Tucked away behind the Wan Chai market a short walk from Queen’s Road East, Le Bistro Winebeast is quickly becoming one of my favourite restaurants in Hong Kong – the ultimate date night option for a special evening out with the hubby. This cosy French bistro has it all: an intimate atmosphere, fantastic French fare and of course, an unbeatable selection of wines (over 120 varieties!). The best part? Prices for this standard of fine dining are unbeatable in Hong Kong. Food, drinks and atmosphere have come together in a perfect marriage at Le Bistro Winebeast, and it’s a definite top contender in my opinion for best new restaurant of 2014.
Open by the founders behind wine retailer Winebeast, the rustic neighborhood bistro encompasses a small space in Wan Chai, just a 10-minute walk from the popular wine boutique. With just 25 seats available, you’ll probably be bumping elbows with your fellow diners, but that simply adds to the charm and intimacy of the space!
The rustic, cosy decor makes you feel like you’ve stepped into someone’s home – a feeling that’s amplified by the overwhelming hospitality of the bubbly and warm maître d’/master sommelier Cristina Ducroquet (her husband, Johan Ducroquet, is the Michelin-experienced chef behind the scenes and together they make an unbeatable duo).
The menu at Le Bistro Winebeast changes every 4-6 weeks to reflect the best of seasonal, local produce, but there are a few standing favourites that you absolutely cannot miss. We started off with the beef tartare “Winebeast style” – a signature dish and one of the best tartares in the city! I’m not usually a big fan of beef tartare (something about the mushy texture that’s off-putting), but the one at Winebeast is excellent, with distinct chunks of juicy beef seasoned just right, married together by a fresh combination of herbs and spices.
As if that wasn’t enough, the whole thing is topped with a luxurious egg yolk, oozing creamy richness over the beef as you mop up every last bit with the fresh farmhouse bread (FYI, the pork rillettes and foie gras terrine are also fantastic starters with the toasted bread). We washed it all down with a red Bordeaux – there’s really no need to pore over the wine list as you can’t go wrong with Cristina’s expert pairing recommendations!
From the starter section of the seasonal Jan/Feb menu, we opted for the Artichoke Cream Soup, blended with galangal, lemon grass, coconut milk, poached egg and smoked milk.
The creaminess of the soup was offset by the light milky foam on top and the citrusy lemongrass – a well-balanced soup overall and a pleasant departure from the traditional French fare on the menu.
The next dish that caught my eye was the Stuffed Squid with Peppers, Eggplant and Chorizo. The squid was cooked perfectly and the bits of chorizo provided a flavourful meaty punch to the fresh seafood. The squid ink sauce added another dimension to the sauce with definite points for creativity – a dense, dark concoction made from squid ink cooked down with caramelized onions, garlic, chicken broth and olive oil.
Moving on to the mains, the Roasted Pigeon with Pan-Fried Fois Gras was just another example of Chef Johan’s flawless French technique, with the perfectly cooked pigeon and rich fois gras swimming in a black olive jus, paired with subtly sweet beetroots and cabbage marmalade. The plate was almost too pretty to eat, but once we dug in, we quickly scooped up every last bite!
Our second entree was the signature Confit Beef Cheek, a favourite of regulars at Winebeast and another stunning presentation with each individual component adding colour and vibrancy to the plate: bright red confit tomatoes, a tangy horseradish emulsion, sweet onion puree and colden sauteed potatoes.
It’s always hard to say no to dessert, but pretty much impossible when there’s dark chocolate fondant on the menu! Winebeast’s peanut-buttery version with vanilla and pepper ice cream was perhaps the most decadent I’ve ever had, and I had to give up halfway through, although I would have gladly devoured the whole cake if it wasn’t superceded by the foie gras, beef cheek and tartare.
With the high quality of ingredients and dishes served up at Winebeast, I could serve myself and be a very happy camper, so the excellent hospitality is just the icing on the cake! Cristina gave us excellent wine pairing recommendations throughout the night, starting with a red vintage Bordeaux, moving on to a fruity white from Hungary and topping it off with a sparkling Prosecco. In addition to her inspiring wealth of knowledge, her energy is infectious and she made sure every single diner was taken care of that night – the quintessential hostess.
Behind the scenes, Chef Johan is just as seamless in his execution: every dish that came out of the kitchen was a pure work of art, with complementary components that both surprised and provided a comforting sense of familiarity. I would gladly have paid more for the experience, and with prices ranging from just $100-150 for starters and $150-250 for mains, you just can’t beat Le Bistro Winebeast for a go-to date night dining spot in Hong Kong.
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Le Bistro Winebeast, G/F, 15 McGregor Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, 2479 6833