By: Claire Locking
There are not many similarities between Kennedy Town and Paris. The area was a former cattle depot and slaughterhouse and although the animals are long gone and the yuppies have taken their place, the neighbourhood still has a gritty realism that is as far away from the genteel boulevards of Paris as you can get.
However, take a walk down David Street, Kennedy Town’s burgeoning foodie haven and it seems that a little bit of France has touched down in this western corner of Hong Kong Island. Facing the harbour is Boulangerie, an offshoot of David Lai’s Bistronomique French restaurant just around the corner. This authentic French bakery is being hailed as the destination for some of the best croissants and coffee in town.
We were in the area to try to the latest French offering to hit the strip, Bistro du Vin. Owned by the same passionate foodies as popular pizzeria Piccolo next door, this new venture aims to offer rustic, home-style provincial French cuisine in a friendly atmosphere.
First impressions are all good. From the tiled floors to the bentwood chairs and original French antiques, the place has a warm and welcoming bistro-style charm. On this particularly miserable Tuesday lunchtime, the place was full of local families tucking into duck confit, office workers stopping in for the $98 two-course lunch menu and, most promising of all, two tables of French businessmen looking very much at home.
Though these diners seemed most satisfied with the lunch menu, we decided on a la carte. Popular options include local sole with capers and coq au vin served in its own mini Le Creuset. We were recommended the homemade pork pate, duck pate and duck rillettes served with homemade bread ($170) for starters. Despite a slightly anaemic and almost spam-like appearance, the pates were rich and obviously made with care. The serving was enormous – easily enough for a table of four. The other starter was from the specials board, baby seared squid; pleasant enough if a touch bland and gritty.
For mains, we opted for a classic and the ultimate test for anyone claiming to be a true French chef, the bouillabaisse. At $480 for two, this is an extravagant choice, so we were pleasantly surprised when the lid of our gorgeous aqua casserole dish was removed to show a stew packed full of prawns, crabs, clams, seabream and seabass. Unfortunately, it looked better than it tasted; grittiness and lack of flavour were again the sticking points. That said, all the fish was cooked to perfection, a difficult task with such delicate ingredients.
Desserts were a triumph: the Classic Apple Tart featured perfect puff pastry and the thinly sliced apples retained enough bite and tartness ($60). The Crème Brulee was one of the best I’ve ever tasted.
Like most good French bistros, the wine is almost as important as the food and thankfully the list has been chosen with attention to price point and quality. We sampled the house red and the house white; both were more than adequate. The other good news for wine lovers is that Bistro du Vin has no corkage fee if you decide to bring your own.
The food here is good – not wonderful enough to have you singing “La Marseillaise”, but it is, after all, a bistro, not a fine-dining establishment. For local Kennedy Town and Pok Fu Lam residents who’ve been hankering for a reasonably priced, comfortable weekend and evening hangout, this will tick most of the boxes.
Must try dish: Classic crème brulee
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