Review: 22 Ships Hong Kong
Creative tapas by Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton
Four weeks into its opening, Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton’s 22 Ships is still the talk of the town amongst foodies in Hong Kong. Upholding its strict no-reservations policy, the hip new restaurant's tasty, beautiful, and reasonably priced tapas have attracted locals and expats alike to wait at least 30 to 40 minutes for seats every night.
Since our first visit when the restaurant first opened, we've already been back three times, and each time we leave with a new favourite dish and wanting more.
Located on 22 Ship Street in Wanchai, the 35-seater neighbourhood style tapas bar takes on a cosy vibe with natural lights from the front window during the day, and transforms into a hip hang-out spot at night.
The crowd at 22 Ships can easily spill out to the streets.
With the simplicity of its décor, the bar and semi-open kitchen at the centre of the room reaffirms that food and drinks are taken very seriously here. Both frequent and new customers are greeted warmly by the staff, many of whom are happy to recommend dishes that they love with enthusiasm.
Food and drink
From our previous experiences at Jason Atherton’s Table No. 1 in Shanghai, we've come to expect his food to always be presented artfully with each component on the plate serving an important role to build up layers of flavours and textures. Head Chef Matt Bishop (who worked with Atherton at Gordon Ramsay’s maze Restaurant) and his team at 22 Ships have done a good job in translating this experience to diners in Hong Kong.
The bone marrow at 22 Ships is a highlighted and favourite dish for many.
The baked bone marrow, onion jam, served with sourdough and gentlemen’s relish butter (HK$68) was the most intense flavour bomb on the menu. The beefy and juicy bone marrow and the sweet sautéed onion complemented each other in flavours whereas the sourdough slice acted as an edible vessel to soak up the essence of the ingredients.
Don't expect this suckling pig to be crispy.
Unlike its Cantonese banquet style counterpart, 22 Ships’ Spanish style suckling pig with roasted apple and piquillo pepper (HK$128) did not have the crispy skin that Hong Kongers love, but a nice balance of fat content and the tenderness of the meat made it a star. The apple puree served with the pork reminded us of the classic American pork chop with apple sauce.
The Iberico pork and foie gras burger (HK$148) were also juicy and tender while the avocado added an extra layer of creaminess and helped restrain the intensity of the foie gras.
You can't go wrong with mini Iberico pork burgers.
The desserts at 22 Ships are just as strong as its entrées. Besides the “P B J” mentioned previously, we also loved the olive oil brioche with chocolate ganache and pistachio ice-cream (HK$78), which had a nice balance of sweet and saltiness; while the crispy lemon meringue with cucumber sorbet and gin jelly (HK$68) tasted like a deconstructed tropical cocktail that swept our palates away to the Caribbean.
With each visit to 22 Ships, we discovered new and pleasant surprises in the big, bold flavours leaping off the small but strikingly beautiful plates. Overall, their meat dishes fared the best, with desserts being a hit as well. From November onwards, 22 Ships will be open for lunch from 12 to 3pm, Monday to Saturday. Let’s hope that this means shorter lines for our next visit and many more to come.
Born in Hong Kong and raised in Toronto, Dominic Ngai is a walking definition of a Chinese-Canadian. After university, he spent three years in Shanghai eating xiaolongbao and speaking Mandarin with a Canadian accent. Fate has brought him back to his birthplace to start a new chapter in his life. Follow him on Twitter @dominicdn.