Inside The New Restaurant Of Asia's Number 1 Chef
Julien Royer, ranked Asia's top chef, has opened the doors of a sublime French restaurant in Hong Kong.
Fresh from collecting the Best Restaurant in Asia gong for his Singapore eatery Odette, and ranking 18th in the World's Best Restaurants Awards last week, French chef Julien Royer has put his stamp on Hong Kong with a new restaurant called Louise.
The name was decided upon as a classic and elegant French name, to convey the restaurant's inspiration; a fictional hostess with superb taste and a panache for entertaining. (The name Odette, Royer's Singapore-based fine dining joint, was named after Royer's grandmother.)
Developed in partnership with Hong Kong-based Jia Group and The Lo & Behold Group, the two-floor restaurant is located in the gardens of PMQ, Central Hong Kong, formerly home to Jason Atherton's restaurant, Aberdeen Street Social.
Louise's whimsical, botanical-inspired interiors were conceived by André Fu of The Upper House fame, and more recently, the St Regis Hotel Hong Kong. Art Deco-meets pared-back jungle, the decor is truly unique.
The menu is at once familiar and novel, comforting yet exciting. Inspired by dishes from his childhood, Royer breathes new life into French classics, with dishes like la truffade, a simple side of sautéed potatoes, young Cantal cheese, garlic and parsley; Heirloom tomato tart with Luigi Guffanti burrata and refreshing basil sorbet, black Angus beef tenderloin, Kampot green peppercorn sauce and grenaille potatoes; and pan-seared French veal sweetbread, lemon confit, brown butter lettuce cream and potato gnocchi.
While sourcing ingredients from his home town of Auvergne and other parts of France, Royer also looked to Hong Kong for some delicious organically farmed local produce including sautéed Hong Kong frog legs, parsley, garlic crisps and roasted Hong Kong yellow chicken, Niigata rice ‘en cocotte’. The wine menu is varied and beautifully curated, including, of course, Pommery's Brut Cuvée Rosé Champagne, Louise.
Royer has returned home for dessert inspiration, with an ode to his mother; 'Mama Royer', a yoghurt cake, ice cream and confit lemon. He also dedicates his Madeleines to his mother, delicious fresh cakes in the classic scallop shape, perfectly crisp on the outside and soft and fluffy inside. Other French classics including Madagascar vanilla mille-feuille and raspberry sorbet, and a reimagined Tarte Tatin with Madagascar vanilla cream.
The carpeted staircase, lined with floral wallpaper and lit with antique glass lamps, marks the change in atmosphere from the parlour downstairs to the dining room upstairs, an inviting ivory space flooded with natural light during the day. The two spaces feel very different, the parlour with its leafy, cactus-lined terrace perfect for a casual bite and drink downstairs, and the upstairs dining room and balcony for a more formal meal.
Louise's Dining Room (c) Mitch Geng
Entering the dining room upstairs, one is greeted by a space truly evocative of good food and conversation. Agate consoles, mango yellow sofas and pale olive velvet curtains with dusty pink trimming, juxtapose with characterful art pieces hand-selected by Fu on his travels around the world. The caviar specialties menu is not to be missed, with the angel hair pasta, Kristal caviar, black truffle and kombu dish hitting a high note.
Louise's location in the revitalised heritage property of PMQ, the former police married quarters of Hong Kong from the 1950's, is still felt strongly. The metal frames of the doorways, staircases and windows create a sense of historical context, transporting diners back in time, to the ever-hospitable home of Louise.