Address: Garden East, 222 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai 灣仔皇后大道東222號Garden East
Telephone: 2891 9080
I adore vegetarian food, raw juices, salads, fruits and vegetables, but sometimes I just feel like there is nothing more gratifying than a big, juicy piece of steak, and I am very excited that more and more steakhouses are popping up in this meat-loving city.
A couple of steak frites restaurants have opened in the past year or so, including La Vache which I visited at the beginning of the year. Le Relais de L’Entrecôte is considered the “original” steak frites restaurant from France, opened in 1959 by Paul Gineste de Saurs from a winemaking family who decided to open a restaurant to serve steaks to go with the wines. The restaurant chain has since gained a loyal following and the Hong Kong outlet is their first and only outlet in Asia right now.
Located on Queen’s Road East in Wanchai, the interior of the restaurant is bright and well spaced. A red awning, wood panelling and vintage posters imbue the space with a warm, welcoming French bistro vibe. It is perhaps best not to compare La Vache with Le Relais – the former serves wonderful steaks, but their steak frites are slightly Americanised (which many Hong Kong palates seem to prefer), while the latter stays very close to the original Parisian experience.
The restaurant operates a “no reservation” and “no menu” policy, so when it comes to ordering, the only choice you have to make is how you would like your steak done. Lunch and dinner sets cost $288 per person, but there are complementary dessert and coffee/tea at lunch. I have been to the restaurant 3 times by now, and despite the reasonable price tag, the service at each visit is very helpful, well-informed and friendly.
(1) We start off with some baguette, which has a nicely crispy surface without being too hard.
(2) The green salad with walnuts is the perfect precursor for the steak. The greens are marvellously fresh, the walnuts add a light crunch and the Dijon mustard dressing is utterly appetising.
(3) The steak arrives, and it is juicy and boasts a remarkable beefy flavour. The steak looks rather small at first sight, but it is because half the portion is being heated on a metal plate and will only be served when you finish the first half portion. Le Relais is famous for their “secret sauce”, which is a secret so well-kept that it has to be shipped from the headquarters in France! The sauce is buttery with vibrant herbal notes – the sauce seems a tad too buttery at first, but it grows on me and becomes more addictive with each visit! The fries, done in the same way as they are done in France, are on the soft side, a bit similar in texture to sweet potato fries. Overall, the steak frites platter is marvellous, and my only complaint is that the exterior of the steak could be more char-grilled.
(4) The restaurant has a great selection of wines, but I would definitely recommend bottles from the family-owned vineyard Château de Saurs, which taste beautiful and are a perfect match with the steaks.
(5) The desserts are ordered separately from the set menu, and we have gone a bit crazy on this front. The “Relais” Tulip ($88) has an attractive creamy-crispy contrast, and the raspberries are fresh and juicy.
Le Vacherin d’été ($88) is the most beautiful dessert on the menu, and is very delicious too, with each layer offering a different flavour and texture of its own. Eat this quickly though, as this “tower” may topple over when the sorbet melts!
The Apple Tart ($78) has all the right flavours in it, and the apples are thin and evenly baked.
This Chocolate Liegeois ($78) is also very alluring, and we are unable to stop digging into it.
The Crème Brûlée ($78) seriously puts many other restaurants’ versions to shame! It is perfectly executed in every aspect, and has an irresistible natural vanilla fragrance.
As Le Relais is a French restaurant chain, the Cheese Platter ($108) surely does not disappoint, and is a complete bundle of joy.
Nomnomnom – this is definitely a restaurant worth returning to!