The French cuisine served up at Clarence proves to be a personal statement by Chef Olivier Elzer. These are classic French dishes with a twist, resonating with the chef’s background, culinary journey and travels throughout Asia.
Chef Elzer’s impressive career – 15 years in Asia, with 23 Michelin stars under his toque – includes time spent at Pierre (formerly at the Mandarin Oriental) and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Hong Kong. In the 852, he founded two-Michelin-starred L’Envol at The St. Regis Hong Kong, a Foodie favourite. Last year, the chef received a knighthood by the French government for his promotion of French cuisine in Hong Kong. Félicitations, Chef Elzer!
Clarence’s elegant dining room
We began our dinner with new dishes from the Raw & Wine Bar. The house-smoked sea bream (HK$258) is complemented by slightly sweet pickled turnip with a hint of fresh yuzu, while the black prawns (HK$238) are accented with shaved tonka bean for a unique touch.
The chef ups the fine-dining game with the gamberoni (HK$428). Presented beautifully in a small tin, Perseus Oscietra caviar covers the top of the gamberoni, which are Italian prawns dressed with the freshness of lemon and fennel.
The rich, creamy Ardèche chestnut soup (HK$118) is a warm hug in a bowl. This seasonal dish is perfect for cold days, topped with thin, crispy chestnut chips and savoury bacon foam for textural contrast.
The quirky “Yakifrenchy” section of the menu features French classics on skewers that are cooked over a traditional Japanese robata, a tribute to Chef Elzer’s love of yakitori. The spicy baby squid (HK$58 each) is slightly chewy, while the Chilean sea bass (HK$72 each) is brushed with a glossy, caramel-like sauce before being grilled.
The roasted langoustine with pasta risotto (HK$498) is a tomato-based dish showcasing riso pasta topped with small pieces of roasted langoustine. Focusing on softer textures, the masala spice mixture added to the dish gives a dynamic flavour profile. The masala mix isn’t crazy hot; its warm flavour accentuates the tomato base and natural sweetness of the langoustine.
Another pasta recommendation (this time on the heartier end of the spectrum) is the Alsace spätzle (HK$198) – a dish from Chef Elzer’s hometown, here crafted with a fine-dining touch. Pieces of thin, tender smoked duck cooked to medium rare are placed atop the spätzle, which is blanketed in a creamy foie gras sauce. I loved the savoury, slightly smoky flavours of this dish.
Clarence’s famed Dover sole (HK$528/600g; HK$888/1kg) was one of my favourites of the evening. The buttery Dover sole is topped with sumac, which gives a bright orange colour and Middle Eastern slant to the fish – a winner!
The desserts at Clarence are simple and generous in portion. The fun, out-of-the-box croffle (HK$128) is perfect for two to share. Croissant dough is pressed into a waffle machine – dense yet fluffy in the middle, with double the buttery flavour. The soft serve made with Isigny milk holds its structure on the plate but melts immediately in the mouth; it isn’t super sweet, so it doesn’t overpower the flavours of the waffle and caramel sauce.
The dessert of lychee, rose petal and raspberry (HK$138) features another large portion of soft serve, also ideal for sharing. Inspired by Chef Elzer’s stint at Joël Robuchon, the ice cream has an intense flavour of rose, made with rosewater jelly, rose espuma and rose petals. Raspberry sorbet is hidden underneath, with fresh lychee completing the dessert’s delicate flavour profile.
The new dishes at Clarence are memorable. Chef Elzer proves that French food isn’t necessarily heavy and creamy, instead showcasing exquisite, refined flavours with global touches.
Where: 25/F, H Code, 45 Pottinger Street, Central
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.