Best of British Flavour
The first foray in the food industry for designer furniture brand Timothy Oulton, Gough’s on Gough is an instantly assured arrival on Hong Kong’s dining scene
Review by Sam Sinha
Whether they’re buried deep with shopping malls, on the 33rd floor of a building that seemingly has no entrance or they have no sign outside and a secret lever to open the door, some Hong Kong restaurants don’t want to be found.
Not so with Gough’s on Gough. Walking down Gough Street in the Soho district of Central Hong Kong, you can’t miss the giant brass fish tank full of huge piranhas swimming around an antique diving bell.
The restaurant is the first foray in the food industry for designer furniture brand Timothy Oulton, whose creative director of the same name founded the company after working in his father’s antique store as a boy. The brand focuses on timeless British design, with bespoke items handcrafted using traditional tools and only the most carefully sourced materials.
The team hope to carry their high standards and responsible ethos through to the restaurant and the food too, and with acclaimed British chef Arron Rhodes at the helm, we have high hopes.
The interior is immediately arresting, carefully thought-out lighting highlights quirky features and craftsmanship is celebrated with fine leather benches lining the marble walls. But they’ve left some parts untouched like the brushed stone beams and original pipework.
The staff are welcoming and show us up the spiral staircase, past the long moonstone bar, to our table in a cosy corner of the half-full restaurant. Above us a glass windchime-cum-chandelier, suspended on thick rope, is counterbalanced with what looks like a leather boxing glove. It’s a rich environment to take in and we feel primed and already excited for what is to come. If the food is anywhere near as appealingly put together as the interior, we’re in for a treat.
We are offered an aperitif to start and go for the signature pre-dinner cocktails. The Churchill Martini is strong with gin and gets the juices flowing – we notice a bust of the man himself watching us from the corner – and The Iron Lady with raspberry, black pepper, anise and of course, more gin, is a pleasing balancing act of sweet fruit and astringency.
Our helpful waiter recommends the chef’s tasting menu and wine pairing so we dutifully oblige, and also order some Ostra oysters to start. The oysters have been air-freighted in live from France, which is not an uncommon practice for Hong Kong. They are plump and fresh, complemented by two signature sauces, the soy-heavy ponzu and sesame, and a Vietnamese style dressing which is alive with fish sauce and citrus.
The first course is a selection of beautifully presented snacks. The beef tartare is a fresh tasting morsel, wrapped in crunchy pastry topped with a rich beef heart floss. The P.B.C is a wonderfully nostalgic take on a fluffy baked potato covered in an oozy sauce that tastes of cheesy baked beans. It’s presented in a flower pot on a bed of puffed beans, which add crunch. Then the English Seaside, also designed to provoke childhood memories, comes in a wooden box atop pebbles and consists of a black squid ink cracker, with a pickled cockle and creamy seafood sauce.
The attentive waiter explains all the intricacies with authority and comfortably answers questions about provenance and sourcing. It’s obviously a big priority that the staff know the food inside out and it’s a very encouraging sign in a city full of chain restaurants that lack soul.
The first course-proper is a mushroom-heavy dish that arrives with our first wine, a 2015 Pouilly-Fumé from the Loire Valley. The pairing works well, the light fumé smokiness complementing smoked portabello purée. A hint of garlic and tang of pickled radish is excellent although we can’t quite detect the pine that’s promised on the menu.
Beautifully colourful dishes continue to arrive promptly one after the other, accompanied by their wines. The smoky langoustine is slightly too acrid although this is disguised nicely under the fruity aromas of some very fresh melon, which pairs surprisingly well with cauliflower couscous, and earthy but sweet beetroot sauce.
Another highlight is the second of two guinea fowl dishes, featuring a moist slice of breast with crispy skin, crunchy chestnuts, sweet butternut squash purée and a rich jus with a hint of cherry; matching brilliantly with the dark fruit aromas of the 2011 Château Haut-Maurac from Bordeaux made from a blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot.
Unctuously soft black cod, seared to golden perfection follows, served with grilled broccoli and a langoustine broth. The depth of the broth is lifted by the acidity of the well-balanced 2015 burgundy chardonnay/chablis and the broccoli rounds off the dish with a grassy minerality.
The desserts don’t disappoint and the ever insightful waiter tells us that chef Rhodes is very particular that they shouldn’t be too sweet, having to chastise the French pastry chef when he adds too much sugar!
In the first, a tiny piece of candied clementine packs a marmalade-reminiscent punch next to a fresh and fruity kumquat sorbet. Pudding number two is equally as refreshing; juicy chunks of persimmon, a tangy apricot sorbet, and a vanilla cream topped with a clear brulée glass balance exquisitely and leave us satisfied but not overstuffed.
Both desserts are accompanied by a deliciously well balanced, slightly sparkling 2016 Moscato from the Piedmont region of Northern Italy. Plenty of elderflower and fruit – not too sweet – it balances wonderfully with the desserts, lingering delightfully on the palate.
There’s a running theme here of classic British flavours used to provoke a sense of nostalgia which is precisely what Timothy Oulton’s furniture is designed to do. This is a rare example of a concept that has been well managed, well thought-out and brilliantly executed from start to finish. The price point will be prohibitive for many but the quality is there for all to see so we feel it’s a fair price to pay. Our verdict on the furniture brands’ first ever restaurant? Sofa so good and chaise longue may it continue!
A tasting menu plus wine pairing for two costs HK$2,856 (£280)
Gough’s on Gough, 15 Gough Street, Central, Hong Kong / goughsongough.com/
Timothy Oulton, www.timothyoulton.com