REVIEW

Petrus

Petrus is, along with Gaddi’s, one of the two great traditional French restaurants in Hong Kong. Located on the 56th floor of the Island Shangri-la hotel, it is has arguably the best views of any restaurant on Hong Kong island: they sweep from the rising slope of Victoria Peak across central and Kowloon and all the way to Causeway Bay. It is stunning during the nightly Symphony of Lights show, when the nearby Bank of China building comes alive.

It is also one of the most beautiful restaurants in Hong Kong, with grand, opulent décor that is not nearly as gaudy as I was expecting it to be from photos. When softly lit at night, it looks much more tasteful and romantic. The wood paneled dining room is hung with colorful impressionist paintings, crystal chandeliers dangle from domed, painted sections of the ceiling, windows are framed with heavy draperies, and fresh flowers are interspersed throughout. The drama and grandeur of the main dining room is hard to beat, but the back rooms (the restaurant has two private dining rooms which are opened for general dining when not in use) actually have superior views. There is a live harpist in the evening that serenades smartly dressed diners. It is a deeply impressive and luxurious ambiance, one of the few remaining restaurants with old-world formality, requiring jackets for men (unless, that is, you happen to be, like the table next to me one evening, wealthy mainlanders ordering bottles of Petrus and rapidly depleting the restaurant’s stock of white truffles). 

The cuisine is classic French. Chef Frederic Chabbert is an alumnus of Alain Ducasse’s Le Louis LV in Monaco, one of the truly great restaurants in the world. The meal commences with the arrival of a champagne cart; Petrus takes wine seriously, with a deep list that consists of 1,900 bottles. There is a very fine bread selection, along with three types of butter, followed by a series of amuse bouche, such as a decadent parmesan cheese puff filled with cream. The dish descriptions are sometimes confusingly written, as if in broken English, but the quality is unimpeachable. The cuisine leans toward the rich and heavy (which we don’t necessarily mean pejoratively); in particular, a puffy pastry stuffed with hare, foie gras, black truffle and chestnut that is doused in a sauce made from foie gras and the hare’s liver. The dish is an updated version of a 1941 recipe from Taillevent in Paris. A creamy chestnut soup filled with pheasant, cognac and wood vegetables was sublimely decadent. And the organic egg yolk served with Jabugo ham, wild mushrooms and black truffle was heavenly when spread on slices of the airy, crispy flat bread; unfortunately, when the dish was brought out and I was asked if I wanted any more bread, the server didn’t return with the bread basket until long after the dish was finished.

That wasn’t the only service misstep. The awkward and inordinately familiar maître d’ repeatedly got tongue-tied (not out of language difficulties – he speaks perfect English) and began saying bizarre things. When reviewing the menu, he summarily skipped over the vegetable section, saying “we can skip this – unless you’re a vegetarian”, a peculiar thing to say given that the restaurant is renowned for its organic vegetables from Annie Bertin and that non-vegetarians do, on occassion, eat vegetables. He pushed certain items so hard that he actually said at one point “so you have two choices for the mains”, as if I couldn’t select from the entire range of the menu. On another occasion, the white truffles were brought out and the top was removed and shoved in my face, followed by the command “and now we would like you to… smell the top”. On the whole, however, the service was quite well-coordinated and proficient, the awkward ramp-up notwithstanding.

The Michelin Guide has made a fool of itself in many ways in Hong Kong, but the lack of any stars for Petrus (and the simultaneous recognition of so many unmeritorious restaurants) is among its most egregious errors. Michelin originally bestowed a star on Petrus, later raising it to two stars (which it deserves); however, after encountering criticism that the guide was too Euro-centric and favored French cuisine, they eventually dropped Petrus entirely and reallocated the stars to stripped-down mediocrities in order to try to generate more local credibility. Anyone who thinks Hung’s Delicacies or The Square is better than Petrus simply doesn’t know anything about food. It's a surprising conclusion to reach about the world's most prestigious restaurant guide, but an inescapable one.

[Note:  This review was written in late 2013.  In the 2014 edition of the Michelin Guide, Petrus was awarded one star.]

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INFORMATION

Admiralty
Level 56, Pacific Place, Supreme Court Road, Central
+852 2820-8590
Mon-Sun, 6:30am-10:30am, noon-2:30pm, 6:30pm-10:30pm
    Frederic Chabbert, Chef
    Claude Guerin, Pastry Chef
    Nicolas Pierron, Sommelier
    Paul Leese, Designer

    TAGS

    • Hong Kong
    • French
    • Best Decor
    • Best Service
    • Best View
    • Best Wine Lists
    • BYOB Corkage Fee: $500HKD
    • Live Music
    • Private Dining Room Burgundy Room Alsace Room
    • Romantic

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