When temperatures start soaring and the humidity reaches almost 100%, everyone’s intention is to get away from the city, whether it’s to go out on a junk, to a nearby beach, or to one of the outlying islands. Many restaurateurs realised this long ago, claiming their territory on many of the most popular beaches. The latest to join the trend – whilst really creating a trend of its own – is Mavericks on Lantau’s Pui O Beach.
Mavericks is like nothing you could ever expect to find in Hong Kong. You’d expect it in California, or Hawaii, or Punta del Este, but not in Hong Kong. It’s a surf shack cum beach bar cum casual eatery that is cooler than cool. Kitted out with all things surf and skate, plus a DJ that plays lounge music all afternoon, it’s easy to understand why Mavericks is considered the beach bar that everyone wants to be at this summer. There’s a laidback vibe that adds to the holiday feel you’ll already be experiencing from just being away from the skyscrapers. The problem is, this laidback vibe can go a little too far – no one will answer the telephone, reservations get confused and you will wait over an hour for your food to arrive.
Speaking of food, the chef behind Mavericks is Austin Fry, the original chef at Brickhouse, who is also behind Roundhouse and Salon 10. His chilled out attitude goes hand in hand with that of the restaurant and you can’t help but expect great things from the food, only to be ever so slightly disappointed when it actually arrives, particularly after such a long wait.
We started with the popcorn and scallops. On paper, these sounded super fun and delicious; in reality, however, although the scallop sashimi with tamarind sauce was delicious, the spiced popcorn beneath was stale and practically inedible. I know this is likely due to the ridiculous humidity, but perhaps if the popcorn had been served fresh it wouldn’t have been quite so bad.
The lettuce wrap fared a little better. The pork neck on its own was tasteless and a little chewy, but once all the condiments had been added, including lime, coconut, peanuts, shallots and sauce, the combination of flavours and textures worked well together. According to the menu, the sauce was hoisin, but to taste it was more of a thick soy. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I just don’t really like being lied to.
Our favourite of the ‘surf snacks’ were the wonton nachos. Instead of the salsa, cheese, sour cream and jalapeños being served atop tortilla chips, here they were served on crispy beef wontons, with a side of guacamole. Again, they required fast chowing to avoid the humidity turning the crispy into soggy, but flavour-wise they were delicious.
Moving onto the mains, the Dog Town was pretty tasty. I feared the sausage in this hotdog would be akin to a Frankfurter, but it was a true English-style banger, in a soft brioche bun topped with loads of sauerkraut and the kind of bright yellow squeezy mustard you’d expect from beach-side hotdog stands. There was nothing fancy about it, but it didn’t need to be.
The fittingly named “Fush ‘n’ Chups”, given it was prepared New Zealand-style, was decent, though not the best I’ve ever had. The batter was light and flavoursome, whilst the fish beneath was lovely and flaky. The three homemade tartar sauces – classic, jalapeño and horseradish – were a great addition, particularly the jalapeño.
According to a friend who visited a week before I did, at Mavericks he had the best burger of his life. Obviously I had to put the Big Kahuna Burger to the test, to see if this was true. The house-ground patty was definitely tasty, complemented by the basil mayo, but unfortunately the whole thing was served warm at best, verging on cold. Had it been hot, I’d say it could be up there amongst the burger champs.
All three were served with the kind of crinkly chips that make you doubt whether they ever came from a potato, or if they started their life inside a freezer bag. Regardless, there is something hugely addictive about these chips and, provided I don’t eat them every day, I do enjoy them once in a while.
Service, as I may have already hinted at, was poor. Most of the waiters were friendly and chatty, but they weren’t really concerned with ensuring we had a pleasant dining experience. Perhaps that’s just part of the laidback vibe… For food, a couple of beers and a couple of bottles of white wine, we each paid $400, which wasn’t bad. On the whole, I think Mavericks still has a lot to learn in terms of service and execution; the food was OK, but not worth waiting over an hour for, and not the sort of quality I had expected it would be. If these issues can be worked on, then, given the awesome setting, cool vibe and holiday feel, I anticipate Mavericks being the place to be this summer.
Pui O Beach
Tel: +852 5402 4154