Hong Kong champagne brunch – Nicholini’s at the Conrad
Don’t you hate it when you have to check out of a hotel and your flight isn’t until the evening? Given Greedy Girl considers there’s only so much time you can spend in an airport lounge, one of her go-to options when she’s travelling on a Sunday is indulging in a leisurely brunch.
We headed to the Conrad at Pacific Place for a Hong Kong champagne brunch typical of five-star hotels. This was our second Sunday brunch here, having whiled away a very pleasant afternoon two years ago.
Hong Kong is an exceptionally easy place to get around and offers a number of traveller-friendly services, especially the brilliant in-town check-in available at both Hong Kong and Kowloon Airport Express train stations. Less obvious but very welcome is the free shuttle buses that run between Hong Kong station and the major hotels – this is a real bonus if you have luggage and don’t want to wheel it through the very long transfers on the Hong Kong subway.
So, if you’re staying a fair distance from Pacific Place and don’t necessarily want to go back to your hotel after brunch, it’s a very simple process to check in for your flight at one of the stations in the morning and then head, unencumbered out for a day of eating and drinking. We didn’t need to do that this trip, as we were staying next door at the JW Marriott, so just left our luggage with the doorman.
Both the Conrad and JW Marriott are slightly back from the harbour but there are glimpses of the water through the building gaps. The dining room at Nicholini’s is light and airy with floor to ceiling windows, lots of white linen, timber panelling and upholstered seats. We were shown to a table with possibly the best view and were happy to look out at the harbour on a slightly overcast day.
Perrier Jouet champagne is poured non-stop from 11am until 3pm, along with wines, beer and soft drinks. The online booking form suggests there are two sittings for Sunday brunch but we weren’t advised of anything directly, nor was there any indication we would need to move on at 1pm. All good. There’s a small menu on the table for dishes that can be ordered a la carte, but more on that later.
Compared to some Sunday brunches we’ve experienced in Asia, the selection here was relatively small with a great many bain maries that, Greedy Girl admits, didn’t look all that flash. It was better to queue up for the stations manned by chefs as there seemed to be a fair amount of turnover. As has become her custom, Greedy Girl started with a plate of sushi.
This was really quite good, although not as exciting and enjoyable as the selection we enjoyed at the JW Marriott in Beijing – arguably the one really wonderful thing about that experience. Scouting the various offerings, Greedy Girl was amazed to find a huge container of caviar and promptly took a couple of spoonfuls for gluttonous husband.
This turned out to be made of aubergine (eggplant) and wasn’t particularly wonderful. Our excitement at such a luxury was very quickly tempered with a dose of reality. Ah well, ne’er mind.
What did look very good was a roast duck and pork station. Chefs were kept very busy making little duck parcels and slices of pork with satisfyingly crispy skin. We replenished these a few times because they were exceptionally yummy.
Gluttonous husband needed something with a bit of substance, so he took a dish from the a la carte menu, pan-seared sea bass with an olive crust and ‘natural’ jus. Well, that’s how it was listed on the menu – as you can see from the picture (below) there wasn’t any evidence of an olive crust. Still, the fish was quite moist so it hit the spot.
We were a little unnerved that the menu was taken away once gluttonous husband had ordered this dish. We were however, able to get it back later on when Greedy Girl decided to order something. On our previous visit we’d ordered several dishes without issue but the subtext here was one choice and you’re done. We opted not to push the envelope.
Greedy Girl spied some foie gras and promptly lined-up to get some. This was very unusual – the foie gras was put on a grill and covered with a pancake batter. It wasn’t unpleasant by any means but it didn’t really do the foie gras any particular favours.
Gluttonous husband decided he’d try something a bit different. There were small pieces of steak on offer and he requested a piece of the natural foie gras to top the meat. It took a bit of back and forth with the chef, who didn’t really understand what he was after, but he got there in the end.
Greedy Girl decided she’d try a dish from the menu, opting for grilled king prawns with herb oil and marinated cherry tomatoes.
The prawns themselves were perfectly edible but the cherry tomatoes on the side did nothing for the dish. If there was any ‘herb oil’ Greedy Girl couldn’t discern it, nor any marinading of the tomatoes. An oddly-conceived plate of food. A hearty, rustic tomato sauce is often used in Mediterranean cooking to pair with prawns but this was pretty tasteless.
Gluttonous husband, suffering from a very heavy cold, decided it was time to draw stumps and find a quiet spot out at the airport to await our overnight flight home. Greedy Girl decided to try some of the dessert delights before we departed.
While there’s a chocolate fountain, Greedy Girl chose a mousse, a cake and an egg custard tart to snack on along with a decent espresso coffee. The mousse was good and the cake perfectly edible but neither of us enjoyed the custard tart. It was quite bland.
And we were done. We settled up and headed next door to retrieve our bags and head for the airport. Our memory of our first experience at Nicholini’s was very good and this time it didn’t hugely wow us. Still, it was a relaxing way to finish up our Hong Kong visit and quite good value for money.
Conrad Hong Kong
88 Queensway (above Pacific Place shopping centre)