Restaurant Review: Julien Royer’s Louise Proves Refined French Dining Can Be Casual And Fun
At 9pm on a Friday, Louise is full, and the only lit venue filled with happy diners ready to be impressed. Julien Royer’s new French restaurant has been the talk of the town since the French chef announced his collaboration with JIA Group’s Yenn Wong in opening a casual fine dining establishment at PMQ, replacing Jason Atherton’s Aberdeen Street Social. Both anticipation and stakes are high, and we learned first-hand what the hype is all about.
Located within the gardens of PMQ, Louise took over the two-storey space with a casual dining section and bar on the ground floor, while the upstairs space is the main dining room. Designed by esteemed architect Andre Fu, Louise is transformed into a colonial residence that exudes comfort much like the ideal vacation home to invite guests over for dinner. A spread of greenery fills the space, adding coherence from the interior to landscape designs surrounding the restaurant. The main dining room takes on pale shades of gold and ivory throughout the space, a shade that invites daylight and enhances warm lighting throughout the room. On the far end of the room is the open food station. where chefs add last minute touches and garnishes before dishes are served.
Unlike Julien Royer’s fine dining restaurant Odette in Singapore, Louise takes a more casual approach with its food offerings prepared by the experienced team of chefs led by the restaurant’s executive chef Franckelie Laloum. We began our experience with the restaurant’s signature angel hair pasta with Kristal caviar, black truffle and kombu. Caviar on cold pasta anointed with black truffles is surprisingly harmonious in flavour, which came out light, followed by the earthy truffles and finished with oceanic sweetness from the roe. Sautéed Hong Kong frog legs with parsley, garlic crisps and almond foam is great as well. The rich parsley butter is particularly satisfying with house-baked bread, but the frog legs are the star of the show, being mostly tender and meaty, and the herbaceous sauce is fantastic with garlic chips.
Larger main courses are certainly Louise’s strong suit. Line-caught pollack with bouillabaisse jus is wonderful. A generous slab of fish sitting atop a bed of confit ratte potatoes and a drizzle of mildly spicy bouillabaise jus felt a lot like enjoying a rich seafood stew. We cannot find fault in the Challans duck glazed with cider vinegar and braised endives. The acidity of bigarade sauce, traditionally made with bitter oranges, helps lightening the meaty bird, roasted with an evenly tanned skin and uniformly pink within. The vinegar glaze helps with tartness, and adds sweetness as it caramelises during the cooking process.
Roasted Hong Kong yellow chicken with Niigata rice en cocotte and salad may be a large dish best shared for two to four guests, but it is the piece de resistance at Louise. Evenly roasted with a melange of herbs including thyme and rosemary, the roasted bird came out gloriously golden, portioned in the kitchen and served with Niigata rice cooked in a cocotte pan with crisped chicken skin. We enjoyed the rice as is without the additional option of white truffles. The chicken is cooked just right, the meat tender and fantastic over green salad leaves.
Desserts, like the restaurant’s savoury courses, are a seasonal affair. Citrus Textures With Basil Flavours is a refreshing citrus extravaganza where basil sorbet tops supremes of grapefruit, pomelo, and oranges and a sweet disc of meringue. The Madagascar vanilla mille-feuille is served laid flat on its side, served with vanilla Chantilly cream sandwiched between three layers of ethereal flaky puff pastry. The pastry lends rich buttery notes and lightness, great alongside the cream filling while a seasonal caramelised poached pear and salted caramel ice cream added a seasonal touch.
Louise’s wine list files its labels by region, from a predominant range in France to Old and New World countries. Service is warm and friendly at Louise. The best part of such service is the service team that makes the experience more personal, between smiles and describing the menu and following up orders throughout the meal, they put the guests at ease, allowing them to relax as if they are enjoying a meal at home. However, when the restaurant is full orders may get lost or delayed, although the staff always seemed to be in a hurry rushing between tables taking care of everyone.
With high consistency and fine execution in the cuisine that shines, Louise is earning raves it deserves, as the restaurant becomes exactly the kind of fun and casual establishment you keep wanting to come back to.
A meal for two with one beverage and service: around HK$3,000
How we rate
Each of our reviewers score restaurants based on four main criteria: setting, food, service, and drinks, taking into account more than 35 different points of reference including manners of staff, usefulness of the wine list, and whether or not the restaurant makes an effort to be environmentally aware. 5/5 indicates an exceptional experience; 4-4.5/5 is excellent; 3-3.5/5 is good to very good; and 2.5/5 or lower is average to below average. Before visiting a restaurant, the reviewers will book using a pseudonym and do not make themselves known to restaurant staff, in order to experience the venue as a regular guest—if this is not possible, or if we are recognised, we will indicate this in the review.