Review: L’Envol, Olivier Elzer’s Long-Awaited Restaurant, Is A Blast To The Past
Last summer, Seasons restaurant at Lee Gardens 2 served its final meal, giving over the space to Maggie & Rose and the recently opened gastropub, The Leah. But chef Olivier Elzer never melted away into obscurity; with The St Regis Hong Kong, he’s back—heading up the hotel’s plush high-end restaurant, L’Envol.
The name refers to “taking flight”, and it’s not difficult to see how this has been an immediate upgrade: the restaurant is a a warm and inviting space that simply oozes luxury and all its trappings. A pale cream and gold palette is subtly disrupted with rich jewel tones: jade and dark emerald-hued marble, a whisper of mauve and inky blues on the carpeting, bright green moss arrangements. Other details, from the gold accents to the perfectly plumped cushions and handsome herringbone wood flooring speak to the DNA of the St Regis brand, as envisioned by celebrated designer Andre Fu.
The wide open kitchen anchors the room, and guests in the first section of the restaurant can have a view into the inner workings of the restaurant. Perusing the menu, you’ll find a small a la carte offering, a lengthy chef’s signatures menu, and also a four-course “Sur-Mesure” (tailored) menu that staff describe to us as offering dishes decided upon by the chef on the day—dishes that even they do not know and are usually not on the main menu. After much persuasion we concede and opt for this “blind-folded culinary voyage”, excited to experience some inspired dishes by Elzer.
Every table begins with a miniature galaxy of snacks, along with bread and butter (one pat of the latter flavoured with caviar, the other with champagne). The simple joy of a fresh, peppery radish enrobed in butter and served on ice was introduced to me at Seasons restaurant, and I welcomed its return at L’Envol—this time, the butter was infused with black olive for an extra dimension of flavour.
The first course proper, a carabineros prawn carpaccio with tamarillo ice cream, comes speckled with chives, edible flowers and flecks of gold leaf. The natural sweetness of the prawns is lost among the cornucopia of ingredients and an enthusiastic hand with the salt—the refreshing tamarillo goes some way to alleviate the intense salinity, but doesn’t neutralise it completely.
The next dish was five spiced tuna tataki with crushed avocado and crispy shallot—perhaps the most iconic dish developed by the chef. (Elzer, who spots us halfway through the meal, later explained this was an extra course he likes to send out to every table as it is his signature.) It is far more restrained in terms of seasoning, and the smaller portion and ratio of sauce to fish is better balanced than in previous iterations; it's a dish we welcomed back wholeheartedly. The course right after is another familiar one from his Seasons days: langoustine and venere rice risotto with masala butter. It’s a creation that has again been refined—the spices are toned down but still offer a touch of warmth, as a foil to the richness of the butter. The langoustines are springy and sweet, the rice grains tender with a velveteen coat of starchy sauce. While it’s a sensational dish and would not be out of place on the a la carte or signature tasting menu, it’s bound to feel like déjà vu to anyone who has experienced the dish previously at Seasons. We couldn't help but crave something we hadn’t seen before.
The flavours and textures of the main course of duck breast with foie gras sauce and spaetzle are on point: the rosy duck meat is supple, while the pasta, lightly coated in the rich liver sauce, has a light chew. The aromatic truffle shaved on top may feel superfluous for a dish with solidly executed ingredients, but more concerning was how such a touch of luxury was at odds with the haphazard presentation of the dish—a point we made clear to the chef when he made his circuit around the dining room. It doesn’t occur to us until later that the dish was also a throwback to the chef’s earlier years.
Despite the lack of surprises from the tailored menu, L’Envol is not without its merits. The staff are engaging and warm, and clearly well versed in the intricacies of the menu—a receptionist I speak to on the phone afterwards is able to provide excellent explanations of the direction and differences between the various cartes. The sommelier is patient and thoughtful with his recommendations, never defaulting to the most expensive or obvious choices. For a meal that delivers high quality ingredients in a cosseting atmosphere, this is the ticket. Yes, L'Envol at times can feel a little bit like a Seasons 2.0, which may be a caveat to some. But to paraphase a famous saying: seasons may change, but in uncertain times there is comfort in some things staying the same.
A meal for two with wine 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.