Fortune Villa is a new Cantonese restaurant situated inside House 1881 (formerly known as Hullett House), a cultural landmark and former Hong Kong Marine Police Headquarters.
At the end of January, Hong Kong insurance company FWD took over the lease of the building and is working on a “complete revitalisation in phases, including a revamp of the restaurants and a renovation of the guest suites”.
Besides Fortune Villa, House 1881 has four other food and beverage venues: Stable Steak House, Stable Bar, Cafe Parlour and The Sergeant’s Bar.
Fortune Villa’s culinary team is led by chef KK Ngai, who works to “develop authentic Cantonese dishes and educate diners on the origins and complexity of the cuisine”.
Ngai – who was previously Chinese executive chef at Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, Sha Tin and Marco Polo Wuhan – has crafted Fortune Villa’s menu to showcase “classic cooking techniques, creative flavours and premium ingredients”.
Where is it?
The closest MTR exit is L6 of East Tsim Sha Tsui. From there, it’s a one- or two-minute walk to the restaurant. If you’re arriving in Kowloon via the Star Ferry from Central or Wan Chai, it’s also only a five-minute walk from the Star Ferry Pier.
You’ll have to ascend three sets of escalators to reach House 1881, and will probably see a good deal of tourists hanging around snapping photographs, this being a picturesque spot.
Once inside, I had a bit of trouble finding the restaurant, being pointed in one direction by a staff member, only to get lost and have to ask two more staff. The third person I asked eventually guided me to the right place.
House 1881’s press release touts the building as being a “historic haven of manicured gardens, colonial architecture and elegant surroundings”. The courtyard you enter before Fortune Villa was indeed quite beautiful, despite it being terrible weather on the day I visited. Tsim Sha Tsui, the neighbourhood in which House 1881 sits, is often horribly crowded, so I can imagine it would be quite pleasant to escape here and sit out on the terrace when the sun is out.
Here is the entrance to the restaurant, a lot more narrow and nondescript than I expected…
What's it like?
Small. There aren’t many tables in the main area, and there is a single private dining room with two round tables, where I sat.
Our meal was divided into four sections: Dim Sum, Main Dishes, Fond Memories of Fishing Village and Classic Desserts.
We started off the Dim Sum with a single steamed shrimp dumpling, which tasted just fine. No better nor worse than other shrimp dumplings I’ve had in Hong Kong.
Then we had the pan-fried turnip cake, which was a little different to other turnip cakes I’ve had in that a layer of shrimp had been added to the top and the cake had been fried. It was pretty tasty.
Next was the baked abalone puff with diced chicken, which I thought was nice, though not everyone likes abalone; one of our party declined to eat this. The bottom tasted a bit like a more savoury version of the chicken pies you can buy from the cha chaan teng (tea restaurants) here in Hong Kong.
Starting the Main Dishes was the Iberico pork fillet with honey sauce, which was basically char siu pork, a classic Cantonese dish. As with the prawn dumpling, this tasted just fine, but was no better or worse than other cha siu pork I’ve had in Hong Kong.
Then I had the drunken foie gras in Chinese hua diao rice wine, which I enjoyed: the rice wine flavour really comes through and makes this dish stand out.
Next was the BB (meaning ‘baby’ in Cantonese) pigeon in rice wine sauce, served cold. I’m not a huge fan of pigeon and this one didn’t convert me, though if you do like pigeon I didn’t see anything wrong with the dish and you may enjoy it.
Onto the Fond Memories of Fishing village: a fried grouper with bean curd sheet. The fish was tasty and I enjoyed the beancurd sheets…
Next was the wok-fried shrimps with Chinese leeks and XO sauce, which was okay but didn’t stand out in any way.
The stir-fired lamb with pickled tofu and bell peppers gets a bonus point for its creative traffic light-style presentation (see below). The lamb was eerily reminiscent of a lamb kebab I’d had on Saturday night in Lan Kwai Fong, but was generally tasty.
The first of the two Classic Desserts were the yin-yang sesame rolls. Typically, these are made using only black sesame, but the chef had also used white sesame here (which has a slightly milder taste), to create a black and white presentation style and mix of flavour. The chef came in to explain that they had added two extra rolls especially for us and reduced the sugar content so they were not too sweet.
The chefs came over to explain the painstaking process of making this dessert and rolling the many layers, so I feel bad to say that I found it fairly bland.
The second dessert was the sweetened almond cream with egg white, served hot. This is one of my favourite Cantonese desserts, and Fortune Villa’s version is a good example.
Hoi King Heen also offers classic dishes, but they’re just a lot better presented and taste better. The Chinese Library and Shè have the unique selling point of offering a modern spin on the classic dishes, and do it well. One Harbour Road’s new vegetarian menu is impressive and the setting with the harbour view is spectacular.
Fortune Villa’s setting amid a historical edifice invites comparison with Central’s new-ish Tai Kwun development, where The Chinese Library is based. Both are quite beautiful, though Tai Kwun is a lot bigger, has a more spacious courtyard, and is closer to other premier nighttime entertainment options in Lan Kwai Fong, Soho and other parts of Central. While Fortune Villa’s location may appeal to affluent mainland Chinese tourists staying in TST, I can’t see the huge appeal of this place for the international business traveller, when there are other better options on the Hong Kong side of the harbour. Or if you’re in TST, go to Hoi King Heen in the basement of the Intercontinental Grand Stanford instead.
Fortune Villa has just opened, so it has time improve. There is potential here and the beautiful setting is definitely a plus, but the restaurant needs to step up its food and introduce more innovation into the dishes. There is just too much competition in Hong Kong for this type of cuisine.
Hours: Lunch: 11.30 – 15:00; Dinner: 18:00 – 22:00
- Dim sum dishes range from HK$48 (US$6.11) to HK$68 (US$8.66);
- Desserts range from HK$58 (US$7.39) to HK$80 (US$10.19);
- Rice and noodle dishes range from HK$148 (US$18.85) to HK$248 (US$31.59);
- Vegetable dishes range from HK$150 (US$19.11) to HK$220 (US$28.03);
- Poultry dishes range from HK$230 (US$29.30) to HK$680 (US$86.63);
- Meat dishes range from HK$180 (US$22.93) to HK$620 (US$78.98);
- Soups range from HK$80 (US$10.19) to HK$300 (US$38.22);
- Seafood ranges from HK$138 (US$17.58) to HK$580 (US$73.89)
- BBQ and appetisers range from HK$80 (US$10.19) to HK$460 (US$58.60)
Location: House 1881, 2A Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong