Kennedy Town has a new watering hole. Here’s what we thought of restaurant meets craft brew bar GRAIN…
District: Kennedy Town
Cuisine: Casual gastropub-inspired comfort eats
How much: “Meet Me In The Middle” – expect to pay around $300 to $500 per person, including drinks and dessert
Must order: Fried Pigeon, Roasted Cauliflower, Carbonara Pinsa Pizza, Broken Tiramisu, Millionaire Tart
The best for: Casual hangouts with friends
As a born and bred Brit, I have a lot of appreciation for a good old fashioned pub. Convivial watering holes, where comfort eats meet strong brews (or in my case, a generous glass of white), are what lazy weekends and hump day evenings were made for. As much as I love Hong Kong’s plethora of rooftop bars or hidden speakeasies, nothing quite beats the cosy informality that comes with British pub culture. Enter Kennedy Town’s newest acquisition, GRAIN.
Brought to us by leading craft brewers Gweilo and dining group Woolly Pig (the team behind Big Sur, Hue and Bathers), the restaurant and “Brewlab” is not exactly a pub per se (it has a little more finesse than the local establishments back home!). Yet GRAIN draws on the very same relaxed, unpretentious nature that has made the likes of The Globe, McSorley’s and Delaney’s so popular. Rest assured, it takes its beer seriously, boasting a fully functioning on-site brewery and over 24 brews on tap – ideal for washing down the menu of gastropub delights…
Read more: New Restaurants In Hong Kong
GRAIN has taken over the space that was previously home to microbrewery and pub, Little Creatures, and can be found along the Kennedy Town waterfront. It’s about a five-minute walk from the MTR station, or there’s a taxi rank conveniently situated around the corner if you’ve had one drink too many!
Read more: Your Neighbourhood Guide To Kennedy Town
Unusually for Hong Kong, GRAIN occupies a big space, with room for up to 150 guests. Design-wise, I loved the high-ceilinged interiors, complete with playful neon signs and industrial accents. It felt bright, breezy and spacious, with room for each table to enjoy ample personal space (social distancing, check!). At the same time, it never felt overwhelmingly large, mostly thanks to the cosy banquette seating which afforded a sense of intimacy amongst myself and my fellow dining group. It’s the kind of place where you’ll want to while away the whole night – or at least until restrictions allow…
GRAIN’s culinary team is led by Head Chef Matthew Ziemski, who cut his teeth working in the kitchens of some of the UK’s top luxury hotels and gastropubs, including Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Princess of Shoreditch and Smokehouse Islington. Here, the focus is on comfort eats with big flavours. You’ll find that the menu spotlights gastropub classics with a twist, with some dishes showcasing a distinctly Asian influence, and others still spotlighting an infusion of beer, or ingredients integral to the brewing process.
A perfect example of this is the Fried Pigeon ($120). The dish is inspired by the famous Hong Kong style grilled pigeon, and features the bird poached with beer, soy sauce and mixed spices. The gaminess of the meat was nicely complemented by the five-spice dipping salt, and I really enjoyed the crispiness of the skin.
I couldn’t stop eating the Roasted Cauliflower ($70) – drizzled in a creamy lemon and miso sauce, it reminded me of Cauliflower Cheese, one of my ultimate comfort dishes. Speaking of cheese, the Buffalo Halloumi ($80) makes for a great sharing starter – think gooey baked halloumi fingers coated with a house-made breadcrumb and ground malt, served with a Mexican dried chilli and lager beer hot sauce, and a creamy buttermilk dressing.
Another favourite was the Carbonara Pinsa Pizza ($190). I’ll be honest, I’m generally not too fussy with my pizza, and one particular pie doesn’t usually stand out to me over another unless it’s especially bad. But this one impressed me with its dough. Made with a mix of wheat flour, soy flour and rice flour, it featured a crisp edge and focaccia base, and managed to be perfectly light with just the right amount of chew. The guanciale (a type of Italian cured meat), mozzarella, pecorino crema and egg yolk topping was the cherry on top: the slight smokiness of the meat was a good balance to the richness of the cheese. Yes, I took the remaining leftovers home for breakfast – and yes, it was just as delicious the next day.
Rounding out the mains, I was also able to try the Salmon Pastrami ($130), where the salmon is served partly raw as a result of being smoked for three to four hours with hickory wood, and dressed with a buttermilk dressing and yuzu cosh vinaigrette. Though it wasn’t bad, the texture of the fish wasn’t my favourite, and overall, I expected way more flavour.
Sassy Tip: Though they weren’t part of my meal, I’ve heard good things about the slow-cooked, stout-infused Ox Cheek and Bone Marrow Pie ($180), along with the Crumbed Black Cod ($220).
For dessert, I loved the Broken Tiramisu ($85). The stout and espresso caramel added an interesting depth of flavour, while the addition of house-made milk ice cream lifted the richness of the cream and ensured that the dish wasn’t too heavy. For something richer, opt for the Millionaire Tart ($80) – chocolate tart and salted caramel are a match made in sweet tooth heaven, need I say more?
Full disclaimer, I am very much not a beer drinker, so the true brilliance of the “Brewlab” was a little lost on me. That being said, the sheer variety on offer and the range of creative flavours meant that even I could find a brew that I enjoyed with enthusiasm. For reference, I had the Imperial Custard Tart, a collaboration with Australia-based Rocky Ridge Brewing, and the sweeter vanilla, candied sugar and cinnamon made it a great “entry-level” beer for the beginner (be aware that the tap line-up changes every week, so it’s best to ask the team for their recommendations!). There are also cocktails on tap (hello Pineapple Mojito!), along with a selection of wines.
Sassy Tip: For the true beer enthusiasts, look out for upcoming beer workshops and opportunities to taste-test tempting new concoctions before they’re released globally!
Read more: Where To Drink In Hong Kong This Month
If you’re looking for a new watering hole that is relaxed and unpretentious in nature, with solid food and ample brews, this is it. GRAIN is an ambitious project for many reasons – its physical size, the fact that it’s the only dining venue in Hong Kong with an on-site brewery, to name but a few – but the talented team pull it off with aplomb. I’ll be coming back as soon as I can for my much-missed traditional Sunday roast (fellow Brits, I already checked, it comes with Yorkshire puddings!). Who knows, GRAIN may make a beer drinker out of me yet!