Wan Chai is fast becoming a foodie’s paradise, with tasty little restaurants cropping up all over the place. One of the latest to join the throng is Tallore, which prides itself on being the first Belgian soup kitchen in Hong Kong.
Other than chocolate, waffles and moules frites, I must say I don’t know a lot about Belgian cuisine. Tallore’s owner, Stijn, who hails from Belgium, claims that soup kitchens are a common sight on the streets of Belgium, where customers can go to grab a quick, freshly made soup and a sandwich before heading back to work.
Much like many new restaurateurs in this city, Stijn worked in finance. Lamenting the lack of decent soups in Hong Kong – ones that didn’t contain loads of MSG and cream – and teamed with the fact that Stijn loved to cook at home anyway, he hatched a plan and opened Tallore (which fittingly translates to ‘soup bowl’) in June on Wan Chai’s Amoy Street.
If you’re able to ignore the antisocial drilling from the nearby construction site, Tallore oozes a cute, welcoming charm. Its design is simple and clean; with pretty china soup bowls (Tallores) on the wall and a few Tin Tin memorabilia. It is in fact designed by one of his friends in Belgium, and the graphics and packaging are done by Stijn’s family business back home, adding a personal touch and yet more charm to this sweet little place.
Although there are many salad restaurants that offer soups, Tallore wanted its focus to be the other way around. It is therefore a soup restaurant that also offers salads and sandwiches. There are always four soups on offer, which change daily. They are all made fresh in-house, including the stock, so there is no MSG, nothing artificial and not a drop of cream in sight.
On the day I visited, the choices were: roasted tomato and basil, beetroot and tomato, roasted pumpkin, and broccoli and mustard. Despite it being a hot summer’s day, the soups were so fresh and light, particularly the beetroot and tomato, which, although not something I would normally choose to order, had a lovely sweet and refreshing flavour. Each of the soups had a homemade quality to them that was both comforting and satisfying, served with sliced bread (as they do in Belgium, apparently) and a choice of toppings including croutons, grated cheese or meatballs, which is apparently also a Belgian touch.
The salads are also made fresh daily and can either be enjoyed on their own or as part of the ‘Souper Set’ with a regular bowl of soup. I tried the couscous with roasted veggies and pine nuts, as well as the green garden salad with marinated chicken. Although rather simple, the salads were lovely and light, allowing the fresh ingredients to shine.
Thinking it would be rude not to try one of the freshly made to order sandwiches, I also tried the Brie and prosciutto on honey grain baguette. I rarely order a sandwich out, partly because I don’t like eating so much bread and partly because they always seem to be made with far too much butter and/or mayonnaise. Thankfully, at Tallore the bread is only lightly brushed with olive oil so it doesn’t feel heavier than it needs to be. The bread was wonderfully soft and doughy, with a sweet crunch to it, whilst the fillings were tasty too.
At the moment there is no dessert at Tallore. Stijn did, however, give me a spoonful of speculoos spread – made with traditional Belgian biscuits – which he will apparently be using to make some kind of cake in the future… I hope it’s the near future!
Prices are more than reasonable, with soups between $38 and $58, sandwiches at $48, salads at $58 and the ‘Souper Set’ at $78. There’s nothing super fancy about Tallore, but it’s a lovely, humble place that serves clean, delicious flavours at honest prices. If I worked in Wan Chai I would find it hard to resist going to Tallore at least once a week for a bowl of hearty, healthy soup.
Tallore, Shop D, 7-17 Amoy Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, 2327 8630, www.facebook.com/TalloreSoups