Private tables

1 Jun 2005 by business traveller

The idea behind a chef's table is a simple one. Instead of renting a restaurant's private room, you have a room to yourself, but open to the kitchen. It has all the advantages of a private room and its seclusion from the main restaurant, but has a theatrical element; you are inviting your guests to an event, yet it is an event during which you can still chat. Just try that at the opera.

When booking a chef's table, you'll often be directed towards a degustation or tasting menu. Provided you are confident your guests have no dietary requirements, or if they do, that the kitchen will be flexible enough to accommodate them on the night, this is a good idea. It allows you and your guests to try new dishes, and ones which the kitchen is proud of (and, presumably, good at cooking). It also gives everyone something to talk about.

On the night, the chef will often come over to introduce dishes and a sommelier will usually be available to recommend wines to complement each course – a nice touch that makes your guests feel they are receiving rather special treatment.

Although you don't have to be an expert on food, or on the chef and his restaurant, it's a good idea to ask around or do a quick search on the internet to find out more about him (or her). It provides a background for your guests, and a reason why you chose that restaurant. In terms of pricing, some restaurants require a minimum spend, while others have a fixed price per person, with drinks usually separate. Here we provide full details of some of Asia-Pacific's most exclusive dine-in kitchens.


The French Kitchen Brasserie & Bar, Grand Hyatt Tokyo
What's it like? Located at the end of the main dining hall with its lively open kitchens and refreshing terrace environment is a private room for 12. Executive chef Josef Budde or chef Izumita and their team prepare the food at the specially designed Bulthaup kitchen, which takes up nearly half the room, with the other half dominated by an elegant table in fine dark wood, set with Christofle silverware and Raynaud porcelain. A Bang & Olufsen sound system in the corner loads up to six CDs at one time, and guests are welcome to bring their own selections.
Tasting menu It's all up to the diners, and they can discuss their preferences with the chef, but a recent eight-course Bollinger Champagne Dinner included Oscietra caviar with blinis, olive oil braised ocean trout with truffles and green beans, pan-fried foie gras with banyuls-laced figs and steamed rock lobster with herb scented couscous and asparagus in consommé. Each presentation was exquisitely accompanied by a Bollinger vintage.
Price There is a 50,000 yen ($485/£244) room booking fee. Expect to pay from $115/£60 each for food only. The French Kitchen is available for lunch (11.30am to 2.30pm) and dinner (6pm to 10.30pm) and giving three-day advance notice is advisable.
Contact 6-10-3 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0032, tel +81 3 4333 1234,www.grandhyatttokyo.com.


Gaddi's and Spring Moon, The Peninsula Hong Kong
What's it like? The chefs' tables at the French and Chinese restaurants of this renowned hotel sit right inside their kitchens. At Gaddi's, guests have apéritifs in the "parlour" of the restaurant proper before proceeding to their special corner, a gleaming steel table for four people with a clear view of the action. Chef David Goodridge comes over to discuss any preferences and dietary restrictions. He says: "A chef's table is a real challenge – you have to be on the ball and there are no excuses. Guests are paying top money for it." For those lugging their own bottle of wine, the charge is HK$300 ($38.46/£20). Spring Moon accommodates up to six diners who, if they wish, can assist the dim sum chef prepare the first course.
Tasting menu A Gaddi's sample lunch could include warm Atlantic lobster salad with Jerusalem artichokes and oven-baked Bresse pigeon in black truffles, while dinner could be rabbit medallions with goose liver and poached black truffles, salmon timbale with marjoram pesto and lemon butter sauce, and American Black Angus sirloin baked in a rosemary and salt crust with pea purée and Roquefort fritters. At Spring Moon, an eight-course meal might include steamed shrimp dumpling with bird's nest, supreme shark's fin and crab meat served in clear broth, boiled fillet of spotted garoupa with preserved vegetables and coriander, and braised whole superior Yoshihama abalone.
Prices Gaddi's inner sanctum is available daily for lunch (HK$688/$89/£47 per person for three courses) and dinner (HK$1,288/$167/£87 per person for five courses or HK$1,888/$245/£128 per person for 10 courses). Spring Moon is open only for dinner (HK$11,000/$1,428/£747 for up to six people for six courses).
Contact The Peninsula Hong Kong, Salisbury Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong, tel +852 2920 2888,http://hongkong.peninsula.com.

