Named after the street on which the restaurant is located, the newest venture by veteran trendsetter JIA Group showcases the best of regional Jiangnan cuisine amidst award-winning architecture by Herzog & de Meuron from Switzerland. The 11th project by the restaurant group, Old Bailey commemorates time-honoured recipes using the finest ingredients.
Located on the second floor of the JC Contemporary building within Tai Kwun, the restaurant is split between a lounge/bar area and a main dining room. Designated as a public area, the lounge is open to anyone, regardless if they are a patron of the restaurant.
Floor-to-ceiling windows allow plenty of natural light into the soothing space, which is veneered in natural wood tones with muted accents. We recently sat down for a much anticipated tasting, with our meal starting with an education on the various vinegars used in Chinese cuisine.
Old Bailey uses seven distinct Chinese vinegars on its menu, ranging from the sweet, gingery and incredibly aromatic “Old Bailey crab vinegar” to the intoxicating Shaoxing wine vinegar. Chinese vinegars are prevalent in Jiangnan cuisine in order to counterbalance the sweet taste profile of the regional dishes.
We started off with some addictively crunchy jellyfish and cucumber ($128), tossed in a delicate eight-year-old Donghu vinegar, alongside sweet pickled radish.
The perfect bar snack, the Liangxi crispy eel ($98) had a delicious caramel crust with a hint of Chinkiang vinegar from Zhejiang. Each tiny live eel had been carefully deboned by hand before hitting the deep fryer twice to get that mouth-watering crunch.
Juicy gongbao prawns ($268), coated in a sugary crust counterbalanced with vinegar, retained the perfect bouncy texture. A tinge of spicy pepper punctuated the sweetness of the dish.
If soupy buns and Sichuan-numbing peppercorns ever have a love child, this would be it. The Ibérico pork xiao long bao (5 for $98) was a match made in heaven between silky pork filling and spicy, numbing ma la sauce. The skin of each delicate bao is tinted with beetroot juice to create a red-tinged exterior, warning diners of the fiery glory to come.
The duck soup with Jinhua ham and hand-pounded fish balls ($398 for half, $768 for a whole portion) was creamy and soothing. The fish balls are made in the Hangzhou tradition, using fresh carp flesh deboned by hand, then pounded to a pulp and mixed with egg white to give them a distinct souffle-like texture. These were a delicate departure from the bouncy fish balls we are accustomed to in Cantonese cuisine.
It isn’t Jiangnan cuisine without its most famous export, hairy crab. The hairy-crab-roe organic tofu ($198), drizzled with Old Bailey’s house-made crab vinegar, was sublime.
A humble dish from the chef’s childhood, the house-made handkerchief pasta with organic seasonal greens ($148) was simple yet delicious, although we would have enlivened it with a hint of XO sauce.
A bit of DIY accompanied the osmanthus-scented Jinhua ham mantou ($68), where we layered crunchy bean curd, cucumber and ham between thin steamed buns. Fragrant osmanthus syrup counterbalanced the saltiness of the pork. The bean-curd wafers were each made by gluing five sheets of bean curd together using shrimp paste before deep-frying.
We’ve never had meatballs like these! The red-braised lion’s head meatballs ($188) were the most heavenly meatballs we’ve tasted thus far. This was a classic Chinese dish, but with a twist thanks to the incredibly silky texture of the hand-minced French organic pork with its perfect ratio of pork collar and fatty pork.
A showstopper of a dish, the ten-treasure duck ($980) is a luxurious spin-off from the classic eight-treasure duck, with two additional ingredients in the stuffing. A deboned duck brimming with a stuffing of sticky rice, abalone, sea cucumber, Jinhua ham, conpoy, shiitake mushroom, bamboo shoot, dried shrimp, duck meat and lotus seed, the whole dish is a tedious process that requires a 24-hour advance order.
Clockwise from left: osmanthus aged–rice-wine soup ($48), steamed soy milk pudding ($48) and eight-treasure sticky rice with osmanthus syrup ($88)
As if that wasn’t enough, we sampled two additional desserts made by teakha, served at the lounge. The signature Keemun tea cheesecake ($60), with a bottom layer of sweet jujube, was seriously addictive yet surprisingly light, and we couldn’t stop spooning mouthfuls of the osmanthus-syrup-drizzled cream that came alongside the black sugar chiffon cake ($60). Osmanthus is prevalent throughout the menu and shines in the desserts.
One of the most anticipated openings of the summer, Old Bailey did not disappoint. Traditional Jiangnan cuisine made with premium ingredients using time-honoured techniques, served in a modern Chinese setting, make this restaurant simply irresistible.
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
2/F, JC Contemporary, Tai Kwun, 10 Hollywood Road, Central, 2877 8711
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