By: Claire Locking
For the second year running, La Marmite, Aqua Restaurant’s French bistro in Soho, has received a Bib Gourmand award from Michelin. It’s the only French bistro across Hong Kong and Macau to receive the accolade in this year’s guide.
The Bib Gourmand denotes good cuisine at reasonable prices and La Marmite’s set dinner menu at $300 for three courses is just that. The menu was inspired by the so-called “crisis menu” trend that saw notable French chefs opening, new, more affordable bistros in Paris in the wake of the financial crisis.
After tucking into an amuse bouche of homemade bread with an anchovy, herb and mayonnaise dip, I started with apple, vichyssoise served with caramelized hazelnut, coffee emulsion and sourdough toast. I was surprised to find it was served hot, and the “apple” in the description is slightly misleading as this is a traditional leek soup with more of an apple garnish. Some of the other flavours were lost but although I would describe this kick-off as confusing, it was truly delicious nonetheless.
For mains, I opted for a French classic of roasted duck breast with grilled ratatouille, ribbons of green asparagus and mandarin-vermouth sauce. It was cooked to perfection and surprisingly light considering the cholesterol-heavy choice. Slow cooked pig’s trotter, mushroom and turnip stew and roasted pork belly is something of a signature dish and it justifiably drew squeals of delight – not from the pig, but certainly from my fellow diners.
Surprisingly, the chef behind the menu hails not from France but from across the border in Spain and this meeting of Mediterranean cultures is evident in my dessert of pears cooked in red wine served with caramelized brioche and toasted cinnamon couscous. The pears were perfect but the sweet couscous didn’t work. Better to be safe and stick with the fromage du jour that is lovingly chosen by French manager Hélène Gest and includes everything from traditional Camembert and Brie to perfectly matured Morbier, Laguiole and Saint-Marcelin.
Along with the set menu, the restaurant also offers an à la carte at lunch and dinner that changes weekly.
46 Staunton Street, Central