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We were fond of the Little Creatures space in Kennedy Town, and we’ve been eagerly waiting to find out what the GRAIN team have done with it.
Straight away, we felt that the restaurant slogan – “a playground for people who love to eat, drink and discover” – captures the essence of craft beer exploration, with a stronger focus on good food than a typical taproom.
The evolution of 3–5 New Praya, Kennedy Town
The GRAIN building (New Fortune House) in Kennedy Town used to store grain, flour and sugar. So it’s apt that the name of the new venue is both a tribute to the history of the building and the ingredients used to brew beer.
The brewlab at the front sports pink highlights and neon, which is modern and really fun. By Hong Kong standards, there is a heap of room between the bar and the side tables. Together with the high ceilings, GRAIN has the ability to hold a lot of people without feeling cramped. Indeed, when we visited, it was buzzing, with people waiting outside the venue for a table, but we were never too close to anyone else inside.
On tap, there are four core, permanent Gweilo beers that are priced at $45/300ml or $60/500ml. The remaining 16 taps will rotate with Gweilo seasonal, collaboration and experimental beers, two Little Creature beers (a session ale and a pale ale), a cider, a couple of beers by other local breweries (Carbon Brews and DEADMAN Brewery on our visit, but it will be different by the time this is published) and cocktails (Gweilo G&T, pineapple mojito and pomelo spritz at $70/400ml).
At the end of the bar, GRAIN has an area that will be used for beer workshops, tastings and events. Surrounded by bags of grain (of course), a mill, a portrait wall of ingredients and fresh beer travelling a stunning total of five or so metres from fermenter to glass, we can already feel this is going to be a great collaborative space.
The main restaurant behind the workshop area is casual and spacious, with a more subdued and relaxed feel than the brewlab at the front. The colour scheme incorporates a mix of wood and pine green, with no pink in sight. The food menu is expanded. The playlist is different. It feels like a different venue that just happens to have access to a huge range of fresh beers on tap.
We had already snuck into GRAIN for some beers a few weeks back, but this was our first chance to sit down and try the new restaurant menu. We started with a core-tap Gweilo Session IPA ($45/300ml).
Paired with the IPA, we tried the cabonara pinsa pizza ($190), which is available on both the restaurant and bar snacks menu. Topped with an Italian cured meat called guanciale, mozzarella, Pecorino crema, egg yolk and a sprinkle of freshly cracked black pepper, this pizza is Roman style, with a foccacia-like base and crisp edges. The base is cold-fermented for 48 hours and is supremely good – airy and chewy, just how we like it. We think these toppings would make for the perfect breakfast pizza.
Our next visit may see us ordering a truffled four-cheese pizza ($230), which GRAIN recommends pairing with a fruity Gweilo Hazy IPA ($45/300ml), or perhaps the mortadella and burrata pizza ($200), which has been recommended to us by a reliable source.
The salmon pastrami ($130) was our GRAIN favourite of the evening. It’s found in the starters section of the restaurant menu, but you could order it as part of your main as the portion is generous (if you don’t mind the richness). The crust is black pepper dominant (but not overwhelming) and slightly sweet. There’s a subtle layer of spice underneath. The salmon is essentially raw, being hickory-smoked at low temperatures for three hours. The delicate yuzu vinigarette and buttermilk sauce turn the salmon opaque on your plate.
The original potato hash, bar-snack version (l) and the second-visit restaurant version (r)
On our previous sneaky visit, we absolutely adored the bar-snack version of the potato-and-cheese hash ($80), and we were very excited to try the restaurant version ($175). It is bigger, you see. This turned out to be a dilemma – it was not quite the same this time around.
The restaurant version of the hash comes with a gorgeous, bright green watercress emulsion that we loved. In fact, we cleaned the plate of any sauce. It also comes with roasted celeriac and Marmite gravy.
However, obvious size difference aside, the hash on our second visit was a heavy, fried version of the first, and it was salted with a much heavier hand. If we hadn’t had the first version, we may not be as harsh a judge, but as it was, we were disappointed. The first we had was so good – literally dissolving in the mouth, with a hint of Marmite gravy in every mouthful.
It was at this point that we tried a refreshing Gweilo gin and tonic ($70/400ml) made with Gweilo’s own gin, which is also available on tap.
Crumbed black cod and roast yellow spring chicken platter
Next on the agenda was the crumbed black cod ($220) and roast yellow spring chicken platter from the weekly-changing Sunday roast menu ($280/person). The cod was light and fresh, with an interesting potted brown shrimp butter inside, served with creamed avocado and a herb salad. The breadcrumb coating includes spent grain from the beer-brewing process that has been dried and milled, but we couldn’t detect any particular malty flavour or difference in texture.
Our favourite from the spring chicken platter was the delicious roasted cauliflower with lemon and miso dressing ($70), which you can order as a side from the restaurant menu. The French spring chicken is marinated in an IPA prior to cooking.
Our second favourite of the evening was the brisket CCC ($80) on the bar snacks menu, a croquette containing a rendang-style curry made using slow-cooked Wagyu. It’s not as spicy as a traditional rendang, but so very tender and coconut flavourful, perfect for eating whilst we finished our Session IPA (yes, we did have two drinks going at once).
We had to try the classic Scotch egg ($90), again with its perfect, thick yolk, just as we had enjoyed this bar snack on our first visit. The pork coating contains malt, which mellows the meaty flavour, but on this visit, we found it oversalted too, similar to the potato hash.
Broken tiramisu, sour cherry and Bakewell tart and the glass-shadow-in-beer-foam picture we took about a hundred times
For dessert, we were restrained, ordering only a Rocky Ridge x Gweilo Imperial Custard Tart ($55/200ml) and a mere scoop of malt ice cream ($45), whilst scheming to sample the broken tiramisu ($85) and sour cherry and Bakewell tart ($80) that our companions had ordered.
We recommend the Imperial Custard Tart beer for dessert! It has notes of vanilla bean and biscuit, and the custard tart resemblance is there, although the beer is a touch sweet for regular drinking.
We pondered what one should eat alongside a sweet, dark, vanilla-flavoured beer. The ice cream at GRAIN is all made in-house, and they are being cautious, ensuring the flavours are not too much or too bold. But, we say, this is a brewhouse – you don’t order the malt ice cream and then get disappointed with too much malt! An intense malt ice cream would be a perfect accompaniment to a sweet, custard-tart beer. Bring it on!
This is such a special space. No where else in Hong Kong will the chef and brewer be hanging out together all day, learning each other’s crafts and specialities, developing a kind of synergy and evolving both the food and drink menus.
The use of brewing ingredients on the food menus is quite exciting, but only if it adds value. The ox-cheek and bone-marrow pie ($180) is truly Insta-worthy, and we’re sure the stout adds depth and warmth to the dish (but we have not yet tried it). However, the spent grain in the breadcrumb coating for the fried goodies, for example, did not add any noticeable flavour or texture. We feel this part of the menu is a little timid, but we expect it to evolve, much like the building itself has done. Chef Matthew Ziemski and his team have made a great start with the GRAIN food menus, and we just know the Gweilo beers are going to get even more interesting.
GRAIN has a fun and laid-back atmosphere, the staff are professional and knowledgable and we can see ourselves coming often.
Have a look at the online GRAIN menus to see the weekend brunch and Sunday roast options. GRAIN is child friendly, and they are currently cooking/brewing up some Father’s Day specials – stay tuned for those and bring the family to check them out.
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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