When looking for a plan B after our first choice of restaurant was closed for a private party, we happened to stumble across Paul’s Kitchen on Gough Street. It turned out to be one of those serendipitous moments where we went in with neutral expectations, still slightly miffed that we couldn’t have Heirloom’s tacos, and came out absolutely wowed. I was actually supposed to be having a night off and wasn’t planning on reviewing it, until I realised how good an experience we were about to have.
To look at, Paul’s Kitchen isn’t anything special; the décor is very plain and simple other than the obligatory mini chandelier, and focus is directed to the big glass window at the back of the room, through which you can see the chefs hard at work in the kitchen.
Executive Chef Paul Lee, who coincidentally was educated in my hometown of Guildford, never actually studied to be a chef. It was when he was in Guildford, gorging on British comfort food, that he decided on his life’s calling. He took inspiration from my favourites Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver, reading their cookbooks from cover to cover and watching every TV programme they ever made, before setting up Paul’s Kitchen five years ago, originally a few doors down from where it now stands.
The menu therefore is simple yet effective, focusing on western classics, which Paul says he finds “much more interesting than Chinese cooking.” Don’t bother going if you’re not particularly hungry, as the menu is designed for either a three course ($360) or four course ($450) feast.
To start with, the Shrimp and avocado salad was deliciously light and fresh. Normally this dish also includes chorizo, but when my ‘pescatarian’ friend requested no chorizo, the kind waiter promised to replace her chorizo with extra avocado, a gesture I wish more restaurants would learn from. The dish was perfect; the prawns succulent and tender, the avocado wonderfully ripe – all in all, the ideal summer salad.
My choice of Homemade shrimp ravioli with Parmesan shavings was beautiful. Again you could not fault the freshness of the prawns, and although Italians seldom use cheese on seafood, here it worked perfectly, mixed in with the delicate buttery sauce. Dill is never usually my friend, so on seeing the ghastly little sprigs, I did fear they would overpower the dish, but thankfully this was not the case and I loved every mouthful.
Onto the main courses, the shrimp and scallop risotto (pictured above) was also a hit. Scallops, when done wrong, can take on a rubbery consistency that can ruin the entire dish; these scallops however, were soft and fleshy, perfectly complementing the al dente rice.
For my main course, to stick with the prawn theme we seemed to have adopted, I went for one of Paul’s own recommendations, which actually wasn’t on the menu: Grilled king prawns in garlic butter. Without exaggerating, these gigantic prawns were utterly fantabulous; cooked to perfection, lightly glazed in a sweet garlic butter and paired with yummy veggies.
Thankfully we steered away from the prawn theme for our desserts and chose the Banoffee Trifle and the Apple Crumble. The banoffee trifle instantly brought a smile to my lips as it seemed like a dessert designed for kids; first a layer of digestive biscuit crumble, then a layer of chopped bananas, smothered in a silky smooth toffee sauce, topped with a ball of vanilla ice cream and sprinkled with, of all things, frosted flakes! The mélange of textures and flavours thrown together in the martini glass made for an incredible dessert that I might even replicate at home!
The apple crumble was also divine. I’m not sure what exactly Paul does to his crumble, but whatever he’s doing, he’s doing it right, for this was the perfect crumble. I would have liked it to have had a few more apple pieces thrown in there, but maybe I’m just being fussy and trying to find something negative to say!
Service was amongst the best I have experienced in Hong Kong. Ever. It wasn’t even that the waiters were trying hard to make our experience enjoyable; they just did, naturally. They were happy to be there, happy to be serving us, and in so being, they made us happy too.
Where I do have a complaint about Paul’s Kitchen is with the price; without any drinks, we paid $420 each including service, hence the not 100% perfect rating (see my rating system). Although the food was excellent and the service outstanding, it wasn’t amazingly fancy food and I thought it was a little expensive for what is otherwise quite a down to earth restaurant. That said, I suppose I would rather part with this amount of money at a place that has definitely earned it.
G/F, 16 Gough Street
Tel: +852 2815 8003