This was our first visit to the new incarnation of what was previously St Betty in IFC shopping mall to try out their brunch offering. The space has been completely redesigned with light reflective marble tables, turquoise blue chairs and light brown benches. At first sight this is quite a pleasing combination but looking a little closer it is clear that none of the material covered furnishings have stood the test of time very well and are already looking rather stained and a little shabby. The attractive marble topped tables and bar counter should last longer.
One of the stand outs was the quality of the waiting staff, one of whom without the slightest hint of irritation, made four visits back to the kitchen to check with the chef what could be done gluten free. Commendations to him for his good natured persistence. As a result I found I was able to eat a good, if unexceptional, salad nicoise.
As it turned out The Unconstrained chose a starter of warm prawns in olive oil with basil and lemon which was also gluten free and was one which, whilst simple, was effective and was a dish he would be prepared to order again. He was also given a croissant in a paper bag embossed with the Ivy branding which he thought was the best he has outside France: it tasted restaurant made rather than mass-produced. Sadly for those of us avoiding gluten there was no attempt to substitute anything for the wheat based offerings.
A rather charming accompaniment to the table was a dish of sea salt with lemon and tomatoes which created an interesting still life.
This was followed by a bouillabaisse which the menu describes as being comprised of (unspecified) mediterranean fishes with king prawn (singular) and rouille. The obliging waiter confirmed that, without the rouille it was gluten-free. The soup was good and authentic although I must admit the anonymous fish weren’t noteworthy.
Dessert was a also a bit of a disappointment. The waiter proudly told us that there was a desert buffet table, but instead of being pleased, my heart sank as my mind automatically turned to thoughts of communal spoons and the increased risk of cross-contamination hazards they pose. There was fresh fruit on offer, but it was so perilously close to wheat based deserts and those pesky spoons that I didn’t feel up to risking it.
In the end, short of making a fuss, the only viable option seemed to be a newly arrived creme brûlée, which turned out to be rather lovely with lots of real vanilla and a crunchy top. That said, even it was rather spoiled by thoughts of the the previous desert offerings of St Betty, particularly the sublime yuzu posset which was served individually rather than buffet style.
Another issue we have with buffets is that they seem to have a tendency to bring out the worst in people. In this case, the diner in the adjacent table to us, a single lady, asked for one of the bags that the croissants had been delivered in and proceeded surreptitiously to fill it with macaroons, cakes and other offerings from the buffet table. This somehow felt distasteful behaviour and the spectacle of her not very successful efforts to hide what she was doing behind a magazine was definitely distracting and was another of the reasons why, despite their outstanding waiters and the convenience of the location, we won’t be rushing back to Ivy.
Ivy, Shop 2075, Level 2, IFC Mall, Central, Hong Kong:Tel: 2383 4028