Date of review: October 8, 2015 | Reviewed by: Charmaine Mok
Following the closure of St Betty’s, Gaia Group have moved in to create a bustling restaurants inspired by those found along the French Riviera. Those who have been to the space in its previous run will note that the space has been completely redone in attractive contemporary shades of pale grey marble, teal, and wood, and that the owners have somehow managed to pack in what feels like double the number of covers – the tables are certainly close for comfort, so while The Ivy may seem like an ideal spot for a romantic tete-a-tete, the proximity to your neighbours may feel a little disconcerting. There are, of course, some tables for larger groups that have a little more breathing space, overlooking the ferry piers beyond the IFC, and on a busy weekend the restaurant is positively buzzing with activity.
Set on each table is a small dish of ripe vine tomatoes, imported from France, and a whole fresh lemon, which serve to bring in a bit of that Continental sunshine to Hong Kong’s grey and rainy climes as of late. The menu is split into two sections, with smaller ‘hors d’oeuvres’ and larger ‘main plats’.
From the former, the beef tartare is jazzed up with some paprika mayonnaise and pine nuts along with more traditional cornichons and egg; it looks unappetising but delivers fully on flavour. A ‘pure green salad’ comprising rocket, apple, kale, pistachio and thin triangles of Comté cheese is lightly dressed with just enough vinegar in the mix, tasting as virtuous as they come.
For mains, the spring chicken with espelette pepper and garlic jus is a hearty dish, with meat that has remained juicy throughout, and the seasoning is on point. When we see our order of bouillabaisse approach the table, our faces drop – the pan it is served in is absolutely massive but, as it turns out, there is only about an inch of broth inside, barely covering the array of seafood. The mussels are the best part of the medley, being just-cooked and plump, but the fish and lobster are sadly overcooked. The broth itself is lacking in an intense seafood flavour, which is a shame. Desserts similarly are 50-50, with dry profiteroles that sandwich a rather delicious coffee ice cream.
We’re pleased to see a sizeable wines-by-the-glass section, with over two dozen reds, whites, and rosés priced between HK$98 and HK$248. As expected, the bulk of the selections are from the classic French regions, with a few new world picks.
The staff deserve a round of applause for handling so many diners on a nightly basis – our waitress kept a friendly face and attitude throughout her service. We think that a better knowledge of the dishes on the menu would be a plus, particularly on portion sizes, to help diners order the correct amount of food for the table.
A three-course meal for two with wine and service will come to around HK$1,600, which is expected for a prime location such as IFC. However we’d like to see improvements in the execution of some of the dishes to fully justify the expenditure.