Tried & Tested

Restaurant review: The Chinese Library, Hong Kong

27 Feb 2019 by Michael Allen

Background

Backed by Aqua Restaurant Group, The Chinese Library aims to serve Hong Kong’s favourite Chinese dishes “in colonial elegance”.

The first Aqua restaurant opened 18 years ago and the group now has over 25 venues in Hong Kong, Beijing and London.

Where is it?

Inside Tai Kwun, a trendy new development in Central, situated in the restored Central Police Station compound.

Tai Kwun is a pretty large complex and I wasn’t sure exactly how to find The Chinese Library when I arrived. Fortunately, while I was studying the map at the entrance, a voiced piped up behind me: “Welcome!”

I asked the voice where I could find The Chinese Library and received a surprisingly detailed and courteous response. This treatment continued once I entered the building that houses the restaurant. As I approached these stairs, I was stopped by another Tai Kwun staff member, who asked which restaurant I was visiting, before motioning for me to go upstairs…

What's it like?

The interior decor of The Chinese Library is warm and welcoming, and has a plush living room-esque feel…

I was seated at one of these circular tables, which offers a good degree of privacy and comfort…

There is also an outdoor seating area that lets you look down on the crowds enjoying Tai Kwun below…

The food

I commenced the meal with some dim sum, starting with the Wagyu beef and black pepper puff. The addition of the premium Wagyu beef was definitely noticeable and this was a delicious way to start off the meal…

The next dim sum was the cod dumplings, something I have not tried before but that was pretty tasty…

Then came the laksa xiaolongbao, a signature dim sum of this restaurant. I’ve eaten hundreds of xiaolongbao during my time in Asia, but this was the first time I’ve seen laksa flavoured ones – and the flavour combination was a winner, adding a lightly curried tang to the tasty soup and pork.

Moving on to the mains, I had the BBQ pork loin glazed with New Zealand Manuka honey. The dish was served with a small plate of extra sesame seeds that you could add to the meat as per your taste. The pork was tender and juicy, and the glaze was sweet and delicious…

Then I had the Wok-seared Hokkaido scallops with Guangdong preserved sausage, which was very tasty and plus came with plenty of vegetables, making the dish feel fairly healthy after the pork…

I also had the deep fried cod fillet with baby ginger and prized vinegar. The fish was completely boneless and melted in the mouth…

All this was washed down with jasmine tea…

For dessert, the restaurant insisted I try their tofu panna cotta, which they brought over unsolicited. It’s an interesting take on the panna cotta and, being a tofu-lover, I quite enjoyed it, though the classic panna cotta made with cream probably triumphs at the end of the day…

Then came the dessert I’d actually ordered. Note that on the menu the desserts are listed under the “Sweet Dim Sum” section rather than a specific desserts section.

My ordered dessert was the lychee ginger sorbet, which was nice and refreshing…

Verdict

The Chinese Library is one of several new restaurants in Hong Kong offering a high-end take on classic Cantonese cuisine, including dim sum. In January, I reviewed Shè, which offers a similar concept: a place to taste all the classic Hong Kong dishes without having to squeeze elbow to elbow in a loud, crowded and potentially unsanitary hole-in-the-wall eatery.

One could argue that by eliminating the hustle and bustle and pricing out the hoi polloi, you lose a lot of the atmosphere that makes yum cha so fun; but after tasting The Chinese Library’s excellent food and experiencing the luxury of actually being able to hear the person on the other side of the table speak, I have to admit that this is probably a lot more suitable place than a cha chaan teng diner to hold your business luncheon – even if you will have to reach a lot deeper in your pocket for the privilege.

Fact file

  • Hours: Lunch: Monday – Sunday: 12pm-3pm; Dinner: Monday-Sunday: 6pm-10:30pm
  • Price: HK$350 (US$44.59) for the Deluxe Lunch Menu; HK$450 (US$57.33) for the Premium Lunch Menu. Add 10 per cent service charge. Dim sum range from HK$58 (US$7.39) to HK$128 (US$16.31), while main courses come in range from HK$88 (US$11.21) for a hot and sour soup, all the way up to HK$698 (US$88.92) for a roast 45-day imperial Peking duck.
  • Location:
    Police Headquarters, Tai Kwun, 10 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong
  • Contact:+852 2848 3088chineselibrary.com.hk
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Business Traveller UK March 2019 edition
Business Traveller UK March 2019 edition
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