The team at sammich darling Bread & Beast have been very busy. After successful pop-up stints at the HK Rugby Sevens, Art Central and, yes, even the Leon Lai concert at Dragonland, in addition to their steady private catering services and boat catering menu, these busy bees are buzzing about Hong Kong with their hands in just about every honey pot there is (except Kowloon and the New Territories – hey, when are we getting outlets over there?). Determined to stay on top of the game, a new bar bites menu was introduced at the beginning of the year to draw in the happy hour crowd, but news of it seems to have been buried underneath all the other exciting things they've been up to. Well, here we are now, better late than never, to sink our teeth into it.
BFC (Beast Fried Chicken)
Lap cheung mac 'n' cheese and Earl Grey peach tea
At first glance, the cost of the new bar munchies seems steep, especially compared to their regular offerings, but the BFC ($88) came highly recommended. Unbelievably tender chicken nuggets and flaky, light breading form mouth-watering bites that don't grease up as much as your regular deep-fried snack options, and three sauces on the side come together to highlight a contemporary take on Hainanese flavours, Bread & Beast style. Out of the three, the sweet soy sauce was an easy favourite, and we appreciated the variety of Sriracha chilli sauce and fresh spring onion–ginger aioli to keep every bite of nuggets interesting. These sauces were sooo good, I had no choice but to mop them up with every last chicken morsel I found.
Expectations were now set to a high. And although such a thing is hard to choose this early on in the meal, I believe that the clear winner of the whole menu came served up in the form of the lap cheung mac 'n' cheese ($68) – which was surprising, as I had made up my mind to be staunchly biased against it. You know how some restaurants try to glam up their mac 'n' cheese by loading it up with truffle and lobster and all sorts of expensive sh** and then slap a ridiculous price tag on it? To which I always say, ugh, why bother, when the most basic stuff is still friggin' delicious.
As overrated as I wanted to think it, Bread & Beast's version of mac 'n' cheese grabbed my smug opinions by the neck and shoved them back down my throat. For how gooey and thick the cheese sauce looked, it was gloriously light with a silky mouthfeel, and the sweet lap cheung and generous sprinkling of spring onion did a fine job of cutting down on the saltiness and heaviness of the three cheeses and macaroni. My only wish was for a bigger fork.
The originality behind these two dishes embodies the food philosophy and driving attitude that we love so much about this sandwich joint. The cheeky nods to local cuisine and the innovative use of traditional flavour combinations to create fashionable, current eats never fail to land hits with us. This is a picture of me while I was eating the mac 'n' cheese:
Crispy Brussels sprouts
Southern fried tiger prawns
It's hard to follow up feeling like you could eat anything better after that, but the crispy Brussels sprouts ($58) also made a great impression on me. Evenly charred and crunchy on the surface and rich and juicy as a whole, a good squeeze of lime activated the spicy chillies, and the drizzling of sweet and tangy fish sauce was a bonus. We already know Bread & Beast do a solid version of Brussels sprouts with fried shallot and a 63°C onsen egg; this additional offering is another well-executed favourite. The Southern fried tiger prawns ($78), though irresistible and delicious, were a bit on the oily side, but a lavish drizzle of fresh lemon juice and dunks of spicy pickle remoulade went a long way in soaking up the excess grease. And it wasn't just the food that shone; smoothly in line with their casual vibe, the low-key presentation on fuss-free tin plates foretold a laid-back meal that let the grub take the spotlight.
Sweet potato wedges
Though the experimental and well-intentioned sweet potato wedges with peanut butter and Sriracha aioli ($48) need some more work behind the scenes to be as successful as the rest of the menu, the sweet, sweet churros ($58) elicited no such criticism. Glimmering with a liberal dusting of sugar and a light-handed drizzle of Nutella chocolate sauce, these pastries were lightly fried, chewy and wonderfully devoid of any oily residue – a telltale sign of a churro gone bad. The airy softness of the dough made them a great option for snacking without weighing down your stomach or ruining your appetite for the proper dinner to come.
A thousand times yes. The hits on Bread & Beast's new bar bites menu have made it a worthy contender for Wanchai happy hour congregations. Add a well-curated selection of brews from Moonzen Brewery, Young Master Ales and Hitachino Nest, as well as creative, seasonal cocktails, to the mix and you've hooked us on spending not only our lunchtimes but also our after-work hours in this buzzing little corner shop on Swatow Street. The lap cheung mac 'n' cheese stands out as an especially great bang-for-your-buck dish that gets you full without breaking the bank.
3 Swatow Street, Wanchai, 2237 1868
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; she's so stubborn, you couldn't tell her otherwise.