Opening a bakery and deli like Sour Dough has been a dream of Swiss pastry chef Gérard Dubois for over 30 years. Chef Dubois has been a fixture on the Hong Kong bakery scene since 1991, when he opened the first La Rose Noire Pâtisserie, a 30-seat restaurant and cake shop. Today, La Rose Noire employs 250 staff members at its orginal production centre in Kowloon Bay as well as thousands of employees at its factory in the Philippines. In 2012, Chef Dubois opened his upmarket Passion bakery-café brand, and there are now seven branches in Hong Kong and Macao.
But Sour Dough seems to be a project that’s much closer to Chef Dubois’ heart, with all the baked goods being crafted using the chef’s personal sourdough starters (white, rye and dark rye) that he’s been tending to for three decades. The chef has said of Sour Dough, “This is a culmination of all of my years’ experience in bread, pastries and love for good food. It is a love letter to sourdough and a recognition that people don’t just eat with their mouths – we eat with our eyes, nose and soul.”
The cosy space is bright, modern and inviting, decked out with enormous colour photographs of the Sour Dough menu items in all their glory. At the seats near the front windows, leash hooks for dogs have been installed, and at the back, there’s a small outdoor seating area.
All of Sour Dough’s baking is done on-site, and that includes this gorgeous kouign amann ($31), a Breton pastry made with layer upon layer of dough that’s laminated with butter and sugar – our new favourite pastry. The crunchy, caramelised exterior of the kouign amann gives way to a soft, indulgently buttery interior, but because a sourdough base has been used here, the pastry isn’t overly sweet. Instead, there’s a subtle salty, umami undertone.
Due to the use of a yeast-free, sourdough base, we’re told that all of Sour Dough’s pastries are naturally healthier than their classic counterparts, with 50% less sugar and sodium.
This trio of baked goods includes, from top left clockwise, the sourdough croissant ($23), vegetable quiche ($41) and raspberry-rhubarb feuilletine basket ($30). The surprising winner for us here was the quiche, showcasing a buttery, flaky pastry chock-full of fresh veg – not a bit eggy. Runner-up was the raspberry-rhubarb feuilletine, ideal for those who love sour flavours. The combination of raspberry and rhubarb packs a double sour punch without a hint of sweetness, even in the pastry itself, which veers sharply towards the salty side of the spectrum.
In addition to these fabulous baked numbers, Sour Dough serves up an array of soups, sandwiches and salads. Notably, 30–40% of the menu is completely plant based. Here we have a bowl of seemingly humble green lentil soup ($38). It wowed us with its rich depth of North African flavours including harissa, which provides a bit of smoky heat. We paired this deliciously healthy soup with slices of dark rye ($36/loaf) for dipping. Though lighter in colour than we had expected, the texture (chewy crust, moist interior) and sourdough tang are right on the money.
Next up, Sour Dough offers a rotating range of 100% vegan salads ($60 for 3 choices or $80 for 4 choices) that also knocked our socks off. We tried all six varieties available on the day of our visit – garden salad, quinoa black been salad, colourful bounty, barley and roasted vegetable salad, roasted beetroot and pumpkin salad and fregola green salad – and without exception, they were vibrant, fresh and bursting with natural sweetness. In particular, we enjoyed the zesty, vinegary lime dressing used in the quinoa black been salad with oversized sourdough croutons and the bite of the fregola (a tiny type of Sardinia pasta) matched with a bright, herby pesto. Those wanting a dose of more protein can add toppings of French ham (+$20), smoked salmon (+$25), provolone cheese (+$20) and more.
Also important to note is that we think the salads would travel extremely well, not being bogged down with soggy leafy greens.
If you’re in need of more carbs, check out the sourdough sandwich selection, which includes two vegan sarnies. We tried the Cubano ($62) on sourdough ciabatta. We haven’t had a better version of this pressed sandwich in Hong Kong, and we’ve sampled our fair share. The sharp mustard and pickles are great complements to the meaty filling of pulled pork and ham with Swiss cheese. Next time we visit, we’re keen to try the pastrami sauerkraut ($67) on dark rye sourdough.
Despite it being rough for the HK F&B industry at the moment, we can’t think of a better time for a spot like Sour Dough to open. There are comfort foods for those who need them, but the bakery–deli is well balanced, also offering a menu of vegan salads and other healthy eats – something for everyone. Even better, the prices are very reasonable considering the quality of ingredients and labour-intensive baking techniques. Sour Dough is a hit!
Sour Dough is set to debut its dine-in menu on Thursday, 21 April. We’ll return then to order up the likes of veggie sourdough French toast ($95) topped with shiitake mushrooms and rocket and the Mediterranean hot breakfast ($108), a riff on shakshuka.
80 Queen’s Road East, Wanchai
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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