COCONUTS HOTSPOT – Competition is tough in the ever escalating Mid-levels dining scene. Less than a year after launching his fine dining eponymous concept Laris, Australian chef David Laris has already decided to change it to a more casual bistro, The BellBrook.
It makes sense. The area is more known for its buzz and noisy Happy Hours, so the laid-back vibe and dish-sharing ethos is better suited to the bar-hopping crowd.
“The dining scene is shifting,” Laris had told me. “More formal (dining) is going out of style. People are looking for a new approach. Hong Kong is such a non-stop place, everyone’s busy and social. What’s happened now is people don’t want stuffy and non-engaging cuisine. They want to share dishes.”
So, Laris, with his head chef Fatih Tutak, got rid of the white tablecloth and gave us an eclectic menu with Mediterranean inspired dishes and aboriginal Aussie ingredients. As the name suggests – BellBrook is hometown to Laris’ folks – it’s a homage to his Greek-Oz heritage.
Potted Chicken Liver Pate
Tapas, which he calls Table Bites, include Dad’s Pickled Octopus (HK$98). Served in a medium sized ramekin, the appetising chunks of cephalopod are served in Merlot vinegar which doesn’t diminish the briny sea flavour. Another undeniable hit is the velvety Potted Chicken Liver Pate (HK$98). Personally, I prefer a little more texture than the generous jar of smoothness offered, but the savoury comfort level of the liver is high, especially when paired with some caramelised sweet onion jam on thinly sliced sourdough crisped into melba toast.
There’s a simplicity to the dishes, as Laris lets the terrific ingredients speak for themselves. The Smoky Eggplant & Burrata Salad (HK$148) is a smart combination that is part Caprese salad, part Baba Ghanoush. The Roasted Pumpkin Salad (HK$118) though is perhaps too much of a showcase for the smoky root veg. It’s a little too starchy and dry so a bit more olive oil and maybe a hit of pomegranate seeds for contrast would take it to another level.
Destined to be signature dishes are some of The BellBrook’s main courses. Baramundi Cooked in Aborigine Paperbark (HK$298) is based on an indigenous cooking method. A large fillet of the popular Aussie fish is cooked wrapped in the fibrous bark of a tree found in the Outback. The flesh is perfectly cooked to a tenderness that would please any fan of Cantonese steam fish. Make sure you also get a piece of sweet and slightly charred carrot cooked with the fish.
Chef Laris’ Pan-fried Kangaroo Loin
The show stopper, though, is the kangaroo dish. Yes, I said kangaroo! Chef Laris’ Pan-fried Kangaroo Loin ($288) will surely be a trending item not only because this is one of the few restaurant in Hong Kong to offer the meat in a steak-ish form, but it is prepared exceptionally well. The marsupial is extremely lean so the meat can easily be dry and tough. Here, it’s seared nicely on the outside but still pink in the middle. Not that I eat kangaroo often but The BellBrook’s dish is the most tender hopper I’ve ever enjoyed.
For dessert, Laris boasted their gargantuan portions are designed for sharing. Based on the size of the Egg Caramel Custard Flan (HK$78) and the Sticky Date Pudding (HK$78) dropped on us, I’m guessing he means sharing with everyone in the restaurant. A hint of orange zest in the caramel custard cuts its richness ever slightly. As for the date pudding, my table mates loved it. I don’t have a sweet-tooth so I thought the mound of pudding and caramel sauce was instant diabetes on a plate – and I mean that in a good way.
Australian chef David Laris
2/F, 77 Wyndham Street
Central, Hong Kong
Reservation Number: 2530 1600