The woman in that photo above is confused. She’s confused because everything about this mysterious restaurant, located in Wanchai’s side streets off Queens Road East, is so understated. Everything from a facade that’s just plain glass, basic no plastic plywood furniture, no signage, no visual clutter, basic painted walls, and no faux-crystal, makes the new restaurant, Serge et le Phoque, across the street from Wanchai Cooked Food Market… just so… un-Hong Kong. Thank God.
Even by expat dining destination standards in the city, it’s so so so underratedly chill. No hostess on the sidewalk begging you to come in, no poster on the front door telling you what “Theme” Sunday is supposed to be (because in Hong Kong… to survive as a concept restaurant… you’ve go to theme EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK!)
In exchange for Serge et le Phoque’s defiantly minimalist aesthetics and ambiance, you get a blank palette that sets back for the food. And Oh… the food. Just making me think of that experience, i’m literally salivating at the thought. Let me just put it this way… eating at Serge et le Phoque, is the equivalent of eating at say… an art gallery, where the degustation menu is the exhibition on display. And yes, this is saying a lot. And speaking highly of this restaurant is less than what they deserve/trying to achieve… it’s not enough! Chef Christophe Pele (photo below right) literally returns once a month from Paris to oversee this restaurant and to play in the kitchen with resident chef, Nic Chew (ex- L’atelier Robuchon and Saint Betty’s) which is run by restaurateurs, Charles Pelletier (photo below left) and Frederic Peneau, an ex architect (which explains the cool designer-ish surroundings, also former owner of Cafe Burq and current owner of Le Chateaubriand). Fred’s son came up with the random restaurant name (translating to “Serge and the Seals”) and the whole team combined worked hard in setting up a new kind of continental restaurant in the city focused on providing a no frills, no drama, unpretentious space where the quality of the food is the only taste left on one’s tongue by the end of the night.
And the taste… I still dream of it, one month after. My friend, Louise, and I took our pal Tangram’s designer, Paola Sinisterra for her birthday dinner last month. A few other friends came by to join, and we made a Sunday night of it. What make it more special was that Chef Christophe was in town to work that Sunday evening, putting together a special one-night only menu for the party! Some items were available on the regular menu, but other items, were based on ingredients he just purchased for that day, which may someday make it as an official offering.