By: Brooke Chenoweth
Part of me really wants to write a bad review of this place. Why? Because I don’t want the rest of the city knowing how good it is!
Tucked away in a little street off Queen’s Road East, Le Bistro Winebeast is blink-and-you’ll-miss-it tiny, and the day we popped in for a late lunch it was packed. Founded by the team behind the Winebeast wine retail store in Wanchai, the restaurant showcases the talents of chef Johan Ducroquet and his wife, sommelier Cristina, while offering an outstanding selection of wine at retail prices.
Greeted by Cristina on our arrival, we were warmly welcomed to sit at the bar. With table seating for 10 and bar seating for another dozen or so, there’s a good chance you’ll end up at the bar – a perfect spot for sitting and chatting.
The menu is French bistro-style as you would expect, but with a fresh and innovative twist. The menu changes every six weeks or so, and favourites are offered on the blackboard as specials. Chef Johann was more than accommodating when I requested a vegetarian meal, and, despite it being near the end of lunch service, he managed to throw together one of the most exquisite meals I’ve had in a long time. Risotto is the go-to dish for most chefs when confronted by a fussy vegetarian; I’ve eaten my fair share of generally average risottos. But I would go back again and again for LBW’s creamy mushroom risotto with shaved black truffles, the perfect balance of creamy and sharp. The wine Cristina chose to accompany it with was light and smooth – a perfect complement. The fish soup was a bouillabaisse with a twist, with a generous portion of mackerel giving it some seriously fishy flavour.
My main was a plate of sautéed vegetables and unlike any dish of its kind I’ve ever eaten. It featured a great mix of textures and flavours, and raw and cooked ingredients – radishes, green apple, potatoes and mushrooms among them – on a bed of mustard and wasabi, finished with lemongrass and spices. Not only did it look stunning on the plate, the flavours were nothing short of sensational. My companion Emily had the lamb shoulder confit with chickpea puree, a dish that gave a nod to the Moroccan influence on Mediterranean cuisine, with delicately flavoured, tender lamb and hints of sweetness in the dried fruits scattered about the plate. Again, each dish was matched beautifully with a glass of wine.
Dessert was the one dish I ordered off the menu and I wasn’t disappointed. The dark chocolate tart with poached pear and hazelnut mousse was divine, and our excellent sommelier recommended a blend of tea to go with it (Earl Grey in my case). Emily chose a seasonal option, a candied chestnut “cappuccino” with vanilla emulsion, coffee ice cream and crispy gingerbread. We didn’t get to sample each other’s desserts – they were too good to share and were scoffed down before either of us had the chance to suffer dessert envy!
For such a small space, the staff provide attentive and personalised service, and we couldn’t fault it. Le Bistro Winebeast feels like a hidden treasure, and our lunch was a memorable meal, on all levels.
Must-try Dish: Whatever you order, be sure to ask for a wine pairing; you won’t regret it.
Le Bistro Winebeast, G/F, 15 McGregor Street, Wan Chai, 2479 6833