong”… So yes, it might be my blog, my rules, but I really can’t pretend Macau is part of Hong Kong, and this dessert really was very delicious, so here we are. And yes, these are the decisions that keep me awake at night.
2000 Feuilles is dessert as art; the theatre of smashing your way (with a Pierre Hermé branded hammer, naturally) through the most picture-perfect layer of caramelised puff pastry to discover a stunning symphony of flavours and textures beneath. And seriously, the level of caramelisation on that puff pastry was so fabulous, it makes you wonder why the other puff pastries you’ve been eating all your life have been wasting your time.
There’s hazelnut ice cream, hazelnut Chantilly cream, caramelised hazelnuts, chunks of flaky hazelnut praline, praline sauce… basically, a lot of hazelnuts, in every wondrous form you can imagine, like the multiple Eeveelutions in Pokémon. It all layers together so beautifully, so elegantly, so harmoniously, every bite bringing new riches. If you’re going to even try doing that whole deconstructed lark, this is the benchmark – flavours for days, a little bit of creativity and a whole lot of technique coming together to make something somehow more scrumptious than the sum of its parts.
Pierre Hermé Lounge, Lobby Level, Morpheus at City Of Dreams, Estrada do Istmo, Macau, +853 8868 3400