Date of review: August 25, 2016 | Reviewed by: Wilson Fok
Second Draft is the latest to join the populous dining mecca that is Tai Hang, bringing a gastropub concept that focuses on a fine selection of beers and approachable dishes meant for sharing among guests. Second Draft occupies the ground floor of the Little Tai Hang development, and it’s notably spacious: with a horseshoe-shaped bar on one side and tables set against the large windows. The green and white colour scheme (a tribute to the Star Ferry) is completed with tiled flooring and bilingual signs stencilled throughout the dining room. There’s a vintage feel to the wooden booths set on one side of the room, and these are particularly comfortable to settle into for a meal, although a seat at the bar will offer better interaction with the beer experts.
Seasonality and local flavours are two key elements of Second Draft’s gastropub menu, designed by Little Bao’s May Chow. From bar snacks and small plates to bigger courses meant for sharing, the dishes are mostly smart revamps of old-time favourites and family-style dishes.
Inked croquettes take on the Spanish croquetas with a local twist. Squid ink is added to create a briny béchamel sauce with chopped dried oysters in the mix and the nuggets are deep-fried until golden brown. The ink-black filling and the dried oysters are even better with the chimichurri sauce on the top, a perfect marriage of land and sea.
The fried chicken is deceptively simple. Earthy cumin coats the chunky chicken, and the nam-yu (fermented tofu) and roasted garlic dip lends a mustardy zing rounded with sweetness, a playful take on the Chinese signature deep-fried crispy chicken.
Mapo burrata pairs the Italian fresh cheese with a chilli-spiked pork ragout and baby spinach on the side. The soft cheese is mild, and is a perfect canvas for the sharp heat from the pork.
The octopus and pork belly plays on the homely comfort dish of steamed pork with fermented tofu. Second Draft’s version takes tender pork belly, and pairs them with tender octopus tentacles, set on a thin fermented tofu sauce and the same zesty chimichurri relish on the top, sharply cutting through the pork’s richness.
The flower crab pasta, the highlight of the meal, is the gastropub’s version of carbonara rolled with Chinese stir-fried egg whites. Freshly picked meat from flower crab is tossed with Shanghainese thick noodles, served pasta-style. The black vinegar on the side is a crucial element, its tartness contrasting with the rich creamy pasta while matching the freshness of crabmeat.
Second Draft currently does not offer desserts, but guests with extra stomach space to spare can enjoy smaller plates such as Tai Hang fries and HK French Toast.
Second Draft features the full selection from Young Master Brewery, and even better, the beers are stored in one of three different temperatures, divided by way to maximize each variety’s optimum potential in flavours and textures. The beer-inspired cocktail menu is tempting, but the beer selections won our hearts in the end. Draft beers are served in three sizes: 200ml, 330ml, and 450ml. Guests are offered tasting shots suggested by the staff before deciding their orders. We started with Palate Trip, a sour mash IPA with a light lactic flavour. Its fruity depth marks an ideal beer to start the meal. Rye on Wood is a prominent bestseller from Young Master. This oak-infused rye ale is much richer with an earthy touch of wood aroma. It also grows on you throughout the meal, with pairing to the rich flavours of fried chicken and croquettes. The Stonecutter Scotch Ale is the richest among the three, it smokiness is impressive with toffee tones and a taste of molasses that lingers.
Despite being a casual gastropub, Second Draft offers high-quality service that enhances a guest’s dining experience. The staff are helpful and attentive, each member equipped with familiarity on both the food and drinks menu, together with portion-control and suggestions. Service is never rushed and the staff are friendly and always keen with a pleasant smile.
Our full sharing dinner for two with beers amounted to HK$870. Portion sizes are healthy, beer varieties are impressive, and the high standard of service means this can be regarded as one of the year’s best new openings.