Gough’s on Gough: A study in Style over Substance?

One of my favourite streets in Hong Kong is the very cool Gough Street, home to great little nicknack & coffee shops, great little restaurants; there is just a super vibe whenever you’re cruising the strip.

A strange thing happened to one of those cool little shops this year; a groovy furniture and accessories store called Timothy Oulton went through a radical transformation (well, at least part of it did).  I guess there is a certain logic that such an iconic British brand should dabble in cuisine, right?  After all, in today’s Instagram ready world, there is a massive crossover between chic style and chic food.

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And let me tell you, there are plenty of IG ready nicknacks and oddities in the restaurant, even before you peruse the menu inspired by head chef Arron Rhodes.  Given the British born chef had spent some time working in #worlds50best (currently #14) and Two Michelin Starred Restaurant Andreé, I had high expectations going into the meal.

The girl and I were double dating with a fellow food blogger, Bianca from SimplyB313 (and her BF), so it promised to be an interesting evening dissecting and analysing the food; as well as gossiping about the latest food trends around our holiday destinations.  SC and I arrived right on time, only to learn that B had been on premise for about thirty minutes already taking photos of the quite spectacular and interesting interior of Gough’s on Gough – sheesh!

We’d been seated in a special little room set aside upstairs, so we had plenty of privacy for our meal; however, since it had been ages since we’d caught up, the poor wait staff had to come back a heap of times to check to see if we were ready to order!  This included a stint from the restaurant’s sommelier, who needed to come up with a recommendation for the drinkers at the table that went with the wide range of options we were contemplating!

They finally settled on an American Pinot Noir (from Oregon no less!).  The ordering of the vino signalled that it was time for placing our orders and our waiter came in, pen at the ready.  We’d decided to go a la carte instead of the tasting menu; in hindsight, perhaps not the best of ideas….

Our meal kicked off with some warm and very crusty bread, along with a heap of wonderfully room temperature salted butter; which led to a discussion about the importance of bread and how it really could set up a meal perfectly.  For the record, the Gough’s on Gough bread was warm, moist and beautiful with a pile of that salted butter on top.  We finished our first batch in no time, which lead the the quick arrival of a second!

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My choice of starter was the North Sea Langoustine, served in a striking bowl with a tiny base that made it a little difficult to cut the food without knocking the bowl over!  The dish was quite pretty in it’s presentation, a little rustic but with a lot of flair; you could see the ingredients on offer and I quite liked the colouring against the cobalt blue bowl.  Let me start off by saying that the langoustine was cooked really well, the texture perfect on the palate; but given some of the ingredients listed on the menu, I really struggled to find the flavours on the plate!  There was none of that bitter sweet hit of the tarragon mayonnaise; the cauliflower couscous and the puffed rice were both good texturally, but were really quite bland.  In fact the only really nice hit of flavour came from a tiny amount of beetroot puree; I wish there’d been more of that, along with a decent hit of seasoning.

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The girl chose the Australian Beef Tartare; which I will say surprised me greatly in it’s presentation!  Instead of the usual chopped beef on a plate resplendent with chopped gherkin and an egg yolk, there was pretty ‘cigar’ of lightly cooked chopped meat sitting atop an anchovy mayonnaise.  Once we got used to the idea of the presentation (by the way, we’ve seen this once before too), the dish turned out to be really quite tasty!  We loved the contrasting crunch from the pastry biscuit surrounding the beef, which was fresh and had a hint of heat from somewhere!  The salty anchovy mayonnaise was quite inspired against the sweet beef.

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There was quite a bit of theatre with the presentation of the mains, with the lamb and the wagyu both receiving a jus poured over at the table.

I’d chosen the Grass Fed Wagyu Steak, which was presented in quite an interesting manner; the components spread out over the plate, which were connected by the pouring of the thyme sauce.  The steak was presented two ways, a medium rare pice of filet and well as a slow cooked rib.  Now I have to admit, getting steak in Hong Kong is a bit hit and miss, and for me this was largely a miss, with the beef being under seasoned and really quite dry (not even the sauce helped).  I did love the slow braised rib component, which was rich in flavour and had a lovely texture, enhanced nicely by the thyme.  Probably the nicest component on the dish was the porcini potato, which should never be the case with a wagyu dish.

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The girls both chose the Roasted Hawks Bay Lamb Rump, which was similarly presented as the beef.  Where the beef was dry, the lamb was moist and sweet; more importantly, it was really well supported by salt cured carrots, edamame beans and a delicious garlic and lemon puree.  I only sampled a couple of mouthfuls of SC’s but it was enough for me to realise I’d picked poorly from the menu.

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Where the starters and mains had been a mixed bag, there was agreement that our desserts were a real step up; so much so, they were the highlight of the meal!

First up was the Chocolate Fondant, a dish that needs to be prepared perfectly to ensure that lovely molten centre oozes out.  It was a risky choice given the mixed bag, but it ended up being an inspired choice; once the girl’s spoon cracked into the fondant there was a serious spillage of molten chocolate!  It was quite faultless and very tasty, especially once some of the salted caramel was scooped up with the Peruvian cocoa ‘lava’.

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My choice of Strawberries and Cream was quite nice…  I mean, it was presented well and had all the right components; strawberry sorbet that had a little tartness from a hint of lemon, dollops of créme fraîche mousse and chunks of freshly made honeycomb.  I loved the sweetness of the honeycomb against the bitter sweet sorbet, but found the mousse lost against the other strong flavours.  That being said, it was enjoyable and I polished it off in record time.  It was my favourite dish!

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We’d provided some feedback to our wait staff (upon their request) as the meal had progressed, with Bianca and I both commenting that the langoustine dish was rather bland, and I commented that I found the beef to be bland and dry.  To the credit of the team, the did take off one dessert from the bill, which lead our table to have a philosophical discussion about the merits of discounting when there were numerous problems.

On balance, it was appreciated; but unnecessary given we did eat all of the food.

There have been a lot of great things written about Gough’s on Gough and I’d had pretty high expectations going into the meal.  Were those expectations met?  I’d say no for myself, although the girl had a much more enjoyable meal than I did (not for the first time).  I would say at the very least there were some good dishes on the menu, but there was a huge amount of inconsistency.

Gough’s on Gough is still a very new restaurant with a talented team behind it, great service and a funky vibe, so I’ll definitely get along to try it again sometime. The menu is quite reasonably priced, so it’s a place that is looking for repeat customers….

Time will tell if it’s a restaurant that becomes a regular

http://goughsongough.com

@FoodMeUpScotty

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