There’s nothing I love more than a great lunch and a girly chat, so when our team was invited to try out The L. Plaza’s hottest new resto Social Place, I eagerly said yes. Marketed as a forward thinking Chinese joint, their team sets out to put a healthy, modern twist on beloved dim sum staples and dishes – risky business given the dim sum diehards here in the 852. You won’t find any MSG here; Social Place uses only the freshest ingredients and foregoes artery clogging oils in favour of rice bran oil, and I was immediately intrigued.
Just a hop, skip and a jump away from our office in Sheung Wan, we arrived at their restaurant in Central ready to chow down. I was immediately taken in by the beautiful, open space and East-meets-West interior; a gorgeous glass divider separated the lobby from the eating area, chefs were steaming away in their open kitchen and all eyes were immediately drawn to the converted ping pong dining table that dominated the floor (we were later told that sometimes when the lunch rush has died down, the staff resumes their hotly contested ping pong tournament).
At first, all of us panicked when our bowls were given to us, unsure of what to say to the staff. There were insects in our crockery. However after an experimental prod, we found they were actually just painted on – a witty detail that more or less sums up the Social Place’s quirky cool atmosphere.
We weren’t altogether too sure what to order as their dim sum style menu has an intimidating range of amazing dishes, but their absolutely wonderful staff were quick to whip up a selection of foodie favourites for us. We’d called ahead to let them know that one of our Sassy Girls Simran was vegetarian and they’d taken that all into account even before we’d arrived there, kindly drawing our attention to the meat-free munchies on the menu.
Everything came all at once, leaving us struggling to make room on our table for all the gorgeous dishes that came our way. Vegetarian parcels, truffle shiitake buns, drunken chicken, egg custard buns and more – we didn’t know where to begin! Between the four of us, the nine dishes were more than enough to satisfy us. With a slightly more refined taste than regular dim sum, you could taste the lightness and freshness with every bite. The lack of heavy and unhealthy additives was glaringly apparent but in the best, most flavoursome way, with sharing platters of 3-4 dumplings and modest dish sizes so you don’t feel so guilty indulging in a bit more than usual.
The presentation was fantastic as well, with chess piece stamped egg custard buns and truffle shiitake buns shaped and decorated to look just like mushrooms effortlessly stealing the show. Even though we were absolutely stuffed, we simply had to stick around for a cheeky bit of dessert and loved their contemporary spins on traditional puddings (well, most of them – I personally wouldn’t be running back for their chrysanthemum pudding any time soon).
Our favourites included the gorgeously creamy Dan Dan noodles, the savoury sweet egg custard dumplings and their decadent signature truffle shiitake buns, which we’d easily sneak back for during our lunch hour. Naturally with my sweet tooth, I found something to fall in love with – namely their red bean pudding (which tasted just like traditional hong dou bing – amazing!) and their ice cream ping pong ball, which was an amazing way to wrap up the meal.
I was initially worried that Social Place might try to be too ambitious and lose all sight of local tradition, however each dish is rooted in classics with tasty twists that delight and keep your tastebuds on their toes. With an incredibly affordable menu perfect for your next ladies lunch, their fresh menu – emphasis on the fresh – and gorgeous setting is a welcome addition to Central’s bustling restaurant scene. Who knows, they might even let you have a go on the ping pong table.
Social Place, 2/F, The L. Place, No. 139 Queen’s Road Central (next to The Centre), Central District, Hong Kong, 3568 9666, www.socialplace.hk