Where else in fast-paced hustle of Hong Kong can you enjoy Wagyu sirloin with a wine made by Château Margaux? Or Yquem 1998 by the glass? Read Fiona Beckett’s review of Arcane, the concept restaurant from Michelin-starred Aussie chef Shane Osborn.
Arcane, Hong Kong
By Hong Kong standards Shane Osborn isn’t an especially big name, yet here is his face emblazoned on a huge illuminated screen outside his restaurant, Arcane. This buzzing city doesn’t do subtle. Anyone familiar with the London dining scene, however, will remember his food at Pied à Terre, which won him two Michelin stars. Here in this small third-floor restaurant in an upmarket office building, it’s been streamlined and simplified, focusing on flavour and ingredients rather than fussy presentation.
Many of the dishes are vegetarian, a nod not only to one of the restaurant’s main backers but also to Australian-born Osborn’s evolving tastes. ‘The older I get, the more I enjoy eating lighter and vegetarian-based foods,’ he tells us. Warm salad of roasted cauliflower with watercress, toasted macadamia and gorgonzola; sweet Japanese ‘fruit tomato’ offset by a silky aubergine purée; and gnocchi indulgently anointed with truffle cream, spinach and raw porcini make you forget that you’re eating vegetarian food. Meanwhile, classics like steamed suzuki (sea bass) with beurre blanc and girolles are there to ensure your white Burgundy is shown off perfectly.
The Wine List
We’re impressed that wine director Stefano Bartolomei is fielding a 2010 Bourgogne Aligoté from Arnaud Ente rather than a stratospherically priced Meursault – though even this is hardly cheap at $HK370 (£39) a glass. Pan-roasted Mayura wagyu sirloin is also on the pricey side at $HK548 (£58), but served with a glass of Château Margaux’s Pavillon Rouge 2005 at $HK750 (£79) is one of the best bits of beef I’ve eaten.
A wine list of this quality is not cheap. Hong Kong’s tax-free status doesn’t exactly translate into bargain drinking but it’s the sheer availability of fine wine from the 1,000-bin list that’s the draw. Not many restaurants have 1998 Yquem by the glass (HK$980/£103 if you’re interested). There are good-value New World options too, such as Eradus’ Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand’ Awatere Valley at HK$100 (£10.50), as well as a fine selection of German Riesling.
Bringing your own bottle – one per guest – is welcome too (so long as your wine doesn’t appear on their list), for HK$400 (£42) per 750ml bottle, or half that if you buy something too. There’s a pretty patio garden which would be welcome on the rare days when its cooler to sit outside than in, and a bar right by the kitchen where you can watch Osborn and his brigade quietly going about their business. In the hectic world of Hong Kong, Arcane is an oasis – albeit a pricey one (though there is a cheaper set lunch). But if you want to treat yourself, go.
18 On Lan St
Tel+852 2728 0178
Fiona Beckett is a Decanter contributing editor and chief restaurant reviewer. To get the first look at her bar and restaurant reviews from all over the world, subscribe to Decanter Magazine here