Restaurant check: PLAYT at Park Lane, Hong Kong

PLAYT restaurant at Park Lane, a Pullman Hotel

BACKGROUND

PLAYT (as in “plate”) is the funky new restaurant from Park Lane, a Pullman Hotel, Hong Kong, launched on June 2.

Since joining Accor in January 2015, the Causeway Bay property has been undergoing a major overhaul, which has already included the lobby lounge and some guestrooms. (See a Tried and Tested of Park Lane, a Pullman Hotel).

As part of the second phase of the “rejuvenation”, PLAYT replaces Cafe One with a brand-new look and extended international buffet. It has been designed with a more modern customer in mind – specifically “nomads”, or millennial business travellers.

The restaurant is located in the shopping mall adjoining the hotel on Victoria Road – directly above Ikea – a two-minute walk from exit F at Causeway Bay MTR.

THE RESTAURANT

There’s deliberately nothing formal or hotel-like about PLAYT. The restaurant aims for a relaxed vibe, injecting some fun into its name and décor. The industrial-chic aesthetic includes exposed pipe ceilings, raw materials, brick walls and crate-like furniture.

A highlight is the hand-painted graffiti murals from Victoriano – a Spanish street artist who’s gained fame in Hong Kong. His playful works are infused with popular culture references – such as the reimagined Godfather scene and The Girl with the Pearl Earring sketch.

PlayT graffiti at Park Lane, a Pullman Hotel

Look out for Banksy-esque portraits of two little girls – painted in the likeness of the artist’s own daughters. For Instagram lovers, the Damian Hirst take on dots at the entrance makes an excellent backdrop.

Another standout design element is the “kitchen theatre” experience. All of the food stations feature open kitchens, so you can watch the chefs prepping the ingredients and working with specialist equipment such as the tandoori oven, the meat grill, the wood-fired pizza oven, etc.

The restaurant is divided into roughly three sections, with different wallpaper, flooring and seating options – some more appealing than others: there are normal dining tables in the slightly quieter section to the left; a mix of bench-like tables and stools in the middle (possibly avoid unless you’re in a big group); and some cushioned overhanging banquette seating to the right.

The views can’t compete with Hong Kong’s harbour-facing spots; large windows face onto an overpass obscuring Victoria Park, but in a way the street scene does complement the urban theme – and the interior is a visual feast in itself.

Buffet at Playt Park Lane, a Pullman Hotel

THE FOOD

PLAYT serves up an extensive international buffet, in fact the food offering has doubled since the Cafe One days. A number of food stations, plus a dessert section, offer an array of international cuisine ranging from Turkish pizza to foie gras.

My attention was first drawn to the freshly shucked oyster counter, with rows of glistening New Zealand and US-sourced oysters transferred live from fridges (a rarity in Hong Kong) and laid out on a bed of ice. The rest of the seafood counter is also premium quality – lobster, crab, salmon, prawns, plus smoked duck salad. This is probably PLAYT’s strongest offering – the oysters were fantastic, as proven by the customers queueing up to pile their plates high with the molluscs… plus lobster tails, crab legs, etc.

Oyster bar PlayT Park Lane, a Pullman Hotel

The cured meats station offers up Mangalica Hungarian ham – exclusive to Hong Kong – along with other continental meats and cheeses. The Mangalica was wonderful – strong, distinctive and definitely worth trying.

Sushi is also served further round, with fresh octopus, tuna, scallop and eel waiting to be diced into parcels.

On the opposite side, a huge selection of international mains includes various curries, Spanish suckling pig, freshly made naan and roast rib-eye beef. The quality and taste overall was very good, if a bit safe – spice-lovers may be disappointed with the lack of fire power in things like the Malaysian seafood curry, while I found the roast meats to be a bit fatty.

Mangalica Hungarian ham at Play T, Park Lane a Pullman Hotel

Tucked around the corner is a counter dedicated to Hong Kong cuisine, following a request from customers for more authentic local dishes. Here you can find all the Cantonese favourites from roast pigeon to shrimp balls and handmade dim sum – all fresh and delicious.

All guests are served a traditional local soup about an hour into the meal. Ours was a tasty, gloopy broth with fish maw, duck’s feet and sea cucumber – not something I’d have chosen myself, but a pleasantly delicious surprise.

For someone who doesn’t eat much sweet food, even I was excited by the dessert station. Mainly for the homemade gelato – with Heston Blumenthal-crazy flavours like foie gras and brandy cherries (an acquired taste!) to Moutai, a Chinese rice wine (delicious). Frozen yoghurt is available as a healthy alternative, although the rows of individual little cakes and puddings may make this an irrelevant effort. The blood orange cheesecake and Oreo cake were particularly irresistible.

There is a fairly limited drink selection. Wine only comes in house varieties – one of each, plus a sparkling wine. The Chilean Santa Mia Chardonnay was crisp and refreshing. Beer, soft drinks, juice and mocktail options are also available – including a fragrant virgin mojito with fresh mint. The drinks package is reasonable, however: an additional HK$98 (US$13) for unlimited refills from 6-9pm.

Service was attentive and discreet, plates were cleared and glasses topped up at regular intervals, although naturally with a buffet setting there is less interaction with staff.

One niggle was that the bathroom is located within the shopping mall, for which you must retrieve a key from the front desk. A fairly common occurrence for Hong Kong, but not perhaps what you would expect from a hotel restaurant. (To get there: turn right past the shops, turn right again down the corridor, and pass the first “mall-only” toilets to the upgraded “hotel-guest” cubicles.)

PLAYT is also planning to diversify its all-day dining option in about a month’s time with a brunch menu (12-3pm) focusing on caviar and seafood options, plus an afternoon tea menu during the week, with a rumour of char siu (barbecued pork) ice cream!

VERDICT 

PLAYT successful manages to shrug off the stiff formality often associated with hotel dining venues and offers a high-quality international buffet. The playful urban décor and surprising food items add a fun element that heightens the experience.

  • OPENING HOURS 6am–11pm every day
  • PRICE From HK$538 (US$70) per adult for buffet (plus drinks packages from HK$38/US$5 for unlimited fruit juice and soft drink)

To celebrate the opening, the restaurant is running a special suckling pig promotion until August 31. For all bookings of 6-12 people made three days in advance (lunch or dinner) guests will enjoy a complimentary bottle of Italian sparkling wine and a whole Spanish suckling pig. Book online with promotional code “PARTY” to enjoy an extra 20 per cent off the bill.

  • CONTACT PLAYT, The Park Lane Hong Kong, a Pullman Hotel, 1/F, 310 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong; tel +852 2839 3311; parklane.com.hk/playt.html

Tamsin Cocks


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