I love living in Asia and having the ability to travel to idyllic beaches for long weekends at any time of year. However, being so close to Asia’s paradise does remind me how far away I am from Europe; when living in England, I was lucky enough to be able to escape to Switzerland for a quick ski fix at least every couple of months. Since being here however, I feel light-years away from the cosiness of a ski resort and the warm, comforting Alpine food. Yet the Peninsula’s Chesa might just be the next best thing.
Step into The Peninsula and you feel that long-forgotten elegance of colonial Hong Kong. Step into Chesa and you’re not only stepping back in time, but also travelling 6,000 miles deep into the Alps.
Swiss Restaurant Chesa, which is designed to look like a Swiss chalet complete with dark wood, dim lighting and Alpine paintings and knick-knacks, first opened in 1965 and it is clear that not a great deal has changed since then.
So I had ascertained that the décor was authentic, but what about the food? Would I be filled with the warm, comforting mountain food I had so longed for? Or would it be a cringe-worthy Chinese imitation gone wrong? Think about it; it’s The Peninsula – what do you expect?!
We started with a crabmeat pancake with lobster-Armagnac cappuccino. Apparently this is one of the most popular dishes at Chesa and I can completely understand why; the flavours were so delicate, the texture so smooth, made the more so by the delicious lobster sauce that was creamy yet still somehow light. It was a shame we had to share it but I made sure I mopped up every trace of sauce with the dangerously more-ish pretztel-esque bread roll.
I couldn’t come to Chesa without eating my bodyweight in cheese, so we opted for the Fondue Montagnarde. Made with Emmental, Appenzeller and Gruyere, with the delicious addition of smoked mountain bacon, this fondue was indulgently rich, creamy and more than filled the gap I had created by my four consecutive daily classes of Circuit25!
Luckily we held back from finishing the entire fondue in order to save space for the Sliced veal with mushrooms in a light cream sauce. Again the cream was not too heavy (which was obviously a blessing after the heavy fromage), and the veal was beautifully tender. A healthy serving of rösti was the perfect complement for this already incredible dish.
Partly because I was intrigued about what ‘spätzli’ would entail, we also shared a Boneless beef spare rib braised in beer with spätzli. This very simple dish was wonderfully comforting; the beef so tender it barely needed a knife to cut it. It turns out spätzli are a kind of little dumplings that didn’t add a great deal of flavour but definitely made the dish more indulgent (just in case we hadn’t reached our indulgence quota) and even more of a comfort-food dish.
To round the meal off, although we were tempted by the chocolate fondue, we listened to our almost-full-to-bursting tummies and opted instead for the Swiss chocolate mousse. Thankfully, after the rest of the meal was outrageously rich, this smooth chocolate mousse was pretty delicate and light, meaning it was near impossible to put my fork down!
Chesa may be geographically a million miles away from the real deal, but experience-wise and food-wise, it is a lot closer than you’d imagine. Obviously prices are a little higher than you would expect to find in the Alps, but that’s to be expected when dining in such a prestigious hotel as The Peninsula.
1/F The Peninsula
19-21 Salisbury Road
Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: +852 2696 6769