When I think of fresh seafood in Hong Kong, my mind invariably turns to Chinese restaurants with giant fish-tanks filled with mind-boggling sea creatures all ready to make a break for freedom! However, the latest seafood restaurant on the block isn’t in Sai Kung, Aberdeen or Lamma but right in the thick of Soho – and with a distinctly French twist.
Le Port Parfume (French for “the fragrant harbour” – cute!) is the sister restaurant of Kennedy Town’s ever-popular Bistro du Vin; however, unlike Bistro du Vin with its evergreen menu of hearty French classics, Le Port Parfume’s dishes change with every new catch of the day! Quite frankly, this is how all the best seafood restaurants should be, and to find a Western eatery that so firmly emphasises serving what is freshly caught in and around Hong Kong waters (and never farmed or frozen either) is brilliant.
Le Port Parfume occupies a cosy spot in Kau U Fong just off Gough Street in Central, stuffed with cool maritime-themed paraphernalia and vintage French bric-a-brac. In fact, it’s perhaps a little too cosy (you might have to breathe in to squeeze into one of the tightly-packed tables) but the place teams with rustic Gallic charm.
We kicked off our meal with a wonderful baby squid omelette with chorizo – served hot (very hot – watch those hands!) in a skillet straight from the kitchen. It is, quite frankly, forever since I have had an omelette worth writing anything noteworthy about… but this was the one! I loved that it still had plenty of gorgeously gooey bits, whilst the thinly sliced chorizo added just the kick of spice and salt the dish needed.
Although I found the bamboo clams a la plancha a little gritty, the moules marinières were a pretty perfect execution of the French classic. Much preferable to the giant rubbery mussels at other joints, these tiny morsels were delightfully plump and juicy, whilst the moreish sauce just demands to be mopped up with a giant hunk of bread!
Things just kept getting better with the arrival of a tea-smoked pigeon (using tea from Nana Chan’s Teakha), presented theatrically under a glass dome. I’m not usually a fan of pigeon (too gamey, too bony) – but clearly, I’ve just been hanging out with the wrong type of bird! Le Port Parfume’s pigeon was just the right shade of pink, just the right amount of tender, and had just the right level of earthy smoky flavour. Add in some figs and you have all the ingredients for a fantastic bistro dish.
The star of the show, however, was a giant Josper-grilled wild sea bream, stuffed with lemon and garlic and served with baby potatoes, cherry tomatoes and homemade lemon butter sauce. If I die and somehow find my way to heaven, I am sure the rivers there will overflow with this drool-worthy lemon butter indulgence. I can’t even begin to describe how delicious it was and, added to perfectly-cooked veggies and light, fresh, meaty, fall-off-the-bone fish, I could not have asked for anything more. Other than remembering to take my own photo of it, of course!
I thought things had reached their pinnacle at Le Port Parfume… and then, desserts arrived. The crème caramel was good, the banana tarte tatin with ginger ice-cream was even better, and the floating islands topped the lot. Back to my foodie heaven where the rivers run with lemon butter – well, I’m pretty sure the clouds will be made of this feather-light, swooningly sweet meringue. Let’s not count the number of “last bites” I had of this!
The banana tarte tatin was a close second – I enjoyed the change from the usual apple version, plus the inspired pairing of homemade ginger ice cream set all that caramelised richness off neatly.
Overall, I enjoyed Le Port Parfume far more than I had been expecting. An average meal probably costs between $300-500 a head – certainly not cheap, but definitely not outrageous either given the quality of the seafood and the decent portion sizes. Although service was a little slow, I’d definitely recommend Le Port Parfume as a Central go-to for hearty, honest French bistro food, with its heart – and taste buds! – firmly in the right place.
Le Port Parfumé Shop C, 6-10 Kau U Fong, Central, Hong Kong
2824 3018 www.facebook.com/…