Tried & Tested

Restaurant review: The Tai Pan, Hong Kong

29 Mar 2019 by Michael Allen

Background

The Tai Pan is one of the in-house restaurants of The Murray, a Niccolo Hotel in Hong Kong originally designed by British modernist architect Ron Phillips in 1969 and redesigned by London-based Foster + Partners ahead of its opening last year. Business Traveller’s editorial director Tom Otley reviewed The Murray last October, praising it as a “fabulous addition to the luxury hotels in Hong Kong”.

Having visited the hotel recently for a meeting and having had a peek at but not dined in the in-house restaurants, I wanted to find out if The Murray is as good a place to eat in as it is to sleep. I put in a request to the hotel and was invited to eat at The Tai Pan, and for aperitifs at the in-house bar and restaurant Popinjays. The Tai Pan bills itself as “one of the best restaurants in Central, Hong Kong”, which is a pretty bold claim given the plethora of dining options in that district, so I thought this restaurant was definitely worth putting through its paces.

Where is it?

The Tai Pan is on the Upper Ground Floor of The Murray. The hotel itself is a little tricky to find if you don’t live in Hong Kong; I recommend taking a taxi. Otherwise, it’s a fair walk from either Admiralty or Central station, though the walk from Admiralty is particularly pleasant as it goes through the picturesque Hong Kong Park. It’s just not that easy to know which way to go if you’re unfamiliar with this part of Hong Kong.

What's it like?

The Tai Pan has an elegant feel and comfortable seating. The decor is modern, with black tables and red chairs.

The food

Before heading to The Tai Pan, I went up to Popinjays for pre-dinner cocktails. I tried the Flight of Fancy (middle, below) made with Botanist gin, Daiginjo sake, orange bitters, raspberry, cranberry and lemon. I also tried The Blue Macaw (right, below), made with Montelobos mezcal, Ancho Reyes, Yellow Chartreuse, fresh pineapple and lemon juice.

The two cocktails were pretty contrasting. The Flight of Fancy was light and sweet, while the The Blue Macaw had a harsh (but not unpleasant) feel in the throat from the mezcal. You can see the demographic the hotel is trying to appeal to with its presentation of cocktails. If you’re trying to hold a more serious business discussion over cocktails, I’d recommend you order something more straightforward. It’s probably difficult to maintain an air of formality while sipping gin and sake from a bird’s rear-end (the straw goes right into its bottom), or while clutching a cumbersome macaw-shaped mug.

Fortunately, a decent selection of gin and tonics are on hand. The hotel insisted I try three varieties: The Botanist from Islay in Scotland (the same gin used in the Flight of Fancy); the Akayane from Japan; and the Gin Mare from Spain. Each gin was accompanied with different garnishes: mint and apple; lemon and flowers; olives and rosemary. Drinking gin and tonics all night can quickly become boring, but each gin had its own distinct flavour, which kept things interesting.

NB: I didn’t polish off the entire contents of these two cocktails and three gins on my empty stomach, and I advise you not to either unless you want to risk causing a scene when you descend to the restaurant.

Popinjays does provide a few nibbles to soak up the booze. The soy snacks (below, middle) were particularly tasty.

I also got a two appetisers along with the cocktails.

Heading downstairs to The Tai Pan, I was seated at a circular table that offered a good deal of privacy and comfortable cushions to support your back.

To start off the meal, I was offered a selection of bread, which came with both regular and seaweed-infused butter, the latter being particularly delicious.

Then for appetisers, on top of the one I’d had in Popinjays, I was presented with the below…

The meal came with a wine pairing and the first wine was a 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, Mahi, Marlborough, New Zealand.

For the starter, I was served a handpicked crab cake, with avocado, mango salad and lime mayonnaise. This tasted good and was reminiscent of the otak-otak fish cakes popular in parts of Southeast Asia.

The second starter was a cream of broccoli and bacon soup. The sour dough croutons and Cheddar cheese were already in the bowl when it reached the table, then the waiter poured the soup around it from a black teapot. It was a fine soup and not too large a portion, which was what I wanted.

Before the main course was served, I was offered the second wine, a 2017 Pinot Grigio, De Stefani, Friuli Venezia-Giulia, Italy.

The main course was oven roasted miso cod fish, with sauteed baby spinach, mushroom and miso sauce. The sauce was a delicious accompaniment to the melt-in-the-mouth fish. However, the mushrooms were a little lacklustre and the dish could have done without them.

I was also able to try another main dish, the Wagyu beef striploin, with beef croquettes and black truffle jus. The beef was succulent and tender.

This was paired with a 2014 Cabernet-Merlot blend, The Pairing Red, Napa Valley, USA.

For dessert, I had the yuzu and dark chocolate mille-feuille. The gold foil was a little unnecessary and the hotel seems to be latching on to the current obsession with putting gold on food, which seems chiefly to be for the benefit of Instagrammers. The most ridiculous example I’ve seen of this is a US$26 cappuccino topped with a sheaf of 23-karat gold, served in Dubai. The surplus gilt aside, the dessert was definitely enjoyable.

I rounded off the meal with a decaf coffee. A lot of restaurants in Hong Kong, even high-end ones, don’t seem to stock decaf, so I was pleased to be able to get it.

I was also offered a couple of pink macaroons, which were a bit much after such a big meal but it was kind of the restaurant to offer them.

Verdict

An very enjoyable meal, made all the more delightful by the well-thought-out wine pairing. Pretty much everything I ate and drank, I enjoyed. Given the plethora of fine dining options in Hong Kong, the “one of the best restaurants in Hong Kong” claim is a rather bold one, but overall it’s a solid offering.

Fact file

Hours:

  • Monday to Thursday: lunch from 12:00 pm. to 2:30 pm; dinner from 6:30 pm. to 10:30 pm;
  • Friday to Sunday and Public Holiday: lunch from 12:00 pm to 2:30 pm; afternoon tea from 2:30 pm to 6 pm dinner from 6:30 pm to 10:30 pm.

Price: 

  • Starters and soups range from HK$220 (US$28) to HK$520 (US$66.2).
  • Mains range from HK$320 (US$40.8) to (US$176).
  • Desserts range from HK$108 ($14) to HK$250 ($32)

Location: Upper Ground Floor, The Murray, 22 Cotton Tree Drive, Central, Hong Kong

Contact: niccolohotels.com

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