The closest most of us will ever get to a royal feast is the mighty hotel brunch. On Sundays across the globe, hotels set up massive displays of epicurean excess and all you have to do to partake is open your wallet. In Hong Kong, Sunday brunching is almost a required activity. In fact, it’s not so much an activity as a sport: put on your Sunday best as a uniform and athletically stuff your face at one of the various luxury hotels that dot the city’s harbor.
Since I was a guest of the InterContinental Hong Kong, I decided that my last meal should take place at the hotel’s beautifully expansive harborside restaurant, aptly titled “Harbourside.” For the low, low price (read: high! high!) of HK$858 (roughly $111 US), you get unlimited champagne and a sprawling spread of food that would make even competitive eaters blush.
There are three main stations to choose from: a cold seafood/sushi/salad/charcuterie area, an international selection of hot items including a carving station and grilled to order meats, and a huge dessert display. Based on the lines at the very first station — the cold stuff — it’s clear that most of Hong Kong comes here for the seafood. I don’t blame them. When was the last time you saw entire lobsters on a buffet table? Harbourside’s got ’em as well as crab (legs and claws), shrimp, and all of the sashimi you can take down. They’re even slicing jamon iberico and prosciutto right in front of you. Now that’s service.
The hot food options were a panoply of global favorites. Chinese (including dim sum), Thai, Indian, Italian, Japanese, and French are all represented. I loved the Peking duck and the black truffle mashed potatoes were sensational. Also, I’ve honestly never seen a pan-seared foie gras station at any buffet I’ve ever been to before here. I can imagine an ambitious eater giving themselves gout in one sitting from gorging on the foie. The choices were mostly limited to lunch options, but there were a few breakfast sausages and eggs benedict if you were still hungry for breakfast. Interestingly enough, they didn’t have the ubiquitous omelet station that you see at most brunch buffets but that’s perhaps due to the fact that this buffet operates a separate breakfast-only serving until 10:30am and opens back up for the big Sunday Brunch from 11:30am – 3pm.
Dessert is equally elaborate with cakes, cookies, tarts, macarons, the requisite chocolate fountain, and a full selection of ice cream (with toppings!) that surely appeared in your dreams as an 8-year-old.
Now we get down to brass tacks, as they say at the Cliche Store. The options at each section are really impressive — in theory. The reality of the situation is that this is a buffet and like all buffets, you just don’t find the same level of quality you would when ordering off the menu at a traditional restaurant. I don’t blame Harbourside (or any other hotel buffet) for this. It’s just a fact of life. The massive rib roast at the carving station is a great example of the pitfalls of buffeting (yeah, that word is definitely made up). Just look at that beauty:
Upon my first bite, though, it became clear that this wasn’t exactly prime rib, as it was labeled. That’s okay. Even Lawry’s, the world’s biggest name in prime rib, doesn’t use prime beef. The difference is that this didn’t have the tender succulence you find when you order prime rib at a traditional restaurant. The reason? It’s sitting under a heat lamp. That’s buffet life, yo. The same issues were found all over at Harbourside. Those desserts that look so good? Best left as a treat for the eyes. The pan-seared foie gras? Not so great. In fact, out of the multitude of items that I tried, just a small handful would have brought me back to this buffet. The salmon sashimi was wonderful. The aforementioned Peking duck and truffle mashed potatoes were equally good. While not related to food quality, the service was exceptionally attentive. Plates were cleared quickly. Drinks were refilled. Even new silverware was brought between courses and if you’re a regular buffet-goer, you know how rare this is.
Overall, I think Harbourside is a fine example of an over-the-top Sunday brunch. At the end of the day, though, it’s still a buffet and the ceiling for even the best buffet only goes so high.