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Two peas in a pod? French vs Italian menus at Hullett House

They’re both gastronomic geniuses. They’ve both worked at Michelin starred London restaurant, Sketch, as well as an array of other top restaurants around the world. They’re both protégés of Chef Pierre Gagnaire. In fact we’d even go so far as to say that Chef Phillippe Orrico and Chef Anthony Garlando are two peas in a pod.

Well, maybe not quite – one says patata and the other says pomme de terre! But call the whole thing off (like the song)? Where’s the fun in that when we could pitch them against each other! Chef Phillippe Orrico cooking head-to-head against Chef Anthony Garlando, the French versus the Italians… This is one foodie battle we seriously suggest that you don’t miss out on!

The location for this supreme culinary clash is St. George at Hullett House – a fittingly dramatic backdrop for Franco-Italian warfare. With tapestry lined walls and glittering chandeliers, this elegant dining room is nestled at the mouth of a lantern-lit arched hallway, in the heart of one of Hong Kong’s most beautiful colonial buildings.

While the heat rises in the kitchen, you’re left with the tricky decision of which chef to back. Will you choose Gallic haute cuisine or will it be Mediterranean alta cucina? The menus use the same set of central ingredients but in very different ways; in a bid to preserve intra-country relations, we opted to mix and match dishes from the two. Would the French or the Italians triumph? All we knew was that the suspense was making us extremely hungry…

We started with the French amuse bouche, a lobster jelly topped egg custard with a gold leaf garnished slither of sea urchin. While the dish was a feast for the eyes, we were less taken with the flavour. Not being great sea urchin lovers, we found the crustacean combination too overpowering and the textures too dessert-like. The Italian amuse bouche combining sea urchin with melon, was reputedly much tastier. Round one to the Italians!

Deciding to give the French another go, we passed up the Italian eggplant and squab cannelloni, instead opting for the foie gras terrine with sesame seed fatty tuna. This time looks were not deceiving, the rich creamy foie gras was the perfect compliment to the butter-soft tuna, with the herring roe Chantilly lifting the dish to ambrosial heights. An unusual but winning combination – one all!

Feeling it was time to give the Italians a fair shot, we opted to have our oysters Italian style. While the French oyster soup poured from a silver teapot at the table looked delicious, we didn’t regret our choice. A soup couldn’t possibly compare to our three plump juicy smoked oysters, especially when paired with flecks of coppa ham and pecorino cheese with an exotic Oriental twist courtesy of a puff of lemongrass foam. A second point to the Italians!

Evidently on a winning streak, we went Italian again for our main course – roasted veal fillet with lardo di colonatta and a spinach and gorgonzola cream. From the second the plate was presented before us, a complete painterly masterpiece of a dish, we immediately sensed a French defeat. Despite attempts to savour every last morsel, we greedily devoured the meltingly tender cubes of veal in large gorgonzola and porcini laced mouthfuls. A total knockout – and yet another Italian win.

With just one course to go, a French defeat was inevitable but it was clear that the white flag would not be waved; the French were not willing to go down without a fight! Although the chocolately Italian Tiramisu fluttered its eyelashes at us, it was no match for the victorious French cheese selection. A slate board laden with cheeses ranging from a delicate creamy goats cheese to a jaw-achingly tangy Roquefort terrine studded with dried fruit and nuts made for a French win at the last gasp.

As coffee and petits fours were served and the final scores were tallied, we decided that while the Italians may have just pipped the French to the post, it was a very closely fought battle. In fact, given the abundance of fine French and Italian wines that we’d consumed (each painstakingly curated and perfectly paired with every course), it was probably safest to declare it a tie and set both chefs up for a rematch!

We’ll no doubt see you in St. George later this week. We’ll be the ones in the corner dutifully working our way through both full menus – we’re very fair judges and in international disputes of such gravity, it pays to be sure…

The Two Peas in a Pod menu runs until 13 October. Diners can choose either the French or Italian menu; both are priced at HK$988 per person (with an additional HK$888 if you opt for the wine pairing,) plus a 10% service charge. Reservations are required.

St. George Hullett House, G/F, Main Building, 1881 Heritage, 2A Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
3988 0220 hulletthouse.com

stgeorge@hulletthouse.com

Check out Natalie’s blog for all things food, fashion and fun, 3 Bad Mice.

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