For months I had been brimming with excitement for the opening of Le Relais D’Entrecote, as despite steak frites very much being HK’s next big food trend, this was the place that started that fad, a whole 55 years ago! The interior of this spacious restaurant, located in Wan Chai, mimics the design found in all true Entrecote descendants; namely the feel of a Parisian bistro with bright tablecloths decked with white paper runners and yellow serviettes, decorative chandeliers, vintage posters and traditionally dressed wait staff. In 1959 the de Saurs family set up an unassuming steak house in Paris called Le Relais de Venise, offering a set menu consisting solely of walnut salad followed by steak frites with their top-secret signature sauce. The place was a hit, spawning a loyal following and snaking queues around the corner for tables. Following Monseiur de Saurs’ death in the 60’s, the three de Saurs children sought to keep the spirit of the original alive, all using the same secret recipes and initial formula for success but branching out into three sister brands which can now be tasted worldwide.
Hong Kong’s version is the brainchild of Monsieur de Saurs daughter Marie-Paule, which also has branches in Paris and Geneva. Whilst the interiors were spot on how I expected them to be, HK tastes had permeated through with the lighting and air con slightly detracting the space’s cosy potential. Despite its no reservation policy, queues aren’t yet winding their way through Wan Chai but it does fill up fast with speedy service allowing numerous seatings throughout the night.
Whilst soft drinks, beers and aperitifs were on offer, it felt most apt to accompany our meal with the house red, a rustic and quaffable wine from the de Saurs family’s own vineyard. At $348 per bottle, it was in line with HK prices and the perfect accompaniment to our meal, if a little too chilled. Half bottles are on offer as are champagnes, roses and whites.
Parisians are famed for their service. Priding themselves on professionalism and efficiency but with a touch of assumed superiority, something that was always going to be hard to mimic in Hong Kong. Le Relais D’Entrecote has spent a long time training their staff however, who were friendlier than their Parisian counterparts, efficient, gracious and always had a smile on their faces despite the non stop flow of patrons.
For the uninitiated let me explain the concept; the set menu only really comprises of one choice; how you would like your steak cooked (NB do not bring a vegetarian here!). All diners are served the famous walnut salad with signature sauce and then finely sliced, cooked to order entrecote doused in the sublime secret sauces (rumour has it the ingredients include chicken livers, cream, Dijon mustard, butter and thyme – but truth be told we don’t care what’s in it when it tastes this good!), accompanied by the most moreish batch of frites – perfectly thin and crispy.
The salad, in its light but delicious flavours, served the perfect role of whetting my appetite without ruining my anticipatory hunger. The piece de resistance was a plate full of perfectly cooked medium rare steak (my personal preference), a delicious mound of frites and a generous pouring of possibly the world’s best sauce. The best bit came just as I was scraping my plate clean and wishing I had eaten slower… my second portion of steak and more steaming hot frites. I greedily demanded that the waitress scoop out every last morsel of that incredible sauce onto my plate. By the end, after getting over my relief that the brand’s authenticity had been preserved, its delicious inimitable flavours perfectly transported and its prices thankfully not inflated, I found myself slumping in my seat absolutely stuffed to the brim but with a giant smile on my face.
For review’s sake we had to sample at least one dessert, and whilst they’re famed for their profiteroles, we had had these before so decided instead to try the “Le Vacherin du Relais” a monolithic tower of meringue, ice cream and chocolate sauce that instantly transported us to a French patisserie and momentarily created space in our otherwise full stomachs. Gazing around it was clear that almost every plate in the whole restaurant had been scraped clean.
With the set dinner menu costing a mere $288 per person plus 10% service, it’s great to see that prices, as well as secret sauces, have also been kept in line with the European originals. Dessert, wine and other drinks will burden your bill slightly but the set lunch for the same price generously includes coffee or tea and a dessert in the day if you want the absolute best value.
Overall, Le Relais D’Entrecote can stand proud in its success at creating a little slice of Paris in the heart of Hong Kong. The food, service, interiors and that sauce all pay the perfect homage to Monsieur de Saurs’ original and are sure to build up something of a cult following.
Le Relais D’Entrecote, 222 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, 2891 9080, no reservation, relaisentrecote.hk