Kennedy Town (K-TWON) Sipping ’n Snacking Stroll
Flipping the ignition to prepare our journey to the City, we never could have guessed the nightmare that lay before us. Traffic was fine as we reached the City in approximately 30 minutes…life was good. Et voila, the carpark. We sat on a long, slow-moving line at the carpark for nearly 40 minutes! Hey, something is wrong!!!
Some statistics that may or may not make sense vis-a-vis our carpark travesty. Hong Kong’s public transportation system is the envy of the world. Between buses, taxis, trams, ferries, trains and subways, we often wonder why we have a car. For example, The MTR (subway or underground) records 5 million trips per weekday, which is more than half the population and nearly two times the working population. Despite such convenience, Hong Kong (as of May 2015 – Census and Statistics Department) is home to 504,798 licensed private cars. One car for every 15 people, which is half that of Singapore and one-third that of Taiwan.
Interesting? Yes. Helpful while waiting 40 minutes to park your car with a rumbling tummy and twindling patience!? Nah…public transport next time!!!
Never mind, we finally alighted from the carpark lift, walked across the overpass and hopped the tram, which is affectionately named by Hong Kong people as the “ding-ding” because of the sound of the bell. Adorable! Another twenty minutes from Central to Kennedy Town…even the “ding-ding” suffers from traffic a little bit…and we found ourselves at Praya Kennedy Town just alongside Belcher Bay Park.
Many moons ago, we lived in Kennedy Town. Well, a completely different version of Kennedy Town…now the district is sorta like an old lady who discovered the fountain of youth, a new party dress, different diet and enthusiastic fondness for alcohol…definitely not our thing, but we do recall when it was, well, more Hong Kong Chinese style peaceful…both interesting!
We strolled down Catchchick Street (where do they get these names!?), past Bresola and several other new, local-pretending-to-be-Western-looking restaurants, until making a right on Davis Street. Sadly, Bistro du Vin was closed (2:15pm – we guess they make enough money or is it a staffing issue?) so we meandered down to Bistronomique, which stays open all day to catch the late lunchers and early diners.
Shop 1, Ground floor, Grand Fortune Mansion, 1 Davis Street
Bistronomoque is a tiny, brightly decorated 24 table effort at casual French snacking. Service staff were friendly. Diners got a narrow few of the harbour. Seating was tighter than economy class on a budget airline. Menu came across as interesting, but the food was largely TGIF/Dan Ryans fare with a French twist. The wine list was designed for people seeking alcohol at reasonable prices rather than the discerning sipper of good QPR (Quality Price Ratio) wine. The owners were clever to retain a narrow outdoor section for smokers.
We munched on less than half the following:
Roasted Potatoes. Simple, good potatoes, roasted very nicely and, without question, the best dish of our visit. Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside.
Hokkaido Scallops with Spinach Gratin. Slightly cold (was that intentional?), under-cooked (we did not ask for sashimi) and over-salted spinach. We did not eat half. At least it was pretty.
Salt Cod Brandade (salt cod, potato puree and garlic served on toast). Pretty good flavour with pleasant texture and very good garlic flavour. A close second to the roasted potatoes.
We sipped, because we were thirsty, a glass of NV Chartogne-Taillet Sainte Anne and 2012 Borgogne Chardonnay Vielles Vignes Maison Roche de Bellene. Neither was memorable.
Barely satisfied – definitely no chance for a second visit – with our first sipping ’n snacking venue, we made our way up Cadogan Street to Collection de Vignobles. Sadly, this highly touted venue also chose to close in the afternoon (3pm), and we had to backtrack a few hundred feet to Butcher & Baker HK.
On Fat Building, 57-59 Cadogan Street
Butcher & Baker HK is an imposing, 180 seat, breezy, adult and family style eatery boasting a plethora of different foods (think Dan Ryans and TGIF meets Häagen-Dazs and a good, local bakery). We could see the market for what was on offer…but we definitely knew from the first bite of food that this would be our last visit. Oh, yes, if you are seeking something other than a milk shake, then check whether or not they have obtained their liquor license…when we visited, alas, they did not have it and we went dry. We were happy to see the new General Manager, who is a long-time friend accustomed to plying his trade in far more swanky venues. Perhaps a sign of the times as his prior experience definitely does not match with this cafe…well, he still needs to feed his family so a hearty congrats on the new gig! In any event, we munched on a little more than half of the following dishes that were served in Yank-Supersize portions:
Soft Shell Crab Sliders & Aioli on a Toasted Bun with a side of Apple Slaw. Boring! Nothing wrong with the crabs (heck, they are deep-fried) and the buns were pleasantly soft. The issue was flavour. The Aioli, which we barely noticed but we accepted the cook placed somewhere on the dish, was absent on our palates. Hey, c’mon, how ‘bout a dollop of Sriracha sauce of Ketchup? Anything…even a bit more or a bit tastier version of the Aioli!
Miso Cod Tacos Wrapped in Mexican Flour Tortilla. A little more interesting and flavourful – Miso was present and pleasant – but far from any reason to get off the couch for a visit
Old Fashioned Mac & Cheese. Sorry, folks, but when you cock up this “staple”, then you do not warrant a second visit. Almost soupy and lacking any flavour at all, we were pining for a serving of Kraft’s Instant Mac ’n Cheese to fulfil the comfort food feeling we had hoped would be satisfied. Major league failure!
Disappointed, we walked up to Forbes Street with good intentions of visiting Picnic on Forbes, the new French bistro of Chef Philippe Orrico. Alas, we erred by not checking opening hours as Monday turned out to be the staff’s day of rest. Hmmm…we guess they are making enough money Tuesday through Sunday…good for them!
42 Forbes street
In any event, we walked back down Forbes Street to Comptoir. An open-face, bar and French tapas venue, Comptoir boasts a fairly good wine list and intriguing selection of small bites. Clearly the winner of the afternoon!
We sipped glasses of 2014 Aussieres Blanc Chardonnay Domaine Barons de Rothschild (a respectable drop, nothing special, but reasonably priced and refreshing) and 2014 Domaine D’Elise Petit Chablis (crisp, light and easy to sip).
We snacked on the following:
Cheese Croquettes. Lightly battered and perfectly fried, a very pleasant dish. The addition of some French mustard for dipping enhanced the flavour. OkeyDokey!
Sautéed Prawns, Pastis, Garlic and Parsley. Good pieces of seafood, fair-to-middling flavour, well-cooked. Eh, we could do better at home, but not an unhappy moment.
Baked St. Marcelin Cheese. Good cheese, slightly baked? How could it be anything other than good? They got it right.
Ravioles de Royans, Creamy Tarragon Sauce. Yummy baby ravioles with a salaciously creamy sauce. Very good tapas!
Salmon Trout, Almond Crust & Mushroom Tartare. Tasty piece of fish over a bed of mushrooms. Very good, but again, an easy to prepare dish at home…why would we travel to Kennedy Town for such simplicity?
If you live in Kennedy Town or within an easy tram, bus, MTR or taxi ride, then “K-Town” is a Lan Kwai Fong-like destination with hip, easy to sample reasonably good venues. Please do not expect exceptional food. Comptoir was the best and we have no doubt Picnic on Forbes will be excellent. However, neither are seeking nor would it make sense given the audience, to offer a “fine dining” experience. Simple, reasonably priced food with pedestrian, yet cost-effective, wine and spirits in a lively, vibrant and no doubt fun for the 20s to 40s age group seeking to network, find that special someone (for the evening or forever) and have fun until the wee hours of the morning. Have fun kids…we will not be there to bother you!