Guest Blogger Rach of Through the Looking Glass shares with us one of her favourite places for a bit of comfort food in Central…
Concept Creations is one of my favourite restaurant groups in Hong Kong. I’ve already banged on about how great Tapeo is here (and I was a big fan of their homely little Italian in Soho, Mrs Jones, that they sadly decided to shut down last year) so now it’s the turn of their other restaurant, Frites. Frites has bagged a prime location in Central and unlike many restaurants in the area, its premises are larger than a postage stamp. With a lofty but relaxed ambience, it’s frankly nice to enjoy some high ceilings in this city for a change!
There’s a distinctly Bavarian feel to both the place and the menu – think lederhosen, bratwurst and beer hall and you’re not far off. Sturdy wood furniture, long wooden tables, dark green leather, chequered floors and, most importantly, a very big bar! But the word Frites isn’t German, I hear you cry! So where’s the common ground between French for chips and Bavarian architecture? Why, Belgium, of course.
Having been to Belgium, I can safely say the only thing remotely enjoyable about the place was the food. Never mind Belgian chocolate, it’s all about moules frites, best enjoyed with a pale pint by your side. Almost every little local eaterie worth its salt serves the stuff so unsurprisingly, it’s Frites’ signature dish.
We opted for a kilo of the most traditional of the six flavours on offer, the Moules Mariniere (somehow, I doubt Belgians are chowing down on Thai Curry steamed mussels just yet), which clocks in at a pricey $310. Served with a side of frites and mayo, plus a slab of bread, it’s just about enough for a meal for two. Dished up in a steaming pot, the mussels were plump, tender and infused with flavour. The Mariniere broth, made from white wine, celery, garlic and mixed herbs, was a little too watery for my liking, but the delicate balance of flavours was spot-on.
The fries were good but unexceptional, though they win marks for being obviously fresh, piping hot and nicely-seasoned. They come with mayonnaise, the most beloved of all condiments in Belgium and France. Just one slice of bread is a little stingy though, non? Everyone knows practically the best part of a mussel pot is mopping up the excess juices so only one slice for a whole kilogram was a little disappointing.
Where Frites really comes into its own is with its beer selection – they have more beers than they do dishes! With a wide variety of Belgian beers both bottled and on draught that are far from your typical run-of-the-mill HK bar fare, it’s a booze aficionado’s paradise. It’s also the rationale behind Frites’ monk mascot (Belgium is famous for beer produced in monasteries) and there’s even a ‘Frites Prayer’ extolling the delights of booze, with riffs on the Lord’s Prayer that would doubtless have a vicar’s wife reaching for the smelling salts.
We went for a Leffe Blonde Draught ($55 for 330ml) – check out the head on that! What I know about beer you could write on a Borrowers’ Post-It note but I do know that this beer was delicious. Light, sweet, almost fruity and not wincingly dry, it was the perfect accompaniment.
With sunlight streaming through the massive windows, a huge pot of steaming mussels to pick over and a pint of Belgium’s finest to wash it all down, Frites is the perfect place to enjoy a leisurely lunch on a lazy Sunday. Or brunch. Or dinner. Or tea…
Frites Belgium on Tap Shop 1 & 2, G/F & 1/F, Queen’s Place, 74 Queen’s Rd C, Central
2179 5179 conceptcreations.hk/index.php/frites-central
Frites Quarry Bay G/F, Oxford House, Taikoo Place, 979 King’s Rd, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong
2250 5188 conceptcreations.hk/frites/frites-quarry-bay/