Spoon by Alain Ducasse, Intercontinental Hotel Hong Kong

What's it like? If not for the sliding glass door, separating the chef's table from the kitchen, you could almost be eating off the stove in Alain Ducasse's Spoon restaurant at the Intercontinental Hong Kong. And with chef de cuisine Laurent Andre enjoying interaction with his audience so much – "They're not guests, they're friends," he declares – that panel might as well be left permanently open. Passionate about his art, Andre is more than happy to let anyone who wants to help peel the potatoes do so. "Today, there is no more distance [between the chef and the diners].
It is all about openness," he says. "Trying out different types of food...sharing skills." Decor in this special venue, which takes up to six people, is in the same earth tones as the restaurant. Place settings feature Christofle glasses and silverware.
Tasting menu A "Sexy Spoon" tailor-made menu could include cream of pumpkin, country style vegetables and mushrooms, romaine lettuce with tzatziki condiment
and spicy shrimps, duck foie gras, steamed turbot with porcini condiment and green and white asparagus.
Prices A minimum food and beverage consumption of HK$6,000/$769/£402 is required. Spoon is open for dinner (6pm to 11.30pm). Advance reservations are vital and
must be made at least a week in advance.
Contact Intercontinental Hong Kong, 18 Salisbury Road, Kowloon, tel +852 2313 2256,www.ichotelsgroup.com.

One Harbour Road, Grand Hyatt Hong Kong

What's it like? The workings of a Chinese kitchen are really laid open when you experience the chef's table of One Harbour Road. Located in what is actually chef Li Shu Tim's office, the intimate set-up caters to 12 diners who will certainly find the stir-fry, dim sum and roast sections enough to whet their appetites. Li, who has been with the Grand Hyatt since its 1989 opening, will patiently answer all diners' questions about Cantonese cuisine (the basic ingredients of which are seafood and dried herbs) and about running an establishment that relies on precision timing and flair to produce the freshest dishes. His must be the most stylish cubby hole, designed by Hyatt favourite John Moford, whose tasteful display of native baskets and glass jars with curious-looking contents provides an appropriate background for the feast to come. A direct fax line and broadband access are available for a meeting before the eating, as well as a CD player for music to set the mood.
Tasting menu Request Li's "surprise menu" or one of several set menus, which could include a dim sum selection of steamed pork dumplings with abalone, steamed shrimp dumplings with goose liver, steamed seafood dumplings with sea urchin and pan-fried beancurd rolls with assorted mushrooms, double-boiled assorted meat in baby papaya, wok-fried prawns stuffed with vegetable in crispy basket, steamed fillet of garoupa with hot chilli and vegetables and fried rice with crab meat, egg white and vegetables. The restaurant is reached via a private glass-walled lift from the lobby.
Prices There is a minimum food charge of HK$5,000/$641/£336 for lunch and HK$10,000/$1,282/£672 for dinner.
Contact Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, 1 Harbour Road, tel +852 2588 1234,www.hongkong.grand.hyatt.com.


What's it like? Like its larger-than-life chef Harlan Goldstein – yes, you guessed it, the restaurant is named after him – the space where he whips up haute couture meals every night for a select group is dramatic. To begin with, Harlan's is located in Hong Kong's flashiest commercial address, IFC Mall, next to the 88-storey IFC2 – currently the city's tallest skyscraper. His version of a chef's table is in a super-stylish room with blood-red silk walls and a panoramic view of Kowloon. The room is equipped with wifi, broadband, a 32-inch plasma TV and its own cutting-edge kitchen, a twist on the usual kitchen with a table and a few chairs. Having catered for socialites for nine years at the exclusive Aberdeen Marina Club – one of industrialist and hotelier Robert Kuok's plethora of enterprises – the native New Yorker decided to realise a life-long dream to run his own boutique eatery and went solo last year.
With his mother Ruth as a partner, he opened a 492sqm venue that cost him $8 million (£4.4 million). Fortunately, Harlan's clients from his old job have followed him to the place he describes as the ultimate "tycoon's canteen".
Tasting menu Harlan says clients usually leave it up to him to decide the night's fare, but if you must ask, an eight- or nine-course meal could include Spanish ham sticks as appetisers, followed by tomato cloud terrine with red prawns and basil; black risotto, baby squid and crispy garlic chips; paella broth; saffron rice krispies, porcini and seabass; black truffle foam and a wood-stove slow cooked lamb rib, eggplant caviar and bell peppers.
Prices Advance booking is strongly recommended. The restaurant caters for 10 to14-seat dinners (from HK$1,200/$153/£80 per person food only), although lunch (from HK$600/$77/£40 per person food only) can also be arranged. Bringing your own bottle will set you back HK$300/$38/£20.
Contact Shop 2075 Podium Level 2, IFC Mall, 8 Finance Street, Central, tel +852 2805 0566.


