Review: Will The Legacy House Leave A Lasting Impression?
There’s an immediate sense of pomp and circumstance when you hear the word “legacy”, a word that calls to mind power, history and traditions being passed down through generations. With the opening of the Rosewood Hong Kong (the new flagship for the luxury hospitality brand) in Tsim Sha Tsui’s newly minted Victoria Dockside district, it’s clear that there is a message to be made here: we’re here to stay.
The “we”, of course, being the Cheng family—siblings Sonia (CEO of Rosewood) and Adrian (executive vice chairman and general manager of New World Development, who are behind the Victoria Dockside project) have together dominated this particular prime plot of land, which was acquired by their grandfather, the late Dr Cheng Yu-tung, back in the 1970s. From the windows of The Legacy House, you can gaze down at the bustle of the Avenue of Stars below, while behind you the house music pumps steadily over the chatter of diners. The whoosh and clatter of woks can be heard from across the dining room, stirring our cravings for the hot, flame-licked dishes that characterise much of southern Chinese cuisine. An open station next to the bar showcases the day’s fresh catches from Sai Kung. For a restaurant paying tribute to the patriarch of the family, the initial impression can be jarring—the space is ambiently lit, tables are closely packed, and the atmosphere is somewhere between Aqua and Mott 32 during a mid-week dinner service.
The menu is where the roots of the Cheng family come into play, with sections that highlight the Shunde specialties of the Pearl River Delta region. Traditional dishes using fresh and preserved seafood dominate the first few pages, and it’s highly recommended you pick and choose a few items from this section. Requiring precise knife skills and a deft hand at frying, the classic deep-fried stuffed pastry of crabmeat, pork, shrimp, yellow chive and water chestnut (known in Cantonese as the “gold coin crab moneybox” for its golden-brown exterior and prized fillings) falls just short of expectation. The main issue isn’t with the flavouring or the thinly rolled out pork lard, which forms the crisp “skin” of the pastry—it’s the pallid exterior and grease that continues to seep onto the plate, suggesting that the oil wasn’t hot enough when the parcels were fried. At HK$80 each (each plate is priced at HK$160 for two pieces smaller than a coaster) it’s a costly misstep.
Pan-fried dace fishcake with preserved meat and minced pork, on the other hand, is solidly executed and goes perfectly with a bowl of steamed rice—the ultimate comfort food, with the funky-edged saltiness of the fishcake contrasting with the freshness of the coriander and spring onion dispersed within. It’s also a dish that provides punches of flavour between bites of the Daliang-style wok-fried milk with bird’s nest, crabmeat and egg white, another Shunde classic. Such a dish requires experience so as to not overcook the milk and egg mixture, with perfectly soft-set, cloud-like curds that have a silky texture when eaten. The version at The Legacy House meets these standards, and the seasoning is adjusted correctly so as to let the sweetness of the milk shine—if anything, we lament the superfluous addition of bird’s nest, even if we understand that it’s befitting of a luxury hotel restaurant that wishes to charge HK$480 for such a dish.
Apart from the Shunde specialties, we’re recommended the barbecued pork by our knowledgeable waiter and understand his confidence when we taste it. The half-fat, half-lean cut of meat is served at the optimum temperature to allow the maltose glaze to become just a shade molten, and the fat to dissolve on the palate without much coercion; the edges of the meat have caught the flame enough to yield an exquisite char, adding a delicious caramelised note and changes in texture. All in all, this particular char siu is one of the finest we’ve tried in recent memory.
The suggestion of Shunde-style fish noodles is recommended to most tables around us, and we take it. Hand-minced fish is shaped into thin, noodle-like strands and, here, stir-fried along with ribbons of egg omelette, mushrooms and beansprouts. While the texture of the fish noodles may be a novelty, ultimately the dish errs on the side of bland; the peppercorn-rich chilli sauce available on the table adds needed pep, which may horrify purists but was necessary on our visit.
To drink, premium teas are priced from HK$40 per person and include selections such as a ripe, compressed 1975 puerh tea. Considering the quality of the drinks at the Rosewood bar, Dark Side, we recommend sampling the cocktails here too, which are given cutesy names that are phonetics of Cantonese ingredients; signatures include the refreshing Gui Fa, which references the fragrant osmanthus flower in the drink, joined by peach, grape, soda and prosecco. Wu Tou offers the pleasant, pastel purple of its namesake taro, paired with lychee, pandan and vodka. A mango-centric cocktail is titled Mong Gor and features coconut rum as well as pomelo and sago—an alcoholic take on a favourite Chinese dessert. Speaking of dessert—save room for the delicate ginger-chocolate pot de creme with matcha tuile, which perfectly combines the silkiness of a dark chocolate mousse with the heat of a traditional ginger milk pudding—the matcha tuile is redundant, its intense sticky sweetness jarring against the brooding sophistication of the rest of the dessert.
While the atmosphere is semi-casual, the prices are certainly more reflective of a higher price point—and we wish that the service, while well-meaning, could be further polished. But with all things, quality and consistency can be built up over time—with the right foundation under their feet, the team at The Legacy House just might secure their place in the history books.