Theo Mistral by Theo Randall is the newest addition to the InterContinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong‘s dining scene. Randall, a British chef best known for his almost two decades at Michel-starred The River Café in London, has taken up residence in the five-star Kowloon hotel to bring his own version of Italian cuisine to Hong Kong diners.
A few steps into the just-opened restaurant tells you a lot about what you can expect from your meal. A tiled floor, branded white and blue cotton napkins and pictures of people slurping spaghetti from spoons deliberately hammers home a feeling of old-school Italian authenticity. It might have worked, if it wasn’t for the fact that a trip to the restrooms leads you down a bright hotel corridor which all but ruins the charm. But that’s just a side note. The real question is, how does the food stack up?
All in all, it does well. Burrata is silky smooth (although we’d have liked it to be allowed to escape over the board rather than being held captive in a ramekin), antipasto was good thanks to bruschetta laden with tomatoes that taste as they ought to and fragrant olive oil. Guinea fowl was a standout; perfectly cooked, which can be tricky, but we’d expect no less from Randall and his team, while the pasta really was well managed. Enough bite to hold every lick of juice from meats inside, and coated with the ideal amount of well-seasoned sauce. We tried a fish – halibut – but would recommend passing it over for pasta.
What brought the most pleasure, however, wasn’t the food, but the service. Smiling staff were at every turn, welcoming conversation and genuinely responsive to feedback on dishes. As always, it’s easy for service to differ on any given night, but if we have half the experience on our next visit, we’ll be happy. Theo Randall himself also made an appearance – several actually, ducking in and out throughout courses – and proved to be a gracious and very thoughtful host.
We caught up with him after dinner for a quick chat on his favourite dishes and the secret to a great meal.
Italy’s different regions offer a host of unique dishes. Do you have a favourite region and if so, which dish are you ordering there?
I love the food of Puglia as the dishes are vegetable driven with amazing seafood around the coastal towns. There are many dishes I love but the one I always think about is Fave e Cicoria. It’s a dish of puréed broad beans with lots of olive oil, braised green’s with mild red and green chillis and garlic and toasted bread. It is very heavy, rustic and delicious. It is Cucina Povero at its best. The dish was definitely designed for the hard workers who needed lots of energy to work the fields.
What is the key to the best Italian dining experience?
Ambience, service, food plus plenty of love and passion. A restaurant that is well run with a good atmosphere from the kitchen to the table is a happy restaurant that make the dinners feel very comfortable and guarantee their return as everything works together in harmony.
What is most important to you as a guest when you dine out, and is that the sort of experience you’re aiming to deliver at the InterContinental Hong Kong?
What is most important is that the food is made with care and passion, the waiting staff are knowledgable and are friendly and the restaurant has an atmosphere and is well looked after. This is what I aim to deliver on a daily basis.
Describe your cooking style in 3 words.
Seasonal, delicious and unfussy.
If guests are only able to order one dish from your InterContinental Hong Kong menu, which would you recommend?
Without a doubt the fish stew, it has so much flavour without being too heavy. It looks beautiful too with all the poached fresh fish and shellfish.