One of the joys of living in Hong Kong is that we’re spoilt with a wide range of regional Chinese restaurants, spanning the flavours from Xinjiang to Shanghai and everything in between. One such restaurant specialising in regional cuisine is Old Bailey: opened by JIA Group, the menu here champions Jiangnan dishes stemming from the region south of the lower Yangtze River (Shanghai, Nanjing, Suzhou, etc.). Recipes here are marked by a natural harmony with nature; nuanced and often lighter in nature, dishes can range from light and refreshing appetisers such as sautéed celtuce and Liangxi crispy eel, to more typical Shanghainese fare involving deep, dark braises and inky, vinegar-tinted sauces.
Now just over a year old, Old Bailey is further championing this rich culinary region with an ambitious seasonal launch comprising three new chef’s tasting menus, à la carte dishes and a cocktail menu. Settle down in the sleek Herzog & de Meuron-designed setting in Tai Kwun and dive into the region’s cuisine with recipes that have been masterfully envisioned by Yangzhou native Executive Chef Wong Kwan Man. Championing Jiangnan cuisine’s adherence to seasonal produce, chef Wong has meticulously sourced select produce for his menu through a network of artisan producers.
New Jiangnan delights
Three new tasting menus offer both vegetarians and meat lovers a chance to savour the region’s excellent produce. The former can opt for the 10-course vegan experience (HK$500), where plant-based dishes range from veggie xialongbao to village-style sautéed Hangzhou green chillies with aubergine, and sautéed fresh soybean, bean curd knot and pickled cabbage. In the classic 9-course Taste of Jiangnan menu (HK$600, plus HK$450 for wine pairing), diners can enjoy signatures from the mala xiaolongbao, perfectly soupy in the centre with a strong hit of numbing spice; to the Osamanthus-flavoured Jinhua ham with crispy bean curd sheet and mantou; and red-braised lion’s head, the classic Huaiyang dish elevated with superior hand-chopped organic pork.
‘An Exquisite Taste of Jiangnan’, priced at HK$800 per guest (plus HK$500 for wine pairing), includes a more comprehensive 10-course menu featuring a smattering of old and new dishes, including well-rendered versions of iconic recipes: Longjing tea-smoked pigeon, which arrives with plumes of aromatic smoke from Longjing tea leaves; and hairy crab roe hand-pulled noodles, a popular Shanghainese dish imbued with the heady taste of the area’s famed crustaceans.
Prefer to mix and match with the à la carte menu? A selection of new appetisers range from marinated Japanese yam (HK$108), complemented by tangy preserved plum; to steamed whole mud crab, served at a minimum 1.2kg to ensure plenty of succulent crab meat. The dish employs 15-years-aged Huadiao wine, one of several rich flavouring agents stocked in the vast rice wine and vinegar cabinet at Old Bailey.
Anchor your meal with the sautéed garoupa with crunchy preserved Chinese mustard greens (HK$780); or the whole Ten Treasure Duck (HK$1,080, requires 24-hour pre-order), which comes either braised or deep-fried with salt and pepper. Chef Wong’s take employs the treasured seafood delicacies of abalone and sea cucumber mixed in with Jinhua ham, conpoy, shiitake mushroom, bamboo shoot, dried shrimps, lotus seed, glutinous rice and duck meat.
The dishes can be washed down with new seasonal cocktails, to be sipped in the main dining room or in the comfortable reading lounge, a cosy spot we’ve found ourselves frequenting this summer. New cocktails pay homage to the heritage setting of Tai Kwun, starting with the Big Station (HK$80, a literal translation of “Tai Kwun” in Chinese), with gin and crushed wheatgrass florals; to the Brick Walls (HK$80), which nods to the original fit-out of the Prison Yard and is a citrusy blend of bergamot black tea, cold brew coffee, tonic water and grapefruit zest. For a refreshing thirst quencher, don’t miss The Spiral Staircase (HK$100), a light splash of pink gin, Lillet Blanc, Sichuan peppercorns and ripe summer fruit flavours.
Gift Shanghai-style mooncakes
This season also marks the first mooncake offering from Old Bailey, as chef Wong pits his version of the holiday treat against those made by some of the most venerable master mooncake artisans in Hong Kong. Hand-filled and formed, the Shanghai-style mooncakes here offer a departure from traditional versions around town; made from flour, lard and maltose, they’re characterised by a flaky and buttery short-crust pastry.
Satisfyingly crumbly in texture, Old Bailey’s mooncakes are stuffed with both sweet and savoury fillings to appeal to lovers of the traditional Lunar New Year treat. For the savoury version, chef Wong has filled the delicate pastry with a well-seasoned mixture of ground pork, shallot, ginger, soy sauce, dark soy sauce and white pepper powder. On the sweet side, dessert fans can sink their teeth into the soft pastries filled with a creamy and sweet homemade red bean paste.
Priced at HK$238 (6 pieces per box), the mooncakes are available for pre-order now and available for here, email email@example.com, or call +852 2877 8711.