Mr & Mrs Fox: Surprising and worth the effort

I have to admit to being a little lazy of late; perhaps worse even, a total lack of imagination.

You see, apart from hitting fine dining restaurants in fabulous cities across the globe, I’ve been living the hermit life back in Hong Kong.  Sticking close to home and eating pretty boring.

So we decided to step outside of our comfort zone of Wanchai and head further afield, which is how we found ourselves at Mr & Mrs Fox on a very wet and miserable Saturday night.

The Quarry Bay eatery is pretty interesting; part of the Swire group of restaurants which includes the very generic Plat de Jour and the more unique Continental (see post here).  The fact that makes Mr & Mrs Fox interesting is the background of Head Chef Cheung Cook Ho, having plied his trade at 2 Michelin Star and perennial world’s 50 best restaurant, Amber.

Our 7pm reservation seemed like a good idea at the time, but we were literally starving and decided to head over a bit early.  By the time we negotiated the MTR and the pouring rain, we were about half an hour early for our reservation, which proved to be no issue at all.  As we walked into the ground floor of the three story restaurant, we were hit by a wall of raucous sound from a huge group of expats, who were pissing it up in the downstairs bar.

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Thankfully, the noise of the boozy crowd was somewhat muted up on the 1st floor restaurant, which was actually designated the name Mr Fox (Mrs Fox, being the downstairs bar area).  We felt immediately at home in the semi industrial and rustic interior, which had been designed by Hong Kong’s Charlie & Rose Ltd.  The mix of old world charm and post industrial glitz seemed to work, no small part due to the very comfortable dining chairs (we actually debated the design of the chairs for a good while!)

We’d studied the menu online for quite some time prior to coming across (yep, it was no wonder we were so hungry!) and had a really good idea about what we’d be choosing; and barring a late minute change by the girl, went along with our earlier agreement.

While we waited for our meal to commence, the girl ordered a very nice ganache/tempranillo blend and we were given some very fresh and very crusty bread to munch on.  Along with the bread came some whipped and salted butter, making the spreading nice and easy; even better, that butter soaked into the fresh bread and really hit the mark for a couple of hungry foodies.

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The girls Hand-Cut Steak Tartare was presented in quite a traditional manner, with a huge confit egg yolk sitting on top and crusty toast served on the side.  It was a very simple rendition of the classic French dish, but all the better for it.  The rough chopped beef was super fresh and the odd shape of the hand cut steak helped provide a lovely chewy texture.  There was just the right amount of condiments mixed into the tartare, and the yolk provided a creamy bonding agent to pull the dish together.  The only thing that would have improved the dish would have been the addition of some salty capers, just to give a little extra balance.

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I was so impressed with my starter, I mean, it really quite surprised me, although perhaps it shouldn’t have.  The Pan Seared Hokkaido Scallops were served with a truffle risotto and truffle emulsion, the scallops topped with a hazelnut crumble; a squid ink tuile and oyster leaf finished off the dish.  I quite liked the presentation, it was visually appealing; which followed through with the flavour.  There was a lovely caramelisation on the scallops, which were extremely well cooked and worked beautifully with that scrumptious truffle risotto.  Combining the earthy umami flavour of the truffle and the sweet scallops was superb and I demolished the dish as quickly as I could.

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At its heart, Mr & Mrs Fox is a steak restaurant and there’s a very good range of meats available from North America and Australia.  The menu even has a Mr Fox’s signature Black Market steak; now I’m not exactly sure what that means, but it sounds good, right?

Despite the great selection of beef available, the girl decided that she couldn’t pass up on the Roasted Rack of Lamb, served with vanilla-braised endive and a romesco sauce.  The huge lamb rack was well cooked and plated in a very rustic, but very appropriate manner.  The expertly cooked lamb was very sweet, the fat rendered perfectly.  When paired with the slight bite of the romesco sauce, the dish came alive, squares of polenta combining well with the sweet meat.  The dish did fall away a little when combining the vanilla-braised endive, the sharpness of the endive hidden by the vanilla; we though this was an unnecessary step and the dish would have been far nicer without.

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Even though I was curious about the Black Market selection, I chose the good old reliable Australian fillet of beef, A grade and grass fed.  You normally can’t go wrong with this cut of beef.  Presented old school style on a wooden chopping board, my medium rare filet was cooked and rested perfectly.  While the beef was tasty and very tender, it did end up being a little dry; an affliction that is common in Hong Kong due to the nature of getting fresh beef into the country (it’s normally imported frozen).  Served with a roasted garlic (ignored) and a handful of cherry tomato (devoured), it was a bog standard beef dish.

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However, it was really good value when considering the price, which was significantly lower than many steak joints in Honkers.  Even though it was a little dry, the tarragon béarnaise sauce went some way to helping.

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We intended on sharing a dessert, that was until we saw the dessert menu and simply couldn’t come to an agreement about which one to share; a simple problem solved by getting two desserts 🙂

Choosing the Pear Crumble with Vanilla ice cream, the girl was moderately happy with her selection.  The short bread crumble was very nice, the large chunks providing a slightly different take on a crumble, and the vanilla ice cream was outstanding, creamy and very smooth.  The key issue was with the pear, which was a little under done, and could have done with some additional stewing;  it wasn’t terrible, but could have really hit the high notes if cooked just a little longer.

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I had no such issues with my Passion Fruit Pavlova, which looked very pretty in it’s UFO shaped black bowl (c’mon, use your imagination!).  As far as pavlova goes, it wasn’t super traditional, but I liked it all the more because of it; not quite a deconstructed version though….  Kind of in-between.  The toasted meringue was at the centre of the dessert and had some orange curd, pomelo and grapefruit segments, passionfruit sorbet.  I loved the mix of super sweet components and the very tart grapefruit.  It was a well balanced interpretation of a pavlova and it was again quickly devoured.

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By the time we were finished, we were very full, and very happy with our meal.  Barring a few minor issues with elements, our dishes were well constructed, and executed pretty well.  I mean, Mr & Mrs Fox is not Michelin standard, but then again, you’re not paying Michelin prices, so that’s just fine by me.

I’d heard stories and read online reviews that had been pretty critical of the food and the service at Mr & Mrs Fox, but I’m really not sure if I would agree.  We found the service to be attentive and quite good by Hong Kong standards, and the dinner menu is excellent.  Even as the restaurant filled up and became very busy, there were no issues at all; there was hustle and the team looked a little stressed, but they were still professional and efficient.

Visiting Mr & Mrs Fox was just the tonic I needed and showed that if I put in a little bit of effort, travel beyond my beloved and very comfortable existence in Wanchai, that I’ll have some great dining experiences.

I’m already planning on heading out to Kennedy Town – phew, really stretching myself 🙂

http://www.mrmrsfox.com/en/default

@FoodMeUpScotty

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