It’s a great time to go the Peak.
As always, it offers sea breezes, stunning views, cooler air, and pleasant hikes. But right now, for reasons you can probably guess, the Peak also offers a relatively crowd-less environment.
At almost any time of day, one can walk to the Peak Tram at Garden Road and board without the need to queue — an unthinkable prospect just a few months ago. At the top, there are certainly people in evidence, but almost no tour groups, and only a fraction of the usual tourist population.
This is bad news if you work in or depend on the tourism industry, but for other residents of Hong Kong and those tourists who do come, it offers the unique opportunity to experience the Peak without fighting off the usual crowds. (And, it should be noted, with its perch high over the city, the Peak also promises a moment of respite from whatever may trouble you below.)
On top of all that, the Peak Galleria mall has recently completed a renovation and is in the process of upgrading its food and beverage offerings. One of the eateries to open over the summer was Rajasthan Rifles, from the Black Sheep Group.
Rifles is styled as an Anglo-Indian mess hall, with kitschy-but-cute costumes for the staff and pithy phrases harkening back to the colonial era in evidence on the menu and elsewhere. The food, too, is inspired by the mixing of British and Indian cuisine that took place in the mess halls of British India after the British Army began to accept Indian officers in the 1920s.
The result is a menu that includes a mix of items right at home in any Indian restaurant, along with a smattering of slightly more unorthodox Raj-inspired British-Indian fusion dishes. Over the course of two weekend lunches, I tried a sampling of both.
The Anglo half of the “Anglo-Indian” equation is most in evidence in the first two sections of the menu, headed “Luncheon and Later” and “Sizzlers,” the latter consisting of sizzling plates of meats accompanied by buttered vegetables and rice or chips. I didn’t have a chance to try the Sizzlers, but I did try the Keema Anda Pau (HK$128) and the Admiral’s Fish N Chips (HK$198) from the Luncheon and Later section.
Keema Pau is basically a gravy of diced, slow-cooked mutton that is usually spooned, sloppy joe-style, over halved buttered milk buns and topped with crushed boiled egg. I first learned of the dish from the well-known Dishoom, in London, and it was previously available in Hong Kong at the recently closed Bindaas, on Hollywood Road. I love how the rich, fragrant minced meat is balanced by the light, buttery taste of the soft milk buns.
The version at Rifles was good, but a bit underwhelming compared to the Keema Pau I’ve had before. The meat appeared to be too finely ground, leaving the mixture runny, and the milk buns weren’t as fluffy as those I have had elsewhere. I’m still likely to order it again, as it’s a great dish in principle, just not as great at Rifles as I had hoped.
The fish and chips, meanwhile, was an ample plate of food — enough for one person to have as a complete meal, but of course better to share, as I did. The plate came with four or five pieces of beer-battered hoki filets accompanied by thick-cut masala chips and rich marrow fat peas.
The batter on the fish filets was slightly soggy compared to some of the better fish and chips I’ve had in Hong Kong — the version at the Chinnery Bar at the Mandarin Oriental is particularly good, for example. The chips, on the other hand — well cooked, with a dusting of Indian spices — were a delicious departure from the norm, and consistent with the Anglo-Indian theme.
The menu goes on to list four tandoori items — a beef kebab, chicken tikka, shashlik paneer, and broccoli nargis. I tried the latter two, and both were delicious.
Cooked in the tandoor, with a nice bit of char around the edges, the skewered homemade paneer was infused with the flavor of the accompanying capsicum, onion, tomato, and spices. The paneer also had a slightly fluffier mouthfeel than most, in addition to the smooth-textured creaminess that is the hallmark of the simple Indian cheese.
The broccoli nargis, a new dish to me, consisted of a whole head of broccoli roasted in the tandoor with a gratin-like sauce of cheese and egg melted into the florets. This was a substantial, full-flavored vegetable dish, and certainly the best broccoli I have had at an Indian restaurant in Hong Kong.
From the curry section of the menu, I tried the butter chicken (HK$198), the railway mutton curry (HK$248), and a spinach dish, the clubwala palak (HK$158). While the two meat curries were rather ordinary, the spinach was excellent.
The butter chicken consisted of several pieces of chicken floating in a generous sea of deep red curry sauce. It wasn’t bad, but at the same time, it wasn’t particularly noteworthy either.
The railway mutton curry, meanwhile, was disappointing. The menu describes it as a dish of lamb and potatoes “present on the menu of every dining car,” making “the railway journey a memorable dining experience.” Unfortunately, this rendition was rather forgettable — the curry bland and watery, and the mutton mostly tasteless. Perhaps it was too faithful a rendition of train food, which in my own experience hasn’t, in fact, been very memorable at all.
As for the clubwala palak, however, the spinach was creamed and cooked through with garlic, onion, and tomato masala, with dollops of butter and cream garnishing the top. I thought the punchy flavoring of the dish was outstanding, making it an excellent representation of the Anglo-Indian theme at Rajasthan Rifles.
In addition, Rifles offers a selection of Indian breads and rice (the garlic naan, HK$48, was particularly good), snacks, sauces, and several desserts, as well as a creative list of mostly easy-drinking “all day cocktails,” and alcohol-free “first class coolers” for those abstaining.
All told, Rajasthan Rifles may not be the best Indian food in town — in fact, Black Sheep’s other Indian offering, New Punjab Club is better — but between the unique Anglo-Indian twist and the great location, it’s definitely worth a visit, and I expect I’ll be back soon.
After all, drinking Minted Pimm’s Cups (HK$98) on the outdoor terrace with an unbeatable view of Victoria Harbour below was a welcome respite indeed.
About the Hungry Lawyer: Marc Rubinstein, born in Baltimore, USA, has been in Asia for 22 years, 16 of those in Hong Kong. He has split his career between banks and law firms, and is currently the general counsel of an Asia-based real estate and alternative energy investor. Marc is a co-founder and co-chair of the Hong Kong Gay & Lesbian Attorneys Network. In addition to being a hungry lawyer, he has run three marathons, nine half-marathons, completed the Hong Kong Oxfam Trailwalker and won the U.S. National Debate Tournament way back in 1991.
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