We may seem smug, us village vibe, semi-suburban Happy Valley-ites, watching the sun set from the racecourse, frequenting our favourite village shops and enjoying the relative tranquil bubble we live in. But there is a secret we tend not to admit, a shockingly limited range of good local dining options. So, you can imagine the excitement when Jules Bistro opened last month. A small, unassuming spot, stepping inside nonetheless instantly transports you to an authentic Parisian bistro. A deli counter and open kitchen infuse the space with the scent of slow cooking meats, burgundy walls and French touches immerse you in a Francophile’s heaven.Run by a true French chef, Laurent Brouard (who used to run Chez Patrick’s delicious catering arm), this is a unique restaurant serving authentic French food – by the French and for the French. Attention to detail shines through in various respects, from the cast iron dishes the food is served in to the empowering wooden handled knives engraved with the restaurant’s name.
Laurent proudly buys most of his wine through a French importer and we sipped on a bottle of Bordeaux that was perfectly rustic and quaffable, made all the more palatable by its reasonable price ($310 – ignoring the normal price hike applied to French wines in HK). Numerous diners around us treated themselves to champagne…well, when in France… almost…
Laurent himself provides a vibrant host, jovially popping out the kitchen to check in on diners, many of whom, despite the restaurant’s tender age, seem to have quickly become regulars. Table service showed its youth with the more experienced waiter having to guide the lesser so, but not in a way that impacted our experience at all and I imagine this will quickly resolve itself.
First, a warning; this is not a place for vegetarians. Sure, with advance notice Laurent can rustle up an option, but be warned, the menu itself is pure meat. We skipped on the sharing starters, which are fantastically priced and ranged from cold cuts to pates and terrines, but they looked popular and would have been the perfect accompaniment to the basket of baguette and oh-so-delicious butter.
For my starter I sampled the duck and foie gras salad. At $158 it was a little on the pricey side, but it was nonetheless a generous portion. The duck was perfectly smoked and fatty, but I didn’t feel that it paired particularly naturally with the foie gras which was a little on the dry side. Putting my ordering choice to shame, my dining partner wolfed down his French onion soup (a steal at $78); declaring it delightful rich, sweet and perhaps the best French onion soup he had ever slurped.
He lucked out on the entrees; again, sticking with the main menu, his sausages and mash came doused in gravy and reinforced the local pricing of Jules, coming in at only $158. His plate was duly scraped clean. I decided to sample a special on the daily blackboard of pork cassoulet with beans. This also came with a sausage and was a hearty portion that could in truth have served two, which suited its price tag of $228. It was nice and cosy, but lacked sufficient flavouring to make it utterly delectable.
Sharing dessert proved problematic as the crème brulee was so perfectly sweet and crispy and had just the right ratio of crème to crisp caramelised layer on top that we were battling spoons to get to the last mouthful. We didn’t sample the mouth watering range of cheeses on offer, but are resolved to rectify that soon when they introduce their new cheese fondue menu item… perfect winter sustenance.
Jules is a welcome, homely and refreshing addition to the Happy Valley scene and will no doubt create many loyal diners out of Valley residents. Whether it’s a destination restaurant for those living further afield to head to is harder to deem at this early point in its launch. Bistros are meant to be for locals though, familiar and comforting places to chow down on traditional French food, churning through bottles of red wine amongst close friends. And Jules serves that purpose perfectly – but I think on future visits I might stick more with their tried and tested French classics which not only provided the biggest taste hits of the evening, but were also more affordably priced. Even still, despite my expensive meanderings from the old faithfuls, we left content, intent to return and happy that our three courses and bottle of wine cost us only $1,000. Happy Valley’s new local favourite has arrived.