13 August, 2019
Eat & Drink

Louise: Unpretentious French Fine Dining By Acclaimed Chef Julien Royer

13 August, 2019

Opened in partnership between JIA Group and acclaimed French chef, Julien Royer, Louise serves high-quality French classics, without any pomp.

District: Central, Hong Kong
Cuisine: French
How much: Two-course lunch priced at $398; three-course lunch at $478; a la carte appetisers range between $258 and $268 ($458 for truffle pasta); main courses between $398 and $458; sharing mains between $898 and $1,088; desserts between $118 and $148 ($358 for artisan cheese selection)
Must order: Roasted Hong Kong Yellow Chicken; “Mama Royer” yogurt cake with ice cream and confit lemon
The best for: Long lazy lunches or intimate dinners in the upstairs dining room; after work drinks in the downstairs parlour

Open only since June of this year, Louise is the latest Hong Kong restaurant from JIA Group (of Duddell’s, Chachawan and 208 – to name a few). A partnership between the group and acclaimed French chef, Julien Royer, Louise takes inspiration from the chef’s upbringing in the French countryside. Talking of the opening, Royer – whose two Michelin-star Singapore restaurant, Odette, claimed the number one position at the “Asia’s 50 Best” awards earlier this year – states that “Louise allows me to really go back to my roots, and rediscover the heritage recipes that I grew up with”. With a menu filled with classic dishes including sautéed frogs legs, whole roasted chicken and mille-feuille, he achieves just that.

louise dining room

Those who have visited the space in the grounds of PMQ will recognise it as previously homing the popular Aberdeen Street Social. However, since being totally revamped by internationally-acclaimed designer André Fu, the restaurant both in and out is almost unrecognisable.

Split over two levels, and created to feel like a lavish colonial house, the ground floor features The Parlour, while upstairs is the Dining Room. The colour palette of pale pink and leafy green is sure to be a hit with the Insta savvy, but the bar area proves to offer both style and substance. Serving an extensive wine and cocktail menu, along with comforting and more-ish bites (including a selection of cold cuts and French cheeses, along with the must-try “Le Croque Louise”). Take a trip up the tropical wallpaper-lined staircase and you will find the main restaurant. Pleasingly decked out in tones of ivory, the bright and airy dining space lends itself perfectly to both long, lazy lunches and intimate dinners. The rattan chairs and plush banquette seating only further aid both the aesthetics and comfort of the room.

louise bar

louise hk bar

Gorgeous interiors aside, what’s really important here is the food. Although the price-point still definitely fits with more special occasion dining, the relaxed vibe at Louise is far from pretentious. Visions of white tablecloths and snooty waiters are banished here, with the convivial style of dining offering a welcome respite to Hong Kong’s saturated fine dining restaurant scene. The menu is full of both nostalgia and heart, just as Royer set out to achieve. And although some dishes may run a tad pricey, many ingredients are sourced from Europe, ensuring the highest quality.

louise tomato tart

To kick off our meal, we started with Heirloom Tomato Tart with Luigi Guffanti Burrata and Basil Sorbet ($258). Along with Sautéed Hong Kong Frogs Legs ($268); and Angel Hair Pasta with Kristal Caviar, black Truffle and Kombu ($458). The frog legs were perfectly trimmed lollipops of tender meat, accompanied by punchy garlic and parsley purées. The angel hair pasta was surprisingly light. Served cold, the pasta was delicately dressed in truffle oil before being liberally adorned with a helping of salty caviar. However, for a perfect summer’s day starter, you can’t go wrong with the Heirloom Tomato Tart. Fresh tomatoes have been flown in from France to give the flavour, texture and sweetness that only comes from a perfectly ripe tomato. Coupled with both the burrata and basil sorbet, the dish was altogether creamy, refreshing and undoubtedly satisfying.

louise truffle pasta

Any diners that have done their research will have found out that the star of the menu is the Roasted Hong Kong Yellow Chicken ($898). Served whole, it is accompanied by a simple green salad, along with Niigata rice “en cocotte”. Cooked in stock and finished with spring onions, fresh truffle shavings and crisp chicken skin, the famed Japanese rice was a standout for us. Coupled with the moist and juicy chicken, it was a winner. The price tag may be steep, but the dish will comfortably serve four. Plus, any leftovers can be wrapped up to enjoy at home (including the bones to make what would surely be a top-notch stock!). Our only qualm was that the skin on the meat could have been a little more crisp. But when doused in the rich jus, any reservations that we had were forgotten.

louise roast chicken

Marrying the traditional French roast chicken with the locally-sourced Hong Kong yellow variety made for our kind of fusion food. Bells and whistles are left at the door, with quality produce and expert cooking techniques left to do the talking.

We were tempted by the Wagyu beef cheek, braised in red wine, along the tempting side of La Truffade ($158), but we had to save room for the trio of desserts on offer. And in true French fashion, the patisserie at Louise did not disappoint.

louise desserts

Whether you’re after a nostalgic cake, a classic Mille-feuille, or a plate of chocolate heaven, you can find it here. The “Mama Royer” yogurt cake ($118) was satisfyingly tangy and light, with a sweetness and zest coming from the confit lemon. And though we often find that allusively-named desserts can fall short on execution, Royer’s Textures of Chocolate ($148) blew us away. Made up of bitter chocolate ice cream, a nutty praline mouse, crisp chocolate wafers and other chocolate laden delights, it’s a must try for chocolate lovers. Those looking for a traditional end to their French extravaganza at Louise need look no further than Madagascar vanilla mille-feuille with raspberry sorbet ($128). Shatteringly crisp pastry was coupled with beautifully fragrant vanilla cream and sharp raspberry sorbet to make for a showstopper pud.

Our verdict: Louise does exactly what it sets out to do. Offering Hong Kong diners a fresh take on French classics. While the prices are not quite as accessible as one would hope, the resulting dishes are worth the extra dollars. If you’re not looking for a full meal, you can always experience the charm of Louise at the downstairs Parlour. The perfect spot for evening drinks. Wines by the glass start at just $80, and we can’t wait to go back.

Louise is open daily now. Dining Room – Lunch; 12pm to 3 pm (last orders at 2.30pm); Dinner; 6pm to 11pm (last orders at 10.30pm), reservations recommended. The Parlour – 12pm to 11pm (last orders at 10.30 pm), no reservations.

Louise, 35 Aberdeen Street, Central, Hong Kong, www.louise.hk

Featured image courtesy of Annie Simpson, images 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 courtesy of Louise, images 6 and 7 courtesy of Annie Simpson.

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