By: Shamus Sillar
Our Sunday brunch at the Mandarin Oriental’s Clipper Lounge marked a return to an old favourite, but this time with a twist: our first visit with children. How would they fare? (And, equally importantly, how would the Clipper Lounge fare with them?)
Here’s a challenge: try sitting for more than a minute at Clipper without being handed a flute of chilled champagne. Won’t happen. The champagne is divine, too: it’s “R de Ruinart”, made by Ruinart, oldest of the established champagne houses. They’ve been making bubbles for almost 300 years, and it shows. The “R” is a creamy, floral delight – and it cascaded liberally from bottles all afternoon, thanks to the super-attentive staff.
The same staff showed immeasurable patience with our seven- and eight-year-old girls; they were there in a heartbeat to mop up every spill, for instance, and they showed zero concern when one daughter mistook an elegant silver saltshaker for a used toothpick receptacle and started feeding her chocolate-smeared toothpicks into the hole at the top. The saltshaker was quietly whisked away for dismantling and cleaning, and replaced by another.
I’ve mentioned chocolate quite early. It’s hard not to when this brunch offers – wait for it – 45 desserts. To be fair to our girls, they didn’t rush immediately to that part of the buffet. They were first distracted by the fresh sushi and seafood at the raw bar (and distracted by the sight of me slurping down endless oysters and crunching through myriad crab legs with the various silver tools I’d been given), then by a plateful of delicate Peking duck pancakes, and also by some impressive dim sum dishes, which presumably come from the hotel’s Michelin-starred Man Wah restaurant.
Time passes quickly when you’re in a state of gustatory joy, and the free-flow booze begins to have an effect. I was made aware of this when a waiter walked up to our table at one point and handed me my reasonably expensive camera, saying “I believe this is yours, sir.” I thanked him, and, as he walked away, my wife asked, “Where did you leave that?” “No idea,” I replied, with a mouth full of tender prime rib roast and Yorkshire pudding.
The Clipper Lounge offers a more subtle affair than some brunches: the space is relatively modest; you won’t find every foodstuff under the sun; there’s no theme to the event; and no live band or DJ. What there is, though, is relentless quality, both in terms of service and ambience, and the food and drinks on offer. We’re extremely glad to have come back.
Later, our eight-year-old rated the “deliciousness” of everything she had eaten in her notebook. Each item received five stars out of five, and a description of “Soooo delish!”; but a special six-star rating (“Spectacular!”) was reserved for dessert, which in her case consisted of chocolate truffle cake, chocolate brownies, chocolate ice cream (detect a theme?), several cupcakes and some strawberry jelly.
If those were as good as the bread-and-butter pudding, lime sorbet and cheese plate that I finished with, then the six stars are completely justified. Sunday brunch at the Clipper Lounge runs from 11.30am to 3pm and costs HK$688 per adult, including free-flow champagne, and HK$378 for kids.
Clipper Lounge Mandarin Oriental
M/F, 5 Connaught Road, Central
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This article first appeared in the Oct/Nov edition of Expat Living magazine.