I love living in Asia and having the ability to travel to idyllic beaches for long weekends at any time of year. However, this does remind me how far away I am from Europe; living in England, I was lucky enough to be able to escape to Switzerland for a quick ski fix every couple of months. Nowadays, I feel light years away from the cosiness of a ski resort and its warm comforting Alpine food…. Yet The Peninsula’s Chesa might just be the next best thing.
Step into The Peninsula and you feel that long-forgotten elegance of colonial Hong Kong. Step into their Swiss restaurant Chesa and you’re not only stepping back in time, but also travelling 6,000 miles deep into the Alps!
Chesa, designed to look like a Swiss chalet complete with dark wood, dim lighting and Alpine paintings and knick-knacks, first opened in 1965 and it is clear that not a great deal has changed since then. So the décor was authentic, but how about the food? Would I be filled with the warm comforting mountain food I had so longed for? Or would it be a cringe-worthy Chinese imitation gone wrong? Think about it… it’s The Peninsula – what do you expect?!
We started with a crabmeat pancake with lobster-Armagnac cappuccino. Apparently this is one of the most popular dishes at Chesa and I can completely understand why; the flavours were so delicate and the texture so smooth, made even more so by the delicious lobster sauce that was creamy yet still light. It was a shame I had to share it – but I made sure I mopped up every trace of sauce with the dangerously more-ish pretztel-esque bread roll!
I couldn’t come to Chesa without eating my bodyweight in cheese, so we opted for the Fondue Montagnarde. Made with Emmental, Appenzeller and Gruyere, with the delicious addition of smoked mountain bacon, this fondue was indulgently rich, creamy and more than filled the gap I had created by my four consecutive daily classes of circuit25!
We held back from finishing the entire fondue in order to save space for the sliced veal with mushrooms in a light cream sauce. Again the cream was not too heavy (a blessing after the heavy fromage), and the veal was beautifully tender. A healthy serving of rösti was the perfect complement for this already incredible dish.
We also shared a boneless beef spare rib braised in beer with spätzli, partly because I was intrigued as to what the latter actually were! This very simple dish was wonderfully comforting; the beef so tender it barely needed a knife to cut it. It turns out spätzli are little dumplings that didn’t add a great deal of flavour but definitely made the dish more indulgent (just in case we hadn’t already reached our indulgence quota!) and even more of a comfort food dish.
To round the meal off, although we were tempted by the chocolate fondue, we listened to our almost-full-to-bursting tummies and opted instead for the Swiss chocolate mousse. Thankfully, after the outrageously rich other courses, this smooth chocolate mousse was pretty delicate and light, meaning it was near impossible to put my fork down!
Obviously prices are a little higher than you would expect to find in the Alps, but that’s to be expected when dining in such a prestigious hotel as The Peninsula. Chesa may be a million miles away from the real deal geographically, but experience and food-wise, it is a lot closer than you’d imagine.
Chesa 1/F, The Peninsula, 19-21 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
2696 6769 www.peninsula.com/Hong_Kong/en/Dining/default.aspx#/Hong_Kong/en/Dining/Chesa/Chesa
Check out more from Ale on her fab blog, The Dim Sum Diaries!