Sai Ying Pun’s Brut Is More Than An Ordinary Neighborhood Tapas Bar
Unlike Central and Sheung Wan, restaurants in Sai Ying Pun present themselves differently. Often times they are secretly tucked away on quiet streets, requiring a long stroll following old street signs and shop fronts to reach them. Brut, a new tapas restaurant, is one of them. Brut resides in a quiet space distant from other neighboring restaurants, towards the Eastern Street end of Second Street, which is now beginning to fill up with new cafes and restaurants.
The sure sign that you’ve reached the right place is the drawing of a pig at the doorway, beyond which lies a generally casual setting—it’s bar seating on one side, with high stools and communal tables on the other. The décor is modest; part of the room is painted dark green, while the remaining walls are left exposed and raw, an intentional touch that gave a personal, homely feel to the restaurant.
The menu is a simple one-pager, featuring a collection of sharing plates to start, with a few specials to be introduced by the service team. We began our meal with mozzarella di bufala with Kalamata olive and watermelon. Wedges of sweet watermelon are topped with halved cherry tomatoes, chopped preserved lemon and creamy buffalo mozzarella. A smear of Kalamata olive tapenade adds a savoury touch to the fresh first course. White anchovies with chimichurri and potatoes is Brut’s signature dish. Poached potatoes are lightly tossed in herbaceous dressing with briny white anchovies. The complexity of flavours left us wanting more.
Scallop carpaccio with white chocolate is a new addition to the main menu. Shaved white chocolate on top of thinly sliced Hokkaido scallops. While creativity is there, the sweetness of the white chocolate is cloying, killing the joy of enjoying the succulent molluscs. We shared a vegetable course named The Carrot, where a single purple carrot was braised in orange juice and cumin, embellished with goat cheese. The cumin gives the carrot and earthy touch, while the orange enriches the sweetness. The carrot itself is sweet and yields lightly to cutting with a fork; it’s a nice surprising dish of our meal.
Octopus with roasted chickpeas and salty lemon condiment has a Mediterranean touch, where chunks of slow-cooked octopus is paired with a creamy chickpea puree and seasoned with preserved lemons. We loved how the richness built up from octopus to the chickpeas, lightened by the zingy salted lemon sauce. While the Galician cow tenderloin came highly recommended, it was the Iberico secreto with grilled leeks and crème de piquillos that won our hearts. The Iberico pork shoulder cut was tender and grilled with a touch of pink in the middle. The meat was tender and succulent served with a creamy potato gratin and a refreshing piquillo pepper puree. The portion size for mains can be rather large and they are best shared with a friend.
Brut does not have a formal wine menu, as the wine selections are written on the wall and on the wine fridge. The selection is modest but by-the-glass options are adequate for every palate, especially great for pairing with dishes from the menu. The Terra Vecchia is a refreshing, floral white wine from Corsica, and it’s served at just the right temperature—slightly cooler than room temperature. The floral character brings out the sweetness of starters, and resounds on the zesty citrus in our octopus and carrot courses.
The restaurant is extremely short-staffed, as the two owners are on the floor and kitchen with one other member of the staff team handling the service for the entire restaurant, which was a full house on a casual Tuesday night. We did not wait long for the food, and the staff frequented our table to check on us as the meal progressed, but at full capacity it was hard to reach the staff, yet getting the bill was quick though.
Brut is a welcoming addition to Sai Ying Pun despite the abundant selection of new dining establishments in the neighborhood. The food and wine options are reliable and creatively so, differ from just a typical Spanish tapas bar despite sharing some similarities in the menu selections. Reservations are strongly recommended, as dinner service is divided into two sessions each night.
A dinner for two including a glass of wine each and service amounts to HK$1,000.
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.