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A few months back, neighbourhood tapas joint 22 Ships shut shop to get a revamp. Now, it’s back with a casual, rustic feel, a vibrant open kitchen and a revolving menu of seasonal creations and unique takes on Spanish classics.
The kitchen team is led by Spanish chef Antonio Oviedo Valor, who is passionate about experimenting with new flavours and using only the finest seasonal produce from suppliers all over the world.
A chalkboard menu hangs in the back of the restaurant listing both food and drink specials, some of which are the restaurant’s signatures and many of which change daily. If it seems a little overwhelming, the friendly staff are happy to recommend their favourite dishes.
When we visited, there was an aperitivo ($78) special that let us choose a spirit and a fruity homemade soda mix. Aside from a few cocktails, the drink menu focuses mainly on a variety of Spanish wines, vintage sherries and sangria. I started off with a white sangria ($88), which was light, thirst-quenching and not too sweet.
Our first tapas of the night was the octopus with burnt onion, potato foam and romesco ($168). The generous portion was a pleasant surprise for a tapas dish. The octopus itself was incredibly juicy and was nicely complemented by the light potato foam and delectable romesco sauce.
Although it may sometimes still feel like summer in Hong Kong, autumn is here, and the wild mushrooms & Ibérico ($188) beautifully showcases the cooler season. Comprised of an assortment of mushrooms – from chanterelle to freshly grated truffle – onsen egg and flakes of Ibérico ham, this dish was simple yet delicous, highlighting each mushroom’s individual texture and taste.
Croquettes always excite us, but we also always find ourselves wishing they were bigger. However, the boletus croquettes ($42) with jamón (+$25) were reasonably plump, filled to the point of explosion (which they did once we attempted to cut them in half). The rich mushroom filling may not be for everyone, but we loved the burst of creamy, umami-rich goodness.
A dish that truly is a work of art, the ajoblanco & sardines ($118) conjures up images of the ocean with its colourful yellow and green splashes. Not usually a huge fan of sardines, these fish were not too salty or strong and were well juxtaposed with the sour pickles and refreshing ajoblanco (a soup made with bread, garlic and olive oil).
Another seasonal special, the corzo roe deer loin ($228) with quince, burnt celeriac, chestnut, berries and pickled onion is autumn on a plate. Deer is certainly not something you often find on a menu in Hong Kong, usually for good reason. Game can be a tricky meat to cook and a bit of an acquired taste. However, we think everyone will be instantly acquired to this exceptional blend of rich, sweet and tart flavours. Each element of the dish was impeccable. When we told the chef that the deer (which is imported from New Zealand) was amazing, he replied excitedly ,“I know, right?!”
The whole grilled turbot ($348) is flavoured with garlic and chilli and served with black potatoes. The skin was grilled just the right amount for that satisfying crispness, while the fish was light, with the chilli elevating rather than overpowering the dish.
The carabinero al ajillo ($268) usually comes with two carabinero prawns, and although we wanted to try this dish, we could not have possibly eaten any more. So we shared one gargantuan prawn between two of us. The succulent meat came away from the shell in one swift movement and it was devoured in even less time.
The saffron flan & nectarine ($89) is a nod to Spain’s Arabic influence, using a unique mixture of spices such as cardamom and saffron. The nectarine sorbet was refreshing, yet it seemed a little out of place. The flan, which was lightly brûléed, was melt-in-the-mouth creamy and delicious. There was just a little too much honey and cardamom syrup drizzled on top for our liking.
Basque cheesecake ($98) has been popping up all over the place lately, and this was certainly one of our favourites. The strong, smoky cheese flavour made this cake stand out from its charred counterparts, and we could not get enough of that savoury-sweet goodness.
While one could easily rack up a hefty bill here, the portions are well sized, the ingredients top notch and you will leave feeling absolutely full and satisfied. We foresee many more nights to come at 22 Ships. From the friendly team and vibrant atmosphere to the exquisite, creative dishes, there is so much to love about this cosy neighbourhood gem.
22 Ship Street, Wanchai, 2555 0722
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.
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