Island Shangri-la Hotel
56/F Supreme Court Road, Pacific Place
Central, Hong Kong, CHINA
Tel: +852 2820 8590
Food type: French Gastronomy
Nearest tube: Admiralty
For many years, Petrus (along with Gaddi’s) has been regarded as one of the cornerstones of the French fine dining scene in Hong Kong. Today, it has some what been superseded by more contemporary establishments such as Amber and Caprice, and also faces stiff competition from other trendier openings like Seasons and NUR. Yet for many, dining at Petrus is still a big deal, taking a trip back in time where Crêpe Suzettes were flambéd table side and entire chickens and rib of beef were skilfully carved by the maître d. Dining here is as much about the food as it is about the theatre of the ‘arts de la table‘.
When the 2009 Michelin Guide for Hong Kong & Macau was announced, Petrus was awarded a solitary star. Many felt that the restaurant was underrated by the Michelin men. The next year they were promoted to 2 stars only to be demoted to one star the following year. In the current (2015) edition of the guide, they have been stripped of all stars. Long time chef de cuisine Frederic Chabbert had decided to quit prior to this to head up his own business venture (Mano). I have been a long time admirer of Chabbert’s cooking, having had the pleasure to eat a sublime lobster dish when he was cooking at Lafite in Kuala Lumpur.
The reasons for his departure is somewhat unclear. Rumour has it that he was not pleased with how little control he had in choosing his suppliers and sourcing his own ingredients. Instead, the chef would propose a list of ingredients and the Shangri-la hotel group will purchase said ingredients from their chosen suppliers. In a city where the top restaurants are obsessed with working with the top producers to import the best ingredients, this strategy seems sub optimum to say the very least. Again I stress that these are just unsubstantiated rumours, albeit from a very reliable source.
Prior to my visit, I had booked a table at Caprice at the Four Seasons, Hong Kong. However, checking my twitter feed, Petrus was proudly advertising that for a short period of time they would feature a tasting menu designed by Alain Solivérès of Taillevent (Paris). I am a big fan of Chef Solivérès cooking having dined at Taillevent the year before where I enjoyed one of the finest renditions of Lièvre (Hare) à la Royale. With that in mind, I decided to cancel my booking at Caprice and dine here instead.
Unfortunately this turned out to be a letdown for what was otherwise a splendid gastronomic trip to Hong Kong. Important lesson to be learnt – if Chef Solivérès were to personally designed a menu, give me the recipe and some mediocre ingredients to cook with, I will never in a million years be able to reproduce his magic. Alas, I had to learn this lesson the hard way. The food here was middling and the ingredients lacklustre. Take for example Solivérès’ signature of Turbot with Bone Marrow sauce – the fish was definitely not from a very good specimen and it was sadly overcooked.
The one highlight of the meal was a dish of pomme puree with egg yolk and black truffle – a classic, one which has been replicated many times in different restaurants all around the world, was nevertheless well executed. There is nothing more comforting than having a rich runny egg yolk paired with soft, creamy mash and the heady perfume of black truffle.
When a kitchen is struggling, this is often seeps through to the front of house. During my visit, there was clearly a lack of leadership and communication between the front of house and the kitchen. Dare I say, the front of house team seemed largely disinterested and were simply going through the motions. For example, the amuse bouche was oddly enough sent out to us prior to us receiving our menus. In turn, they then came to take our orders after the amuse bouche had been eaten before realising that they had not even handed out said menus. These are basic fundamentals any front of house should have nailed on. There was a laundry of service faults on the night, but I will just leave it as such – after all any front of house can have a bad night.
I don’t think you need to read between the lines to see that I found my meal at Petrus very disappointing. Not that my expectations were remotely high to begin with. This is such a shame because Petrus has a lot going for them – a grand, beautiful, opulent dining room with stunning views of the harbour, lovely cutlery and glassware and an incredible wine list including an impressive vertical of their namesake wine. Yet when the food is average and service poor, lacking in direction and leadership, there is very little to justify a return any time soon. The powers that be need to get their act together, rethink their buying strategy (if the rumours are true) and employ a Chef de Cuisine as soon as possible. Currently the kitchen is like a rudderless ship out at sea.