At Foodie, we are big fans of Jamie Oliver’s disruptive work on serving healthy foods in British school canteens, and further impressed that he is even attempting to change America’s fingernail-clinging infatuation with junk food (watch his inspiring TED Talk on the endemic here).
So, when they invited us to the Hong Kong unveiling of his award-winning kids' menu, we were keen to see what's brought about the awards. But, we figured we also needed an expert opinion on the subject, so we found the nearest agreeable child in the vicinity.
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About the taster
Sun is six years old and will try almost anything. She prefers Asian cuisine like sushi, sichuan and pho to spaghetti and pizza, but like most children, she loves chips and anything sweet, particularly ice cream. Sun has a fairly adventurous palate but claims to have a severe dislike of three things: aubergines, mushrooms and courgettes.
The newly opened TST location, aside from the downside of being encased inside the hectic Harbour City mall, has comfy booths, a large terrace and cool hand-painted murals decorating the walls and wonderfully high ceilings.
The bambino menu
This kids’ menu won an award from the British Soil Association and is revered for the fact you can trace every single ingredient used in the dishes. The choices all have low fat and salt content and are each served with a fresh juice, or glass of milk and a salad. They come in two sizes for little kids ($68) and big kids ($78).
Sun found the baby beef burgers to be the perfect size for her petite palms and wondered, “Do they make these using baby cows?” She was interested to learn they do not. We were delighted by the lack of sauce on the burgers; there was a light skimming of lemony yoghurt but no ketchup in sight and rather the juicy beef did all the flavouring. She was annoyed to learn the hedgehog potatoes weren’t in any way hedgehog-based, but pleased to discover they tasted just like French fries. The “shake em” salad brought her right into the prep process with a jar of fresh veggies and fruit, and a side of yoghurt dressing to dollop on top, shut the lid and shake it up (which she spent ages doing). She found it made the food more enjoyable as she felt she was part of its preparation.
The chicken lollipops looked a bit on the dry side but Sun devoured them. When we asked, the response was simple, “I like this chicken very much because it tastes like chicken.” For this six-year-old, sauces and seasonings are clearly unnecessary when high quality ingredients are used. The rainbow vegetable crisps are long, thinly sliced sticks of dehydrated courgettes and carrots, which Sun happily munched away on. When we asked her her thoughts, she said, “They’re like eating crisps, but vegetables.” She knew the carrots were carrots, but after she’d obliterated two of the white ones banded by green, I told her they were, in fact, courgettes. There was disbelief, followed by injustice, and then a sheepish, “Oh my goodness, so, this means I like courgettes now?” Yes, Mr. Oliver, you managed to eradicate one of the items on the most hated list, and it wasn’t even deep-fried or doused in butter and salt. Take that America–your school junk food is going down.
She gave a long mmm after a bite of the salmon with green beans, though didn’t touch the crushed new potatoes. The picnic box came with a chicken and veggie wrap, vegetable crisps, grapes, cherry tomatoes and a gigantic red apple on the side. It looked pretty much like Sun’s school lunches, so she wasn’t excited by it. She was also happily full by that point so we took it home and she used it for her lunch the following day; by all accounts the box came back empty, which is always a good sign.
Photo credit: Jamie's Italian HK
We ordered one of their new non-kids’ menu items, which also have a focus on health and are big on the use of superfoods. Sun (although ostensibly full) ate more than half of my Dingly Dell chargrilled pork chop ($220) served with an apple and kohlrabi salad instead of stodgy starches. Her professional taste buds seem not to be relegated to the kids’ menu, between bites she stated that (as we discussed the current cinema releases) “Inside Out is a very good movie, but not as good as this pork chop.” You can’t argue with that logic; the pork chop was outstanding.
She was spoiled with the desserts ($18 each), which are a choice of seasonal fruit, a chocolate brownie with ice cream, or a single scoop. In typical tasting-fashion, they brought her all three, and she ate them all, with a few bites shared with her mum who also imbibed on a gorgeous Clover Club made with gin, a free-range organic egg white, lemon juice and homemade raspberry syrup ($88).
I had expected Sun to like the menu here, but I hadn’t expected her to adore it. “I like this very much” was uttered frequently. The retro viewfinder menu, rather than simply a gimmick, was engaging and presented the options in a cool and exciting way that reminds us why toys were so much better back in the day. The prices are good, the staff are wonderful, the food is healthy, filling and fun. As Sun said “He’s a really good cooker. I would always like to go here.”
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Hours: Monday - Friday 12pm - 11pm, Saturday - Sunday 11am - 11pm