As Audrey Hepburn so succinctly put it, “Paris is always a good idea”.
But, when you live in Hong Kong, a trip to the City of Lights involves packing your best stripy jumper and beret in a suitcase, boarding a plane and spending twelve hours cruising through the clouds. If only there was a Eurostar that you could board at the bottom of the IFC which would whizz you to the base of the Eiffel Tower in a couple of hours! That may sound like crazy talk, but there’s a brand new spot on Hollywood Road which boasts that it can not only transport you to Paris in a matter of seconds but to Provence, Corsica, Burgundy and Auvergne too…
As you arrive at La Grande Bouffe – Central’s brand new French bistro on the block – you’re asked to choose which of the five regions you’d like to eat in. Go for Paris and you’ll be shown to the back of the restaurant where the walls are painted Metro green and hung with vintage French posters. Pick Auvergne and you’ll be seated in the blue section of the room beneath a huge cut-out of a cow which moos the day’s specials on big speech bubble shaped blackboards. Feeling in need of a little sunshine, we opted for Provence and a table nestled in a bright yellow corner right next to a plaque of a rollerblading bikini-clad Pastis girl and opposite a big screen showing black and white French films.
We started with a couple of glasses of red and nibbled on peppery Corsican charcuterie and a selection of cheeses while Stephanie, the super friendly co-owner, talked us through the short but perfectly formed menu. La Grande Bouffe has focused on putting together a selection of traditional French favourites with an emphasis on quality and great ingredients. The French chef whips up an array of deliciousness from simple salads and steaks, to homey casseroles dispatched from the open kitchen in miniature le Creuset pots.
Appetites well and truly whetted, we began our Grande Bouffe by ordering two starters to share – the foie gras terrine and the escargot. The snails were served shelled in a generous pool of garlicky, pesto sauce that was so good we mopped up every last drop with hunks of French baguette.
The terrine was a thing of beauty – the real Olivier Martinez of our meal… Rich, creamy and shot through with layers of dried apricots and dates! We greedily heaped it onto an extra basket’s worth of French baguette that magically appeared without us needing to ask.
Next up, our main courses – the steak and the seabass. The rib-eye steak was cooked to sigh-inducing perfection, served with a side of green salad and home-made French fries. It was devoured in moments!
The seabass came perched atop a bed of carrot puree with potatoes, celery leaves and saffron beurre blanc. It was light and summery – if I closed my eyes I could almost imagine I was eating my supper under an olive tree somewhere on the French Riviera.
By now it was clear that this was an énorme feast, and once we’d glimpsed the dessert menu, we knew it was only getting bigger! We ordered not only the crème brulee, but also a raspberry Napoleon. Plunging through the crisp top of the crème brulee to the silky, vanilla seed-speckled custard beneath, we thought the meal had reached it’s pinnacle only to be presented with our second dessert.
Layer upon layer of crème anglais, fresh raspberry coulis and puff pastry – this mille feuille certainly had no need to have a Napoleon complex… heaven on a plate.
La Grande Bouffe may not be able to transport you to the banks of the Seine or the base of the Eiffel Tower, but who needs a grey river and a thousand feet of iron lattice-work, when just a few metres from the escalator you can stuff yourself with foie gras, French fries and raspberry Napoleon? If Audrey was to sum up she’d probably go with – “La Grand Bouffe is always a good idea”…
La Grande Bouffe G/F, 66 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong
2324 1408 www.facebook.com/…
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