Since Cinecitta closed its doors back in the summer (shortly afterwards followed by my beloved lunch spot, Epoch), I’ve been eagerly awaiting a new addition to the Star Street dining scene… When we got the press release through for The Principal, I was intrigued — a Chef formerly from the Aman Resorts, The Press Room Group behind the enterprise, and a modern, ingredients-led concept — I made sure to book a table for Saturday evening that very day, though I didn’t have hugely high hopes as I knew it would technically still be in its “soft opening period”.
When you enter the restaurant (the doorman outside is an indication it’s going to be pretty fancy), you’re at first totally taken aback by the large space inside, with tables so far apart from each other by Hong Kong standards you could be in different restaurants. White walls, banquette and booth seating, and a rather harsh terracotta bricking effect mean you initially get a slightly Mediterranean vibe , but when you look closer you start to notice some softer touches, like soft leather seating, plaid cushions and wool-covered chairs. Still, the overall effect decor-wise is fairly masculine, perhaps a nod to the expected office lunch crowd they might be hoping to draw from nearby Pacific Place.
The menu is super-simple – around 6-7 starters and the same number of main courses, listed by their main ingredient so it’s really easy to spot what you fancy. The wine menu on the other hand (which the very excited sommelier told us breathlessly is actually a wine ATLAS) is a huge tome containing wines from all around the world, including Japan and Brazil. We were super-boring and ordered ourselves a French Chenin Blanc, which was perfectly chilled and delicious.
The first indication that The Principal is something special came with our amuse bouche (the bread was strictly average) – some yummy and too quickly eaten combo of sashimi with a lemon foam — the chef clearly likes lemon as this is a huge theme throughout the menu. For our starters, I ordered the Beetroot Salad with Parma Foam, Walnuts, Balsamic Vinegar and Hazelnut Oil, while my husband chose the signature 63 Degree Egg with Ceps and Black Truffle. I have to confess I’m a little bored by molecular gastronomy in general, so was a bit worried by the multiple mentions of foams on the menu, but was totally wowed by both appetizer dishes. The 63 Degree Egg was a melty, gooey, rich plateful of egg yolk and woody mushrooms with generous slices of black truffle, while the Beetroot Salad was artfully arranged and super-fresh-tasting with various varieties of beetroot — I can’t say I could taste all the ingredients individually, but all together it was fabulous.
For our main courses we ordered the Suckling Pig (if you see it on the menu, you’ve kind of got to – right?) with Endives and Lemon Purée (there we go again) and the Lamb Shoulder with Quince, Chanterelles, Sweet Olive Purée and Chestnuts. The Lamb Shoulder was perfectly melt-in-your-mouth and scrummily fatty, while the quince were a fun addition as I so rarely eat them in Hong Kong but it was lovely to have something that felt so seasonal and “right” for this cold time of year. The Suckling Pig was another huge winner – crispy with crackling on the outside, tender on the inside, and the accompanying Endives had just the right hint of bitterness that comes from a really skilled chef.
By now, we were feeling that we were on to a real winner — a good sign is when halfway through the meal you’re saying to eachother, “We should really bring so-and-so here”, and the service was absolutely impeccable, to a standard I’ve never experienced in any other restaurant that has just been open for a week.
Our desserts were also super-impressive – we ordered the Passion Fruit with White Chocolate Curd, Pistachio Crumble and Ginger Ice Cream and the Chocolate Crumble with Chocolate Mousse, Honeycomb and Lemon Purée. The Chocolate Crumble was a little reminiscent of one of Madam Sixty-Ate’s desserts, but executed so much better so that we were left licking our lips and wishing for more. The Ginger Ice Cream was the standout of the other dessert – pleasantly spicy yet cool. To finish, a plate of petits fours which tipped us over into totally stuffed territory, but we still gobbled them up as we weren’t about to miss out on a perfect ending to an amazing meal.
The Principal is The Press Room Group’s most high-end restaurant to date, but its lack of stuffiness, incredible food and great service should allow it to waltz straight into the position of rubbing shoulders with some of Hong Kong’s very top establishments. We just can’t wait to go back again!
Three course meal for two, including wine – around HK1,700
The Principal, 9 Star Street, Wanchai, Hong Kong, 2563 3444
Opening Hours: Lunch – Monday-Saturday 12pm-3pm; Dinner: Monday-Saturday 6pm-12am (closed Sundays)