Monday, April 08, 2013

Le Marron - A "French" private kitchen in Hong Kong, the land of compromise

Duck breast a l'orange (I think)
Le Marron is my standard answer to the question: "Where do I go as a party of 6 (or more) for 'Western' food? Oh and it has to have free corkage".

Everyone thinks private kitchens don't charge for corkage - that couldn't be further from the truth, so there's no real advantage to them (apart from the "secret" element). I've said it once and I'll say it again - most private kitchens in Hong Kong, especially non-Chinese ones, kinda suck.

The food at Le Marron, and its sister eatery in Wanchai, Le Blanc, is far from perfect. I mean, look at the opening pic - see that sad baby corn and dry, tasteless mash (you'd think no-one had heard of butter there), but they're one step up from frozen peas and broccoli, and that is a small and desperate step that diners must take in Hong Kong, especially for under HK$600 per head. (Both Le Marron and Le Blanc started out at around $250 per head, nowadays it's $350).

The decor is twee, faux antique-y, each table/party is partitioned by curtains, so you can't see what's going on at the next table, but can definitely hear it - it's a pleasant enough ambiance for going with a few friends and chinwag the night away.

French onion soup - I still haven't worked out how to make onion soup pictures not look like an overflowing latrine
I was with two friends, and I watched as one of them initially sipped the soup carefully, almost anticipating it to be bad. A look of relief swept across her face, and so I took a dip too - it was spot on.

Fried Camembert
I don't know how they got such tiny coins of Camembert, but they did, and it was alright - I mean, you can't really go wrong with deep-fried cheese. Then again, you could, by putting on too much panko, like they did.

Veal with prawn spring roll
This was pretty wrong. It's what happens when Hongkie 'Western' chefs try to be creative. The 'spring roll' was basically mush with salt. The rest of the dish was fine.

Grilled pork chop
This was probably the best out of the main dishes, the pork managed to stay fairly juicy (although it was cooked to medium well - no one dares eat pink pork in this town), though the fatty bits could have used a bit more time on the pan, so the fat renders and the side goes crisp rather than staying wobbly and greasy (and uneaten).

Duck breast a l'orange
Probably every Hongkie 'Western' chef's standby 'classy dish'. The breast was too dry (what we've come to expect about this dish in HK), though the pile of zest at the top kept things, well, zesty.

Grand Marnier souffle
Way too much GM. I'm not alcohol averse (clearly) but and still I thought it was overpowering. The souffle's texture wasn't bad, it was like eating Grand Marnier marshmallows, only the GM burned.

Cherry clafoutis
Completely fine, although not much to write home (or on a blog) about. I mean, if you can't make something that resembles a clafoutis (remember, it doesn't even have to be turned out or anything, it just needs to be set, be golden brown on top and sit in a little ramekin or dish), then you probably shouldn't be in a kitchen.

Et voila, this is the kind of place I go to in order to drink for free, and not be so unhappy about the food that my enjoyment of the wine suffers. Basically it's because HK sucks at BYO and our apartments are too tiny. When all you want to do is drink with a few friends, who cares about the food?

Le Marron
12/F Ying Kwong Building
2-6 Yee Wo Street
Causeway Bay
Hong Kong
+852 2881 6662

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  1. Long time I did not go there...happy to read about this old place and to know that it is still alive.
    vraiment pas terrible... your point is right: it is certainly due to free corkage. Haha!

  2. Hey, you forgot the address... or was that deliberate? ;)

    1. haha no, not deliberate - just forgot! it's back in now, thanks!

  3. Urgh, I think we'll give that a miss! On the topic of private kitchens in Hong Kong, what ARE your recommendations? I'm new to your blog so have probably missed a lot but am interested to know where to go to experience the PK scene as it seems really unique. From my trawling around websites, most places are either ridiculously expensive and/or cater only to large groups of people. I'm looking for places that will take between two and four PAX, ideally.

  4. I have been so sick and tired of people talking up private kitchens for the past...I dunno how many years. I stopped being excited about them after around 2006/7, when they either 1)started raising their prices and stopped being a good deal, or 2)kept prices low and food quality sucked or was uninteresting.

    I'd rather pay up and enjoy my meal somewhere else

  5. Anonymous5:18 am

    Is La Marron really a private kitchen? It's just a bog standard restaurant that you should avoid on 'special dates' e.g. valentines, food is not good..