The “Pearl Of Soho” returns with a brand new chef and location…
District: Soho, Hong Kong
Cuisine: Modern French fine dining
How much: Splurge – expect to pay around $2,500 per person, including drinks
Must order: Foie Gras Tartlet with Sauternes, Crêpes Soufflées with Caviar and Frisée Lettuce, Turbot with Beurre Cancalaise and Mikan Millefeuille.
The best for: Special occasions and elevated date nights
When it comes to must-try restaurants in Hong Kong, it’s fair to say we’re spoilt for choice. Yet out of the scores of award-winning eateries in town, one name consistently tops the bucket list of discerning culinary professionals and amateur foodies alike: BELON. In recent years, Black Sheep’s Neo-Parisian bistro has built a cult-like following for its dynamic take on French classics. Here, gourmands flocked for a taste of Chef Daniel Calvert’s amalgam of local ingredients with pared-back technique – a winning combo that ultimately earned the restaurant a Michelin Star for two consecutive years running. Now with a brand new location and chef to its name, the stage is set for evolution. Here’s your first look at the new era of BELON.
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Tucked between fellow Black Sheep cohorts Fukuro and Ho Lee Fook, BELON can be found on Lower Elgin Street. Unlike the original location which sat at street level, this iteration is hidden in plain sight atop a nondescript staircase, promising a welcome refuge from the Soho crowds.
In a departure from the warm, casual bistro aesthetic of its past, guests can expect a look and feel that’s more befitting of BELON’s fine dining pedigree. Conceptualised by internationally-acclaimed Joyce Wang Studio, the space is impressively dramatic, defined by shades of grey and deep cerulean blue, and punctuated with visually-powerful sculptural accents. And yet it all still feels appropriately intimate, made inviting by the addition of sumptuous curved banquettes and rich textural details. A backdrop of old-school moldings and plaster pays tribute to the restaurant’s original home; a subtle nod to the theme of progression as opposed to all-out metamorphosis. Make no mistake, this is simply a new chapter of BELON, not a change of story.
Sassy Tip: For the true superfan, ask for a seat at the Chef’s Counter, which sits right in the beating heart of the kitchen.
Taking charge of the food is Chef Matthew Kirkley, a well-known name in culinary circles, famed for his stints at two Michelin starred L20 in Chicago and three Michelin starred COI in San Francisco. Heavily-influenced by the chefs that shaped him – namely the likes of Frédy Girardet, Philippe Rochat and Benoît Violier – Chef Matthew looks to keep BELON unapologetically French, whilst still continuing his predecessor’s commitment to elevating the classics with contemporary flair.
A prime example of this lies in his signature Salade Gourmande ($528). First seen on the menu of the great Michel Guérard in the 70s, Chef Matthew’s interpretation builds on the original by layering black truffle and beef tongue with the foie gras, which is then interlaced with a delicate mix of salad leaves and julienned French green beans for a thoroughly modernised take on the plating.
One of the highlights of our meal were the Crêpes Soufflées with Caviar and Frisée Lettuce. New to the menu, its minimalist presentation belies the moreish delight of velvety turbot and butter mousse wrapped in a thin spinach crêpe. Light on the palette but comforting to the soul, the dish was perfectly balanced by the creamy caviar beurre blanc. We also loved the Foie Gras Tartlet with Sauternes ($188 for two), featuring a quenelle of smooth foie gras mousse nestled atop finely chopped Sauternes gelée in a shortcrust tartlet. An indulgent bite, made all the more satisfying thanks to its intricate polka-dot presentation.
Another newcomer that is quickly on its way to becoming one of BELON’s most recognisable dishes is the show-stopping Turbot with Beurre Cancalaise ($888). At its heart, it’s simply turbot poached in butter, though this description does not do justice to the delicate artistry of the colourful root vegetable “fish scales” (inspired by the creative finesse of Joël Robuchon), and the rich and tangy Buerre Cancalaise (a re-imagination of Phillipe Rochat’s whipped butter concoction).
For BELON stalwarts, Chef Matthew has kept a number of “from the archive” options on the menu, including the iconic Whole Roasted Three Yellow Chicken and Pigeon Pithivier with Carrot and Cabbage ($768); the latter of which has been stripped back to basics presentation-wise – all the better for drawing attention to the expertly-executed layers of tender medium rare pigeon breast, flavourful spinach and mushroom farce, and crisp, flaky crust.
Dessert-wise, an updated Ile Flottante ($188) with a caramel sauce core, pillowy Swiss meringue dome and meticulously fashioned multi-coloured almond tuile flowers is the one to order for maximum aesthetic enjoyment (we’ve heard it tastes just as good as it looks too). But it’s the beloved BELON Millefeuille ($288) which we’ll be going back for time and again, which Chef Matthew has made his own with the addition of citrus Mikan jam – a fantastic foil to the vanilla-speckled pastry cream and icing-sugar tinged pastry.
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Billed as one of the most anticipated new openings of the year, you can sense that there’s been anxiety on all fronts to get the re-opening of BELON just right. And on all fronts, we’d say the team have been successful in achieving that and more. Food-wise, each dish presented as a work of art – a testament to Chef Matthew’s masterful plate-work. But never was it a case of beauty with no substance, with the menu embodying a medley of complex flavours which sought to comfort as much as impress.
On that note, as impressive as everything was, nothing about the experience felt intimidating or pompish in the way that fine dining can sometimes be perceived. We’re sure that’s in no small part down to BELON veteran and wife of Chef Matthew, Lauren Kirkley, who runs the show front of house and engages a team that goes above and beyond to make your time at the restaurant memorable for all the right reasons.
Whether you’re planning for a special occasion or an extra-special date night, BELON is a fantastic option for those looking to enjoy a true culinary experience. That being said, rumour has it that the restaurant is booking up fast, so advanced planning is advised!
Image 3 courtesy of Jessica Ng for Sassy Media Group, all other images courtesy of BELON.