Having always been a fan of Pacific Place’s Italian restaurant, Domani, I was sad to see it go. When I then heard that Swire Hotels was swooping in to open its flagship stand-alone restaurant, The Continental, that sadness was immediately replaced with eager anticipation, knowing that Swire was bound to create something very impressive.
The space itself remains fairly unchanged from its Domani days. It’s always been a lovely space, with huge windows overlooking the surrounding greenery and high rise buildings of Admiralty, and the new owners have kept the swirly ceiling design by Thomas Heatherwick that matches the general theme in Pacific Place. With new interiors by David Collins Studio (the brand behind The Wolseley and The Delaunay in London), however, the space now looks much airier and brighter. Gone are the white tablecloths and fine dining stufiness, making room for white marble, textured oak panels, antique bronze detailing and green leather seating, creating a more modern and relaxed look and feel. The restaurant is inspired by the grand cafés of Europe, and you can definitely sense this.
The kitchen team is led by British chef, restaurateur and food writer Rowley Leigh, who Swire Hotels hired as The Continental’s consultant chef. Chef Rowley is considered to be one of the founding fathers of Modern British cooking, having headed the kitchens at renowned London restaurants Le Café Anglais, Kensington Place and Le Poulbot. From working closely with the Roux brothers at Le Gavroche, Chef Rowley developed an interest in French cuisine, and incorporates this with elements from other cuisines. The menu at The Continental therefore features a range of European classics with a unique spin, served for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and late night snacks.
Our tasting menu began with a beautiful griddled scallop with chestnut purée, shiso and lemon, served as individual portions on the scallop’s shell. The scallop was cooked to complete perfection and paired wonderfully with the sweet chestnut and earthy shiso leaf.
The Parmesan custard took us all by surprise, having never had anything like it. It was similar to a crème brulée, crossed with a soufflé, crossed with the eggy part of a quiche, and yet was unlike any of the above. It was intensely cheesey, without being overpowering, and came served with toast that had been subtly infused with anchovies.
Whilst the raw tuna with ginger dressing also went down a treat, as we loved the inclusion of Asian flavours, I wasn’t enamoured with the chicken livers and morels with celeriac purée, finding the taste of the liver a bit too strong for my liking.
Moving onto the mains, I adored the escalivada, which consisted of strips of peppers and aubergines that had been cooked overnight to a char in a Josper oven, served simply with tomato toast. The vegetables had a gorgeous smoky flavour that can only be achieved through cooking with charcoal.
I was also seriously impressed by the “L’Imperial” pigeon, Chef Rowley’s take on this classic French dish, served deconstructed, with pea purée, pancetta and jus-soaked croutons. We were also served the legs of the pigeon, which somehow had an even gamier flavour.
Chef Rowley made a point of wanting to serve us some rib-eye steak, in order to prove that grass-fed British beef is just as good as (if not better than) the US or Australian beef served in most HK steakhouses. It was beautifully tender and flavoursome, whilst the homemade Béarnaise sauce was incredibly buttery in way that made you feel sinfully indulgent.
Speaking of indulgence, we were then presented with not one, not two, but four amazing desserts to sample. The chocolate salted caramel tart needs very little introduction and caused immediate silence round the table. I would have liked the caramel a little more salted, just to create more of a contrast, but I enjoyed it nevertheless.
The sauternes poached pear, with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce was comforting and sweet, somehow disproving my theory that chocolate and fruit should never be served together.
I was most intrigued by the idea of the pain perdu with chilli roast pineapple, and whilst the french toast was delicious, I could barely taste the chilli in the pineapple and thought it could have done with just a dash more to really make it stand out.
My favourite of the desserts was the passion fruit pavlova, which managed to master the perfect crunchy exterior combined with that necessary gooey interior that many fail to achieve.
Service at The Continental is excellent, as is to be expected from anything that Swire have a hand in. Swire’s involvement might also suggest unaffordable prices, but thankfully this isn’t the case here. With starters all under $200 and mains between $135 and $375, it’s at least a much more reasonably-priced dining experience than Café Gray Deluxe and one for which I will definitely return.
L4, One Pacific Place
Tel: +852 2704 5211