Everyone loves a good Champagne Brunch on a Sunday. As much as we complain that we don’t like Sunday drinking or waking up hungover on a Monday, it is still hard to find a reason to turn down an occasion that involves far too much food and far too much Champagne, especially when it’s actually Champagne, and not some cheap ‘sparkling wine’. Having never tried Press Room Group’s newest venture, The Principal, I jumped at the chance to check out its Sunday brunch.
Press Room Group is known for its British home-comforts, elaborate décor and relaxed atmosphere. The Principal on Star Street, however, has gone for a completely different approach; the space is very minimalistic with white walls and red-brick detailing. Tables are not crammed in to seat as many diners as possible, but rather, diners are given more space than the usual Hong Kong restaurant, including a row of dining booths at the back of the room. Said booths are adorned with cute and comfy tartan cushions that contrast beautifully with the leather benches.
Hailing from the Canary Islands, Chef Jonay Armas uses influences from his hometown to create a menu that is totally different to any other brunch in Hong Kong. Rather than having to get up from the comfortable booths, starters are brought to the centre of the table, so you can lazily indulge in your own little buffet.
Starting light and healthy, the brunch begins with a Yoghurt mousse, berry compote and granola. It’s hard to find good yoghurt in Hong Kong, so usually I avoid it altogether, which meant that The Principal’s yoghurt was even more of a treat and, even better, it seemed light and less creamy than your average yoghurt. The berries were sharp and juicy, perfectly complementing the crunchy sweet granola.
‘Queso – embutidos’, a plate of cold cuts, cheese, figs and grapes followed. These were all of the highest quality, cut especially for us from the central cheese and meats station that dominated the main dining area.
The Homemade ‘tins’ were incredible: what looked like three adorable little sardine tins were laden with paprika-escabeche mussels, natural cockles with lemon zest and anchovies in vinegar, garlic and olive oil. All three had such intense and interesting flavours, but the ultimate winner were the cockles; they were merely marinated in olive oil and lemon, but that was enough to give them a wonderfully refreshing zing.
Three little jars of Ceviche were also delicious. The tuna with mango, lemon, young coconut and avocado sounded exciting, but was actually my least favourite of the three; the flavours combined were excellent, but the tuna alone had absorbed very little of the flavours and left something to be desired. The prawn with orange, grapefruit and tomato was divinely refreshing, citrusy and light, enhanced by sprigs of chopped fresh parsley. Best of all, however, were the scallops, marinated in lime, ginger and cauliflower, with an added touch of chilli. The meaty scallops melted in the mouth and were bursting with refreshing flavours.
Of the Frituras, the green asparagus tempura were a little overcooked and lacking in flavour, the chicken croquetas were also a little on the bland side, but the cod buñuelos were absolutely amazing: little bite-sized, dreamy fishcakes that tasted divine on their own but even better dipped in the garlicky aioli.
Main courses are selected a la carte from a choice ranging from quiche to French toast. I was tempted by the 63˚C egg with parmentier and chorizo, one of The Principal’s specialities. The egg is slow cooked for 45 minutes leaving it creamy and delicate, the yolk wonderfully soft and runny. The salty chorizo brings out the flavour of the delicate egg, though I perhaps would have liked some toast to mop up the creamy mixture of egg and potato.
The steak tartare was one of the best I have tasted. The well-seasoned beef was of the highest quality, topped with two quail’s eggs and served with sweet potato crisps that complemented the saltiness of the beef perfectly.
The biggest wow-factor of the meal is definitely the desserts. Although I was full even before the main course, on seeing the array of desserts that were presented before us, I managed to find the room. The raspberry pop rocks (raspberry white chocolate, raspberry puree, fresh raspberry and snap, crackle and pop) reminded me of childhood days: as you bite into it, the whole thing explodes, pops and fizzes inside your mouth! The lime meringue pies were delicious balls of a kind of lime ice cream encased in soft meringue; it could have done with being a little crispier on the outside. These were served amidst a glass of the most interesting popcorn I have ever tasted: popcorn, peanuts, cornflakes, toffee and cayenne pepper – amazing. I found the piña colada marshmallow unexpectedly delicious; the fresh flavours of coconut and pineapple, plus the grated coconut on the outside made for an exciting, summery treat.
The churros, dipped in bittersweet 70% Valrhona chocolate were incredibly moreish, but the absolute star of the show, which I cleverly left till last, were the mini homemade “Snickers”. These little beauties, made from nougat, melted marshmallow, caramel, chocolate and chopped peanuts, I think may actually be better than the real thing. Saddened by the thought that it would have to end, I took the smallest bites I could manage and made it last as long as possible.
Service at The Principal was top notch; the waiters and even the super-friendly General Manager were constantly checking to see if we were happy and re-filling our Champagne glasses before we could see the bottom of them. The one thing I can fault, however, is the price. At $690 (for the free-flow option) per person, plus service charge, it’s more expensive than some hotel brunches, and even more expensive than Zuma! However, for a special occasion, or if I ever feel like being indulgent, I will most likely be back…Even if it’s just for the “Snickers”.
9 Star Street
Tel: +852 2563 3444