I consider myself a fairly balanced person: I’m quick to sidestep monotony and committed to a respectable work-life balance without obsessing over that other balance (the one in my bank account). Suffice to say that balance is a rather important element that I, along with many other professionals in the city, strive for. So when the weight of the work week was becoming a little heavy, it felt felicitous to visit the French fine-dining restaurant L’Envol.
The new restaurant is headed by lauded French chef Olivier Elzer, who cut his teeth working for culinary greats Joël Robuchon and Pierre Gagnaire, before his own restaurant, Seasons, earned a Michelin star in 2015. Having left that restaurant in 2017 to pursue other projects, I was delighted to hear that Elzer was back in the kitchen knocking out his unique and inventive approach to French cuisine once more. L’Envol, meaning “the flight” in French, is located in The St. Regis Hong Kong — one of Hong Kong’s newest luxury hotels that has since become the haunt of choice for the city’s social elite and incoming travellers looking to indulge.
I take the lift up to the third-floor restaurant and upon entering, notice the large open kitchen that spans the length of the main dining area like a large window display. It’s a spacious work area where chefs can be seen whizzing around prepping the meal ahead. The dining room is tastefully designed as acclaimed designer André Fu’s interpretation of a contemporary French salon. Eschewing elaborate ornaments and gaudy finishings, the space is instead sumptuous and stylish. A palette of stone grey, pewter and soft creams wrap the room with hand-painted silks that flow along the furnishings and walls, while the marble floor, chandeliers and gold accents fortify a classic elegance throughout.
Then, I discover the cheese and wine cave: Holding 25 different varieties of cheese from France, its pungent aroma fills the air and I vow to get a cheese plate for dessert. Feeling sufficiently spoilt in the posh surroundings, I promptly take my seat to sample some canapés, including a cube of foie gras with ginger that sparks both my excitement and appetite. Others are less notable, except for crackers dipped in a lush cream and chive sauce from Alsace, where Elzer was raised. A warm assortment of bread also arrives; I opt for black rye which pairs fantastically with luscious Champagne butter. I am, however, quick to withdraw from the carb-loaded attack as the menu indicates that this is just the precursor to the five-course dinner “journey”.
Meals come with informative wine recommendations from Chief Sommelier Tristan Pommier and for me, a crisp Chablis takes us through to the first course: a tasting of the black pearls of caviar from La Maison Nordique. I dive into the two dishes and begin with the delicate-tasting Ossetra harvested from Russian sturgeon. It’s layered with beef consommé jelly and horseradish topped with the sweet, nutty pops of caviar. Next, a textural play of sweet razor clam tartare is flourished with horseradish cream and the larger, briny beads of Shadi which come from schrenkii fish in China. It’s a really strong start and pulls me into submission for the courses to come.
Along with Elzer’s comeback is the return of his signature five-spiced tuna, which fans may fondly remember from Seasons. Lightly seared slices of tuna flirt with the zing of citrus and crispy shallots, mellowed by creamy, crushed avocado. Although not exactly the inspired new dish that I’d hoped for, it remains a favourite and a good balance of flavours that I gladly welcome onto L’Envol’s menu.
Next there are more wholesome dishes: Roasted John Dory from Brittany reels us in while dismissing the antiquated wine adage of “white with fish and red with meat”. Cooked in white wine, the fish is more firm than flaky, but it makes for the ideal canvas painted with rich red wine sauce and meaty Fukuokan aubergine confit. A change of wine pace moves us onto a supple Syrah from Maxime Graillot Domaine des Lises, which is fruity and spicy on the nose but delightfully savoury on the palate. It’s paired with the next dish of the night, a flawlessly seared beef fillet from Kagoshima, glazed in glossy overcoat of French morels, escorted by crunchy potato tubes and the pointy tips of spring: Jérôme Galis green asparagus.
Contrary to expectations, dessert is light, bright and fresh. Rhubarb poached in a verbena syrup sits atop lemon Chantilly cream and a soft square sponge. But it’s the quenelle of white peach sorbet that injects a taste of summer and the sharp creaminess that the dish craves. The cheese trolley warrants a special commendation as it visits the tables like a French Santa Claus bearing decadent gifts. Our selection includes the mountain cheese Reblochon, soft and creamy Saint-Marcellin, Cathare goat cheese and the buttery classic Sainte Maures — all of which are intensified in flavour with freshly cut honeycomb and slathered on warm ginger bread, which deserves credit all on its own, too.
Before I slip into a cheese-induced coma, I pry myself away from the trolley and into a taxi home, where I brood over the meal and how all the elements seemed to key into one another. As anticipated, Elzer’s skills illustrate impeccable control and execution, but it’s the blend of harmonised flavours and melodic sequence of menu items that are truly exemplary. Some old and some new, some sensational and some definitely tamer, but always perfectly balanced. So when I need the scales to be tipped upwards again, you know where you’ll find me.
Perfect for: celebrating special occasions and indulgent dining with loved ones
Hours: Daily for lunch from 12:00 noon to 2:30pm, and dinner from 6:30pm to 10:30pm