If you’re a business traveller looking to wine and dine clients or company execs in Hong Kong, look no further than L’Envol. Recently opened at The St. Regis Hong Kong, the city’s newest French restaurant marks chef Olivier Elzer‘s return to fine-dining – and what a return it is.
French Savoir Faire
After being approached by the St. Regis team, Elzer made clear that he wanted to put his own stamp on his latest venture. To get things up to his standard, he spent 18 months making sure everything from the kitchen setup, restaurant layout, design and service style was perfect.
The result is a sophisticated high-end restaurant that’s stylish and luxurious without being pretentious or obnoxious. The restaurant is spacious, and features design-forward chandeliers and table lamps, pristine white tablecloths, and views of Wan Chai through floor-to-ceiling windows.
No detail has been spared, which is why the extensive wine cellar comes with a knowledgeable sommelier, and a rather lavish tableside cheese service is stocked with all manner of imported ingredients.
Driven by Ingredients
With such exacting standards, it should come as no surprise that there is no a la carte menu at L’Envol. Instead, dinner guests can choose from two eight-course tasting menus, and a shorter five-course discovery menu. Perfect for working lunches, the restaurant also offers a set lunch which is reasonably priced considering the chef, setting and ingredients. The carefully thought out menus mean Elzer asserts some control is conducting diners through a gastronomic symphony – after all, a chef’s tasting menu means you’re getting a carefully planned experience.
Hong Kong‘s a tough market for restaurants, and Elzer is highly aware that he needs to stay competitive in order to keep the city’s foodies happy. So his whole food concept revolves around whatever seasonal produce is available in France; his menus change every few weeks, and are built around what he knows will be coming into season in the next couple weeks. He admits it’s a challenge, but he also considers it necessary. What’s clear is his tactics work – when we went in on a Wednesday night, the restaurant was full, and apparently, that’s been par for the course since L’Envol opened.
A Symphony of Flavours
To ease diners into the meal, three types of bread are served with decadent Champagne and caviar butters; there are, of course, also amuse bouches to whet the appetite.
The first course on the Decouvert menu was Hokkaido sea urchin and gamberoni prawn, a dish rich with the freshness of the sea and given added crunch with fennel and pink radish. Elzer surprised us by following this with a dish of beef jelly smothered in a huge dollop of caviar; although the menus change frequently here, this salty, surprising dish has proven popular and will be one of the few mainstays at the restaurant.
For mains, there was a choice of duck or Kagoshima beef. I opted for the duck and was not disappointed. The charcoal-grilled Challans duck breast was perfectly tender, and served with several types of in-season French mushrooms, adding a good contrast of flavours and textures.
Then there was the cheese trolley. Wheeled over before dessert, there were some 15 cheeses on offer – all French, but in a variety of smells, consistencies and styles. After patiently going through all the options with us and advising us on our choices, the server meticulously plated up our selection, then suggested what condiments to pair them with. You will definitely forget the complicated French names of the cheese you eat, but you won’t forget the pairing suggestions. I’m still thinking about how perfectly the Iranian honey – served on the comb – went with the smoky cheese covered in ash rind. With a glass of Crozes-Hermitage Domaine des Lises 2017, this was an inspired segue into dessert.
Need to Know
This is a great place for shop talk. Tables are not squashed in together – unfortunately too common in Hong Kong – so you’ll have plenty of space, and you’ll be able to talk comfortably. If you need privacy for sensitive discussions, book ahead for one of the private dining rooms.
The Last Word
There’s very little to complain about at L’Envol; Olivier Elzer clearly knows how to put a good restaurant together. Between the food, the wine, the cheese – and the design and service – this is one well-rounded restaurant that will please almost anyone.
See our other restaurant reviews for other dining ideas across Asia.