Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Goodbye, Dickens Bar

We thought we should make a stop at Dickens Bar at The Excelsior for one last time before the legendary hotel and bar closed the door in March, and before everyone started to swamp the place again "for nostalgia’s sake" all of a sudden. On a random weeknight right before Chinese New Year with no sports events showing on TV, the place was still kinda packed with the bar and food crowd splitting roughly half and half with mostly locals (rather than out-of-towners staying at the hotel), and a few tables occupied by big group of people for some soft of celebration or gathering. Luckily we managed to fetch the last open table as we walked in.

We can’t call ourselves regulars here but we do like the traditional British pub fare every now and then, and Dickens Bar is one of the few better ones remaining in town which serve pretty decent food and drinks. We stuck with a few traditional dishes this time. I like the chicken wings deep-fried with a thick batter and topped with tamarind hot sauce for a slight kick in flavor. The bar was long famous for its Saturday curry lunch, but the Chicken Tikka Masala we had this time was disappointing. The big chunk of chicken breast looked like it’s just dunk into the curry minutes before it’s served, and the curry itself lacked the complex flavor coming from the spices and herbs. Almost felt like it's leftover from the previous weekend's buffet table. That plus the cold naan bread and the basmati rice which lumped together made this a dish to forget.

Luckily we still had the Fish and Chips as our second main. The fish done with a beer batter was juicy, well-seasoned with a crispy crust and certainly up to the standard of any British-style gastro-pub. I am more a malt vinegar person when it came to condiments for this pub classic, but surprisingly I found the ketchup especially tasty. Still probably store brought rather than homemade but definitely not from the usual suspect of supermarket brand.

Four desserts were available on the menu – and we went for the Sticky Toffee Pudding with vanilla custard. Portion was a bit small for what they were charging, but I love the soft pudding with the caramel sauce and crème anglaise combined for the right sweetness balance (though I could live without the candied peach wedges that came straight from a can)

The bar featured a good number of beers on draft and also decent selection of beers available in bottles, both local and imported. Master Dickens is the lager especially brewed for the bar by the folks at Young Master Ales and available both in bottles or in draft – and this is one rich lager yet retaining some crispness and a light hoppy after-taste. I wonder if I could find it somewhere after the bar is gone…

Can't quite say it is the "last dream of my soul", but this institution will still be dearly missed.

When? January 31 2019
Where? Dickens Bar, B/F The Excelsior, 281 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Fish & Chips with Buttered Peas
Web: https://www.mandarinoriental.com/hong-kong/the-excelsior/fine-dining/bars/dickens-bar

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