People in Hong Kong are, on the whole, a well-travelled bunch… But when it comes to being adventurous within HK itself, we only ever seem to venture within a one-mile radius of Central! Well I may have stumbled upon one of the best reasons to ever tempt you out of your comfort zone and over to the Southside – Spices restaurant at The Repulse Bay.
Considering how lovely HK evenings can be, I seem to spend far too many of them indoors or boxed in amongst hundreds of towering buildings, so it was immensely refreshing to find myself heading Southside for dinner one night instead! Every time I see the colonial grandeur that was once The Repulse Bay Hotel, a stalwart in Hong Kong’s colonial past, I am instantly transported back to a Hong Kong that I would love to have seen in its heyday. On taking our seats on Spices’ outdoor terrace just in time for the end of the sunset, we decided that the place is simply unrivalled in terms of serving up atmospheric dining amongst breathtaking sea views in the relative peace and quiet of Repulse Bay.
Spices serves up a range of Asian cuisines including Vietnamese, Thai, Indonesian and of course, Indian. The result is an impressive menu that contains a lot of your favourite Asian dishes but also some more original takes. Whilst we browsed the menu we sipped on a delicious seasonal cocktail that perfectly mixed rum, honey and fruit, and munched on expertly seasoned chapattis topped with finely chopped tomatoes and onions.
Being the gluttonous foodies that we are, we opted for a meal large enough to feed four and sampled most of the tasting platters – a great way to ensure you don’t miss out on any of your top dishes! First to arrive was the cold starter plate, which served up a variety of Asian cuisines that showcased Spices’ expertise across the board. Considering how comparatively cheap the food here is compared to its Central counterparts, the portions were extremely generous and most importantly, finger-lickingly delicious! The biggest hits were the two Vietnamese seafood salads. I adored the green mango in the prawn salad that gave a crunchy but not overly sweet contrast to the simple freshness of the prawn and perfectly countered the chilli kick; the addition of coriander gave an extra level of complexity and deliciousness to an often overlooked dish. The crab and pomelo salad followed a similar formula, using the bitterness of the pomelo to ensure the chilli didn’t wipe out your taste buds. I could have eaten these salads for both my starter and main and left the table completely satisfied! However, a lentil fritter (like a cold version of a deliciously Indian spiced and comforting daal, rolled up in a satisfying ball) came along and reminded me that Spices can make Indian food just as tasty. Unfortunately, our normal firm favourite, the Thai beef salad, slightly disappointed by being overcooked.
Of the hot starter selection, the satay avoided the trap of being dry and relying on sauce for flavour and was instead a juicy, well infused, succulent tender stick of meat that felt fresh and perfectly counterbalanced by the pre-applied satay sauce. The spring roll was equally as impressive, generously filled with a flavourful chicken centre encased in a gloriously crispy shell. The vegetable wonton was less inspiring but then came along the prawn, monkfish and scallop fish cake to demonstrate that Spices was capable of putting some modern twists on old dishes as the combination of fish was powerful, fresh, fishy and truly tasty!
Taking the opposite approach of a sorbet, our palette cleanser came in the form of an extremely spicy Tom Yum Goong prawn soup. The subtlety of the lemongrass, ginger and coriander was masterfully combined with a powerful punch of chilli at the end of every spoonful. My mouth was left tingling – definitely not a dish for the faint hearted!
For some reason Monday nights make me crave Indian food, so the beautifully served up red duck curry in a brass pot ticked all the boxes as our first main. Thick chunks of duck in a smooth and rich sauce offered the perfect antidote to my over-spiced mouth… Yet again, a shining example of Spices delivering the food you want to eat. The same was true of the perfectly cooked lamb and chicken that comprised two thirds of the tandoori plate. The meat was tender, the onions provided some subtle kick and the yoghurt sauce added a softness to the dish. Unfortunately, we were less impressed with the salmon constituent. The salmon, although cooked just right, was too sweet and light to carry the traditional tandoori flavour we were hoping for.
Feeling like we were having the most indulgent Monday evening ever, we ordered the dessert platter. My personal favourite was the sticky rice with mango which wasn’t sweet but had the most satisfying texture, but a close second was the coconut ice cream, delicately laced with some vanilla hints too. We weren’t the biggest fans of the jelly-like dessert offering but that is more personal taste, whilst an Asian take on a crème brulee missed the spot by being a bit too creamy under the caramelised topping.
Our cab ride home was the source of much post-meal analysis where we drew the following conclusions:
1. On a summer’s evening, Spices beats all the Central Asian restaurants hands down on location and setting.
2. The outdoor terrace, delicate music and exceptional service compound conclusion one.
3. Considering the amount of food we devoured, the fact that it only totalled $900 symbolises how reasonably priced Spices is.
4. They haven’t tried to reinvent the Asian food wheel, but have expertly created a menu that delivers all your favourites served up exactly as you want them to be.
5. The colonial history behind the building and restaurant lend an authenticity to this varied food offering.
6. We were now loyal Spices fans and will most likely found ourselves back here frequently throughout the summer!
SASSY GIVEAWAY: You could win a $1000 dining voucher for Spices in Repulse Bay! Simply enter our June giveaway here before 30 June, 2012.
Spices Restaurant G/F, The Arcade, 109 Repulse Bay Road, Repulse Bay
2292 2821 www.therepulsebay.com