As far as the g-f experience is concerned, we had very high hopes, fostered by the charm and confidence of our waiter. He waved to someone on the table next to ours who also needed to eat g-f – this was a characteristic shared by certain diners – it wasn’t anything unusual, and was something they were well able to handle…
At his recommendation, we started with Australian oysters and butter fried cauliflower served with capers, curry, raisins, pine nuts, and creamy yoghurt. The curried cauliflower was absolutely delicious. However, later, having reviewed everything I ate that day I do wonder whether this was the cause of a gluten reaction. Perhaps it was the raisins – not all dried fruit is g-f, perhaps it was the pine nuts – cross-contamination is also a potential problem with nuts. Whichever it was, this was a real disappointment as this restaurant has a lot going for it.
Not least the brown paper tablecloths and tubs of crayons. For the artistic amongst us, or even for those who are not, perhaps including Jasmine who illustrated out tablecloth with a simple heart before we got there, this place has a relaxed fun vibe. The open kitchen also prepared one of the best main courses I have eaten in Hong Kong, the barramundi cooked in aboriginal paperbark with finger lime, charred coconut and native Australian plants. Whilst it hasn’t photographed well (how much I miss my lost iphone!) it was beautifully presented on a fish shaped platter. The charred paper added to the novelty of the presentation. Given the few ingredients involved in this dish I think this was unlikely to have caused the problem.
We passed on the desserts, but their curiously named Roadkill Pavlova with passion fruit and berries might be fine for coeliacs. It certainly looked delicious when we saw it delivered to a nearby table. Likewise, for The Unconstrained, the sticky date pudding with brandy caramel sauce served with Madagascar vanilla ice cream looked like comfort food of the highest order.
Given how highly we rated the experience at this restaurant, I am inclined to return at a quieter time to talk to the Aussie chef. It was clear to me they think they are preparing food that is safe for coeliacs to eat – and Australia is after all one of the world leaders in awareness of gluten intolerance. Hopefully, they might welcome the feedback. Either way, I will report back as and when I have been able to do that.
True to my word, we went back. Not only for the arty one to create this unfinished work whilst we whiled away the time between courses and the rest of us cast around for suitable names for him. Perhaps ‘Fredrick the Famished was apt as he later posed with one of the leftover truffle fries but we eventually settled for Truffles the Terrible in honour of the unctuous fries.
Much to my disappointment the barramundi, whose praises I had been singing, was disappointing. Not only was the fish stronger than I remembered but the vegetables were tougher. As there were few diners that night – a result of the Occupy Central? – the kitchen really didn’t have any excuse.
As promised, we ordered the Roadkill Pavlova to share. Whilst I don’t see the appeal of normal meringue, normally being too dry and chalky, this one had a defined taste and was much more interesting than those I’ve previously tried. The combination of fruits and cream also worked well, though sharing was definitely a good plan given its size.
Given the chance, I am sure we will be back but with much more circumspection about recommending the barramundi. Still this time round I didn’t have any gluten reaction – which is always a plus.
The BellBrook, 2/F, 77 Wyndham Street, Central,Hong Kong – Tel: 2530 1600 www.thebellbrook.com