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Wednesday 14 November 2012

Eco Eating: Wild Grass

With chokingly high air pollution levels, a love of shark fin soup and recycling rates more akin to a developing country, Hong Kong isn't exactly known for it's eco efforts. Slowly but surely though, a few brand new start-ups with a much more green outlook on life, are restoring our faith in Hong Kongers.

First up, there's Secret Ingredient. The boys who brought us the super fab pre-prepped, ready to cook, meal delivery service have just overhauled their packaging to swap out plastic pots for ones made from a new renewable, corn-based material, PLA. And if that wasn't enough, they've also introduced a recycling scheme which means you'll be rewarded with wine for recycling the ice-packs that come with your order - that's our type of recycling...

Then there's Island East Markets, the protagonists in bringing farm-fresh, organic produce to Hong Kong's shoppers. After the runaway success of the market during their trial period last month, the market's back for its second stint from now until Christmas. Swap your weekly Wellcome shop for a Sunday jaunt to Quarry Bay to stock up on vegetables that haven't flown halfway around the world as well as freshly baked bread and pies and lots of other locally produced yummy things.

Meanwhile, sustainable fashion e-boutique, A Boy Named Sue, launched last week coming to the rescue of all  fashionistas with a conscience. Bringing together a collection of eco-conscious designers, the new website finally brings us a great alternative to the cheap, disposable fashion pedalled by the high street giants that dominate the non-designer Hong Kong shopping scene. We're off to the launch later this week, so we'll keep you posted on all the details.

And last, but by no means least, Hong Kong's newest gastro-venture, Wild Grass, threw open its doors last week - a restaurant with a menu featuring organic, sustainable ingredients and a nose-to-tail cooking philosophy. Always willing to road test a newbie and particularly one with such fantastic eco credentials, I headed down for a little Saturday night sampling last weekend...

Taking the space formerly housing Box Thai on Arbuthnot Road, Wild Grass is barely recognisable in its new incarnation. Head up the brightly tiled staircase which transports you from the noise and bustle of the street below to a haven of modern yet homely peace and quiet. The airy, whitewashed dining space is perfectly lit (bad lighting is my bug bear) and kept cosy with plenty of warm wood and a chic but comfy mish mash of reclaimed, recycled furniture. Big communal tables provide the perfect base for a wine-fuelled supper with a group of your favourite people while smaller tables are nestled in quieter corners for more intimate tete-a-tetes.

After a hard day's shopping in Shenzhen, I decided I deserved a bit of a break from my Bikini Fit regime, and promptly began the meal with freshly baked bread slathered in goats cheese butter and several plump, juicy olives - complete adulterated heaven (if you're going to break a diet, do it well...).

Wild Grass' speciality is, as the name suggests, organic, grass-fed beef from wild cattle that roam the Australian outback. Beef features strongly on the menu in a variety of guises from oxtail dumplings to 5 hour stewed shin. If meat's not your thing though, there are plenty of alternatives, this is a menu to incite serious meal choice agony...

Blown away by the fantastic value of the three course menu (any three courses from the a la carte menu for a super wallet friendly HK$390), we began some hardcore deliberation and then ordered quickly before we could change our minds again.

We started with beef carpaccio and the Scottish ocean trout tartare. Both were beautifully presented, plate scrapingly tasty and hungrily devoured in record speed. 

Next up, the roasted halibut and fermented garlic and the slow grilled rump with basil peppercorn relish. The halibut was sublime - meaty, buttery fish perfectly complemented by a lemony jus and  the sweet, nutty garlic.

The steak was perhaps the only disappointment of the meal. Although juicy and flavourful it was a little chewy and gristly - a bit of a shame given that we thought that this would be the star of the show. Meat grumbles aside, the French fries that the meat was served with were perfection - crispy, skinny, salty deliciousness. We're hopeful that this was just a bad cut of meat and that our next Wild Grass steak will restore our faith in the restaurant's promises that this is the best beef in Hong Kong.

With a small corner of room left, we perused the dessert menu and the tough decisions started again. A selection of delectable options has all your nursery food favourites covered from rhubarb crumble to chocolate swiss roll - as a distinct autumnal chill sets in, this is currently just what I'm craving. We opted for the very British apple turnover with whipped cream and French classic, Creme Brulee. 

Some of the best desserts I've tried in Hong Kong for a very long time (and not just because I've been off the sugar), both were home-cooked perfection. Particular bonus points for the creme brulee which was served custard tart style in a crumbly, buttery pastry case with the most incredible caramel sauce.

The bill came in at just under HK$1,000 which, for the quality of food, I think is outstanding value.

Overall, a huge warm hug of a meal. Friendly service, relaxed, homey atmosphere and simple, honest cooking which on the whole was mouthwateringly good. There's nothing pretentious or unnecessary in Wild Grass' cooking - each dish is a perfectly executed classic making the very most of its fresh, great quality ingredients. 

All this and you can polish your little green halo as you scoff - win, win! Leave your lentil and hemp eco-preconceptions at the door, this is a restaurant that truly puts the delicious into sustainable, organic eating.

Wild Grass
1/F, 4-8 Arbuthnot Road,
Hong Kong

+852 2810 1189

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