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The vast, 7,000-square-foot space of The Fine Wine Experience in Sai Ying Pun certainly knows how to make a lasting impression. Spanning across two levels, with a rare wine cellar complete with a very photogenic glass staircase, the venue holds over $150 million worth of exclusive vintages, some of which are more than a hundred years old.
Nestled within this expansive space is Bâtard, a restaurant that pairs elevated French comfort food with the venue’s prodigious wine collection. It is the brainchild of Piccolo Concepts, a restaurant group that knows a thing or two about French comfort food, having previously owned and operated Bistronomique and Le Port Parfumé and, now, Bistro du Vin in Kennedy Town.
Bâtard opened its doors in the middle of tumultuous 2020, originally with a focus on simple French fare. The arrival of Chef de Cuisine Aven Lau this past April has shifted the restaurant’s focus to a whole new level.
Despite his youthfulness, the 27-year-old chef has an impressive CV, having worked under Chef Julien Royer at three-Michelin-starred Odette in Singapore before making the move to Hong Kong as Senior Chef de Partie at BELON. Following this, he was Head of Development alongside Chef Edward Voon at LE PAN. The young Singaporean chef also travelled to two-starred Kadeau in Copenhagen for a three-month apprenticeship to further his understanding of foraging techniques and seasonal produce.
Our tasting was held in the breezy main dining room running alongside the glass-enclosed wine cellar, a palatable art piece filled with wall-to wall-wine and a grandiose glass staircase. There’s also a cosier dining room awash in moody blue hues at the back for more intimate gatherings.
Bâtard’s ethos involves using fine French cuisine to accentuate and elevate the wine experience, without overshadowing the latter.
A couple of amuse-bouches teased our palates alongside bubbly flutes of Georges Laval Cumières Premier Cru Brut Nature champagne. The diced mitsuba added refreshing crunch to the briny trout-roe tartlet ($180), while the beef-tartare cannelloni ($190) was folded into wafer-thin, crunchy cigars. The light crunch against the minced meat reminded us of the delicate lamb samosas at Rosewood Hong Kong’s CHAAT.
The slow-poached foie gras with cream-cheese glaze ($438) is awash in summery freshness, featuring strawberry and sake sauce and slices of fresh strawberry. The foie gras was mild and lighter in flavour than a typical foie gras, and the accompanying sweet Joh. Jos. Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett 2018 added more fruitiness.
The biscuit de brochet ($180) is a meaty yet delicate “sandwich” of pike mousse topped with pike roe. The bread is fluffy and crunchy on the outside, and its subtle sweetness balances the slight savoury smokiness of the fish. With this, we sipped an oaky, buttery Château de la Maltroye Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru 2016.
A bright, summery dish that reminded us of long lunches in the garden during our visits to France, the Japanese fruit tomato tart ($280) was one of the highlights of our meal thanks to the simple yet quality ingredients used at the peak of their season. The tomatoes were ripe, flavourful and incredibly sweet, and we adored the sweet tomato paste and fennel pollen that blanketed the warm puff pastry along with the creamy burrata.
The monkfish en croute ($500) is a lighter version of beef Wellington with its stuffing of minced langoustine and black trumpet mushrooms around a robust, meaty monkfish fillet, all enclosed inside buttery puff pastry. Accompanied by a glossy sauce made from monkfish bones, this dish is satisfying without the need for any heavy-handed flavours.
A dish that celebrates the art of precision, the roasted quail ($480) with morel mushrooms and Madeira wine undergoes a slow-cooking process at precisely 58°C for 30 minutes to achieve a blushing-pink hue and bouncy texture. Meat from the legs of the quail is minced into a sausage that surrounds the quail breast, ensuring there is no waste. Even the sauce is made from slow simmering the quail bones. This dish was accompanied by Hospices de Beaune Beaune Premier Cru Cuvée Dames Hospitalières 2017.
Along the sames lines, we were treated to another poultry dish, this time featuring Bâtard’s signature whole roast yellow chicken ($880) and rice pilaf. The local yellow chicken is brined for half a day before going into a steam sauna for a few minutes and is then roasted at 200°C. The skin was golden, although not very crispy, and the meat was juicy and flavourful. The accompanying rice pilaf is given a Singaporean flare with chicken fat and scallion. The paired wine was Domaine Denis Bachelet Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes 2016.
The sweet finish to our meal was a trio of desserts, ranging from apple tart with crushed dragée ($150), to a meringue-like lemon tart ($135), to freshly baked madeleines ($120). Out of the three, the classic apple tart was our favourite, although the warm madeleines, which are a signature of Piccolo Concepts restaurants, were hard to resist.
True to its ethos, Bâtard delivers a solid, refined French comfort-food experience whilst not going overboard into the fanciful territory of haute cuisine. The techniques used are elegant and reminiscent of fine dining, although the dishes retain a level of homey ease and warmth. Paired with the very Instagrammable venue and intoxicating wine collection, it’s no wonder this restaurant has a current wait list of about three months. However, a word of advice to any diner longing for a taste of Bâtard: don’t go in expecting the wow factor of fine dining but, instead, savour the dedication and care behind each of the simple French dishes – because, sometimes, simplicity is the most difficult thing to perfect.
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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