Indulge in a collection of dishes from regional China at The Chinese Library in Tai Kwun and fall in love with the flavourful delights and exceptional design
From wonderful Beijing-inspired cuisine at Hutong to slick Japanese and Italian at Aqua and stunning harbour views on the Aqua Luna, Aqua Restaurant Group really knows how to curate unique experiences that are deeply rooted in their surroundings. So we went over to The Chinese Library, part of the group’s trio of openings in Tai Kwun, to check out the design and the dining options at the restaurant that highlights a selection of regional Chinese dishes, from Cantonese to Sichuan and beyond.
Refined grandeur at The Chinese Library
Anyone who has ever enjoyed time at one of the Aqua restaurants will be familiar with the welcome experience that each location is known for, and The Chinese Library is no exception. Ascend the staircase of the East Wing in the wonderfully transformed 170-year-old colonial Central Police Headquarters building and be greeted by a team of hosts who will usher you into your respective destination, including British restaurant Statement or the adjoining bar The Dispensary.
If you’re looking for design restaurants in Hong Kong that delight the visual senses upon arrival, then look no further than The Chinese Library. A project by local firm AB Concept–the same team that gave us CÉ LA VI and The French Window– the grand dining room is decked out in jade and gold furnishings with classic fittings and the original century-old wooden floors, creating a stunning interior that nods to the group itself with repetitive logo motifs dotted throughout. Large doors open onto a verandah on either side of the building, with one overlooking the main courtyard of Tai Kwun and the other above Hollywood Road.
But what about the food at The Chinese Library?
Well, in typical Aqua Restaurant Group fashion, expect everything at The Chinese Library to be insanely perfect. The team actually prepared a completely vegetarian menu for me to sample, and thankfully, many of these dishes do make it to the general menu, meaning it’s a great place for everyone to eat.
We started with dim sum conceived by Master Chef Kwong Wai Shing, who oversees the menu at the group’s Pacific place-based Dim Sum Library, which included seasonal wild mushroom dumplings and matsutake mushroom bao. Both of these dishes were absolutely stunning, with the finely chopped and flavourful mushrooms offering some punchy notes that I could have devoured much more of.
Yet, there was more gloriousness to come, and we moved on to “Four Blessing” Japanese tea smoked bean curd roll. If you’ve enjoyed the regular bean curd rolls available at many local dim sum joints in town, then this is like it’s crazy rich cousin who holidays in Saint-Tropez. Filled with a selection of perfectly cut seasonal vegetables, the bean curd itself delights thanks to the delicate-yet-rich notes of tea smoke; a real coup for the restaurant.
The knife skills of Chef Junno Li Zhen Long and his team are resplendent throughout the meal, and none more so than with the chilled “Jade Flower” in green Sichuan pepper essence. That wonderful Sichuan pepper that leaves a heavenly zing on your lips brings the vegetable to life, itself lending a wonderful crunch to the dish.
By this stage the table was well and truly full, but there was much more to come, including a lovely Sichuan ma po tofu clay pot (which packed a delicious punch) and braised E-fu noodles with wild mushrooms and black truffles. Somebody call the truffle police because this bad boy should be illegal. Whether you are vegetarian or meatatarian, these noodles are epicly decadent, and I would go there for these alone on a day when I’m in need of some really good comfort food.
Not that anyone actually needed any more food, but we finished our feast with deep-fried chocolate hazelnut balls, which I can assure you are as sinful as they sound.
Of course, The Chinese Library offers a large selection of saliva-inducing (I’m guessing!?) dishes for meat eaters, such as sweet and sour Iberico pork with dragonfruit and cashews, which I’m sure will be well loved.
In the meantime, I’m waiting for the temperatures to drop and I’m in a state of SAD so that I can legitimately go and enjoy those noodles again all by myself, and I may just have to throw in some deep-fried chocolate balls too.
The Chinese Library, 1/F Headquarters Block, East Wing, Tai Kwun, 10 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong, p. 2848 3088, 中環荷里活道10號大館1座1樓