Whampoa Club, Three on the Bund
What's it like? Set apart from the main dining room by coloured glass panels, the long table – an unusual feature for a Chinese restaurant – seats 10 people and enjoys good views of the Bund area and the Oriental Pearl Tower, across the river in Pudong.
Servings are done in fine-dining, plated style, ideal for local businessmen wanting to entertain foreign partners. The restaurant showcases the unique culinary talents of
chef Jereme Leung. Aged 34, he is one of Asia's youngest master chefs and has been impressing the town's food lovers with his Shanghainese cuisine that has a contemporary twist. A tea sommelier is also on hand to recommend the best beverages to enhance the meal.
Tasting menu Menus vary according to the season and are changed regularly. From one list comes these selections: traditional crispy home-made sausages with pickled yam,
oven-baked shark's fin paper parcel, smoked salmon and fish consommé, pan-seared Zhoushan rainbow snapper with garlic and five-spiced salt, and warm chocolate cake
with roasted peanuts.
Prices Available daily for lunch (11.30am to 2.30pm) and dinner (5.30pm to 10pm) with a minimum spend of CNY500/$60/£32 per person, excluding drinks. Advance booking of at least three days is recommended.
Contact 5th Floor, Three on the Bund, 3 The Bund, tel +86 21 6321 3737,www.threeonthebund.com.


The Bathers' Pavilion
What's it like? The restaurant is in a former changing room, circa 1921, on picturesque Balmoral Beach. Drinks kick off the evening, followed by entrées and chef Serge Dansereau explaining the night's repertoire. A kitchen tour is next, with mains served in the Blue Room. Then it's off to the Pastry Kitchen where soufflés are being whipped into shape, followed by sampling. More desserts then await guests at the Blue Room. And to remember the evening you could pick up the Montreal-born chef's latest book, The Bathers' Pavilion Cafe Cookbook (A$50/$39/£20), which is signed by the author.
Tasting menu Treat it as a surprise – the chef doesn't give away anything in advance.
Prices Dinner is served Wednesday to Friday, 6.30pm for a 7pm seating. It costs A$150/$118/£62 per guest for four courses or A$225/$178/£93 with matching wines.
Contact 4 The Esplanade, Balmoral, Sydney NSW 2088, tel +61 2 9969 2938,www.batherspavilion.com.au¦


Petrus, London

What's it like? The Berkeley hotel's Petrus is where you'll find Marcus Wareing, once described as Gordon Ramsay's protégé but now so much more. The main restaurant has 44 covers and an elegant theme in maroon and purple. The chef's table, in a room set into a wall of the kitchen, is separate from the restaurant and elevated to provide a good view.
Tasting menu The nine-course tasting menu includes South Coast mackerel baked with chervil on a beetroot carpaccio, cauliflower purée and anchovy vinaigrette, followed by Scottish langoustines and lobster poached in vegetable nage, sweet and sour tomato, spiced avocado purée, chilled cucumber and almond gazpacho.
Price $1,381/£720 for lunch and $1,688/£880 for dinner for six to eight guests.
Contact The Berkeley, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London, tel +44 (0) 20 7235 1200,www.gordonramsay.comorwww.theberkeleyhotellondon.com.

Other chefs' tables Gordon Ramsay at Claridge's (four to six guests) costs $1,151/£600 for lunch and $,1,439/£750 for dinner; Angela Hartnett at The Connaught (maximum 10) costs $125/£65 per person for lunch  and $163/£85 for dinner; Marcus Wareing at The Savoy Grill (six to eight guests) costs $1,151/£600 for lunch and $1,343/£700 for dinner.

Tom Otley

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