Beef & Liberty
Wan Chai’s hippest new burger joint has a commendable manifesto, but food and service need more polish
One has to feel sorry for the residents of Regal Court Podium, whose apartment windows stare straight into the glare of Beef & Liberty’s Broadway-esque sign; with floor-to-ceiling windows stretching across the façade of the restaurant, these denizens are not safe either from the potential prying eyes of the raucous, young-and-bearded crowd that flock here to chow down on burgers and fill up on booze. Of course, those very same visitors may be too absorbed by each others’ company to notice, as the din on our late evening visit was at a high – mostly due to the hard wood and concrete furnishings – or possibly enraptured by the vast mural by LA-based street artists Cyrcle flanking one side of the dining room.
We doff our caps to the blokes at Beef & Liberty, who have taken it upon themselves to source only hormone-free, grass-fed beef from Hereford and Angus cattle who happily graze upon the plains of Tasmania before turning up as juicy patties between white sourdough burger buns. And we like the meat a lot – the beef is coarsely ground and full of flavour, and turns up a rosy shade of pink with a good, caramelised crust on the outside. The only problems in our green chilli burger were the unremarkable cheddar cheese, and the fact that the green chilli is slapped on top of the patty whole, instead of as the advertised slices – it throws the entire flavour and texture profile of the burger off-balance as some bites are full of chilli, others without. Generally, the result packs way less punch than its title may have suggested. The same problem plagues the sweet corn cobbler with jalapeno and crunchy dahl, which shocks at first with its piquant spiciness but leaves us little else to appreciate – the corn is moderately sweet, the dahl is barely discernable, and despite the buttery juices pooling at the bottom of the on-trend enamel bowl, there is not much richness, nor enough salt and acidity to make this dish as vibrant as it could be. The Korean spicy sauce in the crispy chicken wings is also weak, tasting more of ketchup than the expected gochujang, but the wings are juicy and the batter pleasantly spry with little greasiness. We finish on a sweet note with the warm skillet of cookie and cream; the cookie is wonderfully chewy with melting chunks of chocolate, brilliantly tempered with the cool, rich cream.
A selection of light and friendly new world wines are on the menu, though – with the exception of the Chapel Down vintage brut reserve NV from Kent, England – we’d bypass these and head straight to either the cocktail selections or the craft beer section. The former offers classics such as negronis and signatures based on juleps and pisco sours, and the latter some fantastic artisan brews. Here is one place you can try newcomer Young Master Ales’ signature brews on tap, or go for some off-piste pints by way of Mountain Goat Organic Steam Ale.
We definitely felt that the restaurant is understaffed, as it was quite difficult flagging down waiters even as the night wound down. Service is well meaning, but drinks were not correctly identified and we waited for quite some time before our plates were cleared and dessert menu offered. It needs more finesse and confidence to match the bold character of the restaurant and the vision of its owners.
A meal for two with drinks and service comes to around HK$400 – not the most expensive given the quality of the ingredients and the interesting drinks, but we’ll wait for the kinks to be ironed out before returning.
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