Lupa & Harrington's - new openings [Hong Kong]
Two new openings in recent weeks from two of the big chains.
Castelo Concepts opened Harrington's in LKF. It has a gastropub inspired menu, but is definitely a bit too upmarket to be called a gastropub. It is quite classy and thus quite a nice alternative in the LKF area. If you think of Oolaa (a stablemate) is Aus inspired then Harrington's is it's British cousin. The food has a lot of pub-food classics but with white linen table cloths and all the usual restaurant trappings so it is some distance from the average pub. The crab cakes were OK, and the liver and bacon was served in a generous portion. The liver was probably a bit over-cooked bot i do like it pink, and the bacon had an American bacon texture - chunky and solid - and overwhelmed the dish a bit. I suspect it will be a great success for weekend brunches (as is Oolaa) and is a useful address when looking for some comfort food.
Lupa comes to us from Dining Concepts. It looks like it has really taken off with reservations now a few weeks out - we tried to book for a week on Friday but ended getting the last table in two weeks time. We had popped in to see if they have a bar, it does but with only a few seats so not really designed for a quick drink after work. That said, we were early so got a seat and as we had torrential rain last night decided to stay put and snack from the menu. It is a Mario Batali (apparently a top US chef) restaurant so does US influenced Italian food.
We started with some Fritti, which had green olives and hot chillies, they are OK , as in anything deep fried is good, but lacked and chilli punch. Next we grazed through Funghi Mis, Squash with Pecorino, and Broccoli Rabe with Stracciatella (the cheese not the soup), three small, but generous bowls of anti-pasti salads. These are good with well balanced flavours and fresh tastes. Next, some pasta, and we try the Carbonara, its good if somewhat unassertive, good textures nice and moist but lacking a great depth of flavour. We finish with Veal Saltimbocca, which is again slightly bland, nothing offensive but it didn't really punch out any great flavours. The wine list is reasonable and we had an interesting one from Puglia, they don't do many by the glass, but serve a 250ml carafe. We also has a good Negroni made with Antica Formula which is a magnificent ingredient - it smells so good it would make wonderful perfume!
They still have the "training crew" on board at the restaurant with staff from Batali's other restaurants supervising the local team. At times it did feel we were sitting in "restaurant school" as staff go through the training. It also feels overstaffed (maybe because the rain had closed the terrace) with lots of staff hanging around (it was a full restaurant) probably because they have the "trainers" on the floor. We are heading back in a few weeks to see if it has settled down, given how full it is no-one seems to mind but it grated a bit that you pay full freight for a restaurant that is practising on you, obviously we don't need soft openings in HK.
Was there last week and it has downgraded from restaurant school to "restaurant kindergarten". Worst service I have had in a restaurant for some time. Even simple things like cutlery setting. A fork, a spoon and a knife for each person and 3 of us got 3 totally different placement. I can at least comprehend if the waitresses are new and each one got their own style. AND this was done by the same woman? Not to mention not having a table even though reservation was made months ago. As the maitre'd find out that our table was taken (since I was first to arrive), she left me standing in the middle of the dining room. I don't know where these people got their training but I know I won't be back.
The space of the restaurant is very nice with pretty high ceiling and nice places to sit outside. The food was OK. We were a pretty big group so tried a bunch of appetizers, pasta and entree. The only stand-out for me was the Carbonara pasta. All others are average and not particularly memorable or tasty. For me, the other Dining Concept restaurant Al Molo has better food and better pasta.