Thursday, March 29, 2018

Whimsical Bar at IFC Mall

Recently I was at Dear Lilly, a new restaurant/bar concept on the rooftop of the IFC Mall, and it did change my impression somewhat of restaurants under the Dining Concept group in general. I don’t know what this site was before, but with the setting like a glasshouse right in the top shopping mall with unobstructed view of the Hong Kong skyline, you already got half the winning formula to be the popular place for anything from leisure lunch to afternoon tea to happy hour drinks. They don’t take reservations, and by the time we arrived, there’s already quite a waiting line for people wanting a drink and a bite, and some were just happy to take a snap of the romantic interior on their mobile phone.

That didn’t concern us per se as we came for an invited tasting, and right away they put us in the “booth” in the middle of the restaurant, which can seat up to 6. The décor was whimsical, and reminded me somewhat of a set in Alice in Wonderland – the movable hanging bouquet of roses near to the bar, vintage perfume bottles with dried flowers displayed all over on the shelves, and marble floor inscribed with word excepted from old love letters (love letter is the theme of the place, hence the name) And that pleasant aroma of lavender that spilled out to the outdoor terrace and filled the whole restaurant turned out to be coming from literally hundreds of dried lavender bouquet hanging from the ceiling. Work of interior designer Ashley Sutton, I was told, who also has a few other bars in town in his portfolio.

They have an interesting selection of “Signature Cocktails” with fancy names like “Kiki de Montparnasse” or “Nympheas, 1915”, each listed with detailed descriptions. I started with “Mad Enchantment” with calvados and lillet mixed with apple and lemon juices, vanilla syrup and blackberry puree, served in a stemmed teacup – yeah, there really is such a thing. It’s sweet and artistic (and refreshing)

With such cozy space I was surprised at the wide food menu they offer. We started with a trio of starters – the tuna poke was on the sweet side like most of their cocktails, with sweet onion vinaigrette and chunks of avocado mixed in,  and so was the beef short ribs with the honey glaze. My favorite one was the slow-cooked octopus, served in generous portion (definitely big enough for sharing) with roasted pepper salsa, seaweed hummus and rocket for that zesty, smoky flavor.

The main courses were solid too. I love the flavor and texture of the pasta dish of puttanesca pappardelle with the hint of anchovies and capers in the tomato based sauce, and the wild mushroom risotto was perfectly done too, served with slices of raw button mushrooms and truffle paste. We had a double dose of truffles too with the truffle skinny fries served as the side dish, crisp and tasty. The poached sea bass was surprisingly good – served skin-on with spread of salsa verde on top and crushed new potatoes at the bottom. Again, the piece of the delicate fish fillet was cooked well and paired nicely with the herbs.

With my second drink on the way – with the even sweeter Mademoiselle Lilly completed with sugar coated on the rim of my glass - we moved on to the desserts. I could see why the Dear Lilly Heart could become a favorite item at the restaurant with the red heart-shaped raspberry mousse topped with a heart-shaped chocolate – the colorful presentation is surely the darling of every Instagrammers, but my favorite was actually the apple yuzu cremeux, served with meringue piped on top and hibiscus and passion-fruit puree dotted on the plate.

Honestly, normally I wouldn’t think much of the establishments by Dining Concepts (with the exception of BLT Burger which I love), at least not more than any other high street chains, but this one I did enjoy. Definitely better than I expected and more than just a fun place to hang out. I would love to come back, maybe next time during the day, and just chill by the table outside with some simple dishes and a drink or two.

When? March 13 2018
Where? Dear Lilly, Shop 4010, IFC Mall, 8 Finance Street, Central, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Slow-cooked Octopus with Roasted Pepper Salsa, Seaweed Hummus, Rocket

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