In my mind date nights should be slightly naughty; an indulgent escape and chance to play posh for a night. Romance for me is heightened, not by talking life admin in the taxi journey to dinner, but meeting beforehand in a dimly lit bar before retreating to a dark corner to feast on delicious food and wine, feeling celebratory but also in our own world. Hence my previous date night dalliances at some of HK’s finest dining offerings have left me feeling a bit deflated as pretentious service and a sense of stuffiness got in the way of my craving for intimacy. So on our last date night I decided to follow my envy. Our favourite date bar is the one at Island Shangri La’s Lobster Bar and Grill, but I have always longed to move to the dining side and so I finally took the plunge…
The quality of the live jazz music sets the tone. There is something inexplicably glamorous about dining to the accompaniment of live music. But pair that with a Great Gatsby-esque art deco design vibe with dark wood, dim lighting and plenty of booths to cosy up in and you can see how the Lobster Bar and Grill was practically designed for date nights. The elegance and grandeur is presented in a way that enhances rather than detracts from an intimate dinner. We happily took to our seats by the window and felt like we had escaped from reality for a movie worthy night out.
My original envy at diners here was spying the seafood platter, so our choice of starter was already made. Designed to be shared, it perched atop a stand surrounded by a range of sauces. My eating approach was methodical, my delight pretty evident.
The sashimi, including scallop and salmon, was wonderfully fresh and generous in portion. Giant oysters, mussels and abalone paired wonderfully with the shallot vinaigrette. I had saved the best till last and absolutely devoured the prawn, lobster and crab leg – perfectly light and flavoursome! My only gripe was with the accompanying sauces – erring on the heavier, mayonnaise approach which masked the freshness. I wish there had been a melted garlic butter to drizzle over that giant crab leg but other than that, the platter really did taste as good as it looked. The amount of food on the platter makes its price tag ($998) a lot more palatable and in truth, you could easily come and dine on this alone and feel satisfied, but in the name of research we carried on eating…
My carrot and sweetcorn soup was tasty but not memorable, the lobster bisque in contrast was nothing short of perfect; not too heavy but perfectly infused with a smoky lobster flavour that left us hungering for more. This was so much more than a mere soup although the price of $170 still felt a little steep for the portion size.
I was torn about the main choices as my instinct in a restaurant named for its seafood was to stick with fish but for the sake of a thorough review we tucked into meatier mains. My guinea fowl with truffle mash was a comforting and tasty dish, but in truth was not a favourite. My husband’s ribeye steak was a delight – perfectly smokey and chargrilled and cooked exactly to his taste. The accompanying fries lacked sufficient crisp though and thus we were both left contemplating the fish options that we hadn’t managed to sample, especially as mains are around $400 apiece – plumping up extra for the $520 grilled lobster didn’t feel too much of an extra stretch.
Dessert set the record straight with a perfectly gooey chocolate fondant with pistachio ice cream. Sumptuous but light enough to save us the embarrassment of having to roll out of the door…
For drinks, we put our faith in the sommelier who created a wonderful wine pairing for our meal. We both started with a perfectly sharp Sancerre that married perfectly with our seafood platter. My well rounded Burgundy and his heartier Cote du Rhone kept us in very good company for the mains and we sampled two of their great selection of dessert wines which satiated our sweet tooths.
Retrospectively, as well as the wine paired with our meal, there was something so incredibly indulgent about the seafood platter that it would have added to my sense of decadent glamour if we had accompanied it with a glass or two of champagne. And if we hadn’t had been so full then we definitely would have loitered by the bar working our way through the expert cocktail menu.
Faultless is the only word to describe it, which mimicked my previous experiences at the bar where the barman made me bespoke drinks and was nothing short of charming. Service was as exceptional as you would expect from the Shangri La with a level of knowledge, expertise and friendliness that enhanced our evening without feeling too invasive.
My hopes for date night perfection were met and then some! I left feeling like I had stepped out of an Audrey Hepburn movie. The restaurant itself is just magical and one of my absolute favourite spots in Hong Kong and the food did not disappoint. My only lesson learned perhaps is what to dine on. If I were to repeat the night it would go as follows: meet at the bar and whet our appetites with a sinful cocktail. Retreat to a corner booth where we start our night with lobster bisque before tucking into the seafood platter and a glass of champagne. In all honesty, I would be quite happy to call it a night there, and this would be a more frugal option, but with my gluttonous love of food I would be ever so tempted to move onto a grilled lobster main with a glass of white wine. The prices are in line with what you would expect from a five star hotel so it won’t be a cheap night, but there are ways to have the indulgence without the hefty bill. Whichever way you choose to structure your meal, The Lobster Bar and Grill is an unbeatably glamorous venue for a night of romance.
The Lobster Bar and Grill, Island Shangri La, 2820 8560, www.shangri-la.com/hongkong/islandshangrila/dining/restaurants/lobster-bar-grill/