Much foodie fanfare has been showered onto chef Manav Tuli in the 2020s, ever since his enthroning at the eminent CHAAT at the Rosewood hotel in May 2020, a defining venue of Hong Kong’s restaurant scene.

Everyone’s favourite fancy Indian restaurant™ once held chef Manav as its leader, before he departed in late 2023. After two years of winning one Michelin star at CHAAT, news broke of his new project in November 2023 – Leela, the chef’s Causeway Bay restaurant exploring the flavours of India’s bygone Maurya Empire of circa 300 BCE.

The bubbly Indian native opened in Causeway Bay, rather than Indian-heavy Tsim Sha Tsui and fine-dining-washed Central, as a statement; the area can embrace a destination restaurant. Given the difficulty in booking a reservation, many have flocked to savour his novel creations. Facing a friend who loves his butter chicken curries, we were salivating as we sat down.

Lucknowi tokri chaat (HKD118)

At the behest of many who have dined at Leela, we began with the Lucknowi tokri chaat (HKD118), a fresh twist on the street-food classic featuring a potato basket stuffed with chickpeas and a quaint assortment of chutneys. Beyond the addictive nature of a chaat starter, the added texture of the fried potato renders each bite moreish with salivatory sour chutney. It is too pretty to break up, but it’s a signal that chef Manav wants you to play with your food.

On the tandoor, arguably where chef Manav excels, we first ordered the chestnut paneer tikka (HKD128) and coconut sea bass (HKD128), before enjoying  the tandoori beef cheek (HKD428).

Chestnut paneer tikka (HKD128)

Chef Manav may have studied in the kitchen, but his (possible) double life as a magician shines through in the paneer. Both the exterior shell and fluffy insides possess a creamy and slightly salty bite that is elevated to another level with notes of fenugreek, turmeric, onion, and garlic. It is an awesome and must-order plate of food.

The same attention is paid to the sea bass, which holds a deep coconut tone in its body and on the charred caramel-sweet exterior. I suggest you pair your bites with the mint chutney to balance the flavours.

Tandoori beef cheek (HKD428)

The beef cheek is slathered in a sauce blending cinnamon, ginger, and cumin, spices that seep into the body of the beef and release sublime earthy flavours. The hard protein of the beef cheek is broken down in the tandoor, delivering sweetness and a perfect charred aroma.

Restaurants in Hong Kong are lucky to have one or two dishes that become “Insta-famous”. At Leela, the smoked butter chicken (HKD258) and bone marrow biriyani (HKD378) are the go-to plates to order.

Bone marrow biriyani (HKD378)

The real elevation of this common curry is its smoky nature, a roast of red pepper, ground spices, and onion to boost the aromatic curry. The chicken is not bouncy, but rather harder in texture as it’s cooked in the tandoor for extra smokiness and a sweet touch. Each swipe of your naan into the sauce is mesmerising.

The bone marrow implanted in the middle of the biryani, as already snapped hundreds of times on Instagram, is not just for show, but adds depth and fat into the dish and complements the piquant cumin and clove. The electric aftertastes of beefy fat and salt on the tongue are strong. I wasn’t able to put my spoon down after taking extra mouthfuls.

Kumaoni raita (HKD48)

We paired the main courses with naan (HKD68), a simple side order that manages to stay fluffy and crisp after a lengthy meal, and the Kumaoni raita (HKD48). Typically an afterthought at many Indian restaurants, chef Manav brings the raita to the front stage with an elegantly creamy spoonful that excels with a sharp mustard-seed and cucumber infusion; it is ever so fresh. 

Our verdict of Leela

Nothing is perfect in Hong Kong dining, but chef Manav presents dishes that exhibit culinary excellence. His move to Leela allows him full ownership of strong tandoori and curry offerings, elevating a historic period of Indian history at a restaurant where the chef’s signature is written throughout. I expect Leela’s accolades to come strong and fast.

Leela, Shop 301–310, 3/F, Lee Garden Three, 1 Sunning Road, Causeway Bay, 2882 5316, book here

Order this: Lucknowi tokri chaat, chestnut paneer tikka, smoked butter chicken, Kumaoni raita, coconut sea bass
Menu: Leela á-la-carte menu
Price for two: HKD750–1,000
Atmosphere: fancy, but not overwhelmingly posh, the dining experience here is relaxed and approachable
Perfect for: date nights or big foodie group hang-outs to savour the sharp flavours

This review is intended to offer an individual perspective on the dining experience and should not be considered as a definitive judgement of the restaurant’s overall quality or reputation. The views expressed in this review are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions of Foodie.

Rubin Verebes is the Managing Editor of Foodie, a culinary connoisseur, and guiding force behind the magazine's delectable stories. With a knack for cooking up mouthwatering profiles, crafting immersive restaurant reviews, and dishing out tasty features, Rubin tells the great stories of Hong Kong's dining scene.

Win tasty prizes in our Valentine’s Day giveaway!

Join our biggest giveaway yet and win prizes for you and your partner