It seems like only yesterday that Jason Atherton was heading up the kitchen at Maze. A restaurant that won numerous accolades during his tenure, and interestingly, the first place I ever tasted yuzu. In truth it was 6 years ago that Atherton left the Gordon Ramsay umbrella, to become his own master and shortly afterwards, deliver Pollen street social. A decision he must look on now, as a masterstroke.
I'm not sure why the yuzu sticks in my mind so strongly. Perhaps because I had grown up on classical french cuisine, and that playful twist of oriental citrus was new and exciting. Perhaps because the dish was just supremely delicious. Either way, Atherton's interest in the Far East has clearly not diminished since the Maze days. His empire has expanded. Rapidly. And in a decidedly South East Asian direction, with eateries opening in Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
22 Ships is a Tapas bar style restaurant, concentrated around a central bar/kitchen, which you can sit at to eat, with delicious food being prepared before your eyes. And there are plenty of dishes to choose from. There are tasty vegetarian options, if that is your pleasure (and we did try some), but the real spoils are for the carnivores. Between us we tried 10, or maybe even more dishes (we also hit the sherry list quite hard, so its difficult to be certain).
The Hawke's bay lamb (pictured below) and the Goat cheese ice cream with honeycomb, raspberry and granola stand out in my memory, as particularly delicious, although everything we tried was very good.
I have to confess, a small part of me wanted to dislike 22 Ships. I've always felt that chefs should be found in their kitchens. Especially celebrity chefs. People pay large sums of money to eat from kitchens run by gastronomic giants, and it is always nice to imagine that production has been overseen by the genius, rather than their oh so capable right hand man, whilst the chef is busy managing business interests on the other side of the planet.
However, this was a good meal. It was fun. Well conceived. Well executed. I liked watching each plate being put together, at the bar. I enjoyed sharing and tasting as much from the menu as possible. And I loved the bang-up-to-date wine list.
So if you're in Hong Kong, fancy a wide selection of accomplished dishes, in a sociable and relaxed atmosphere, and at a reasonable price, then 22 Ships is definitely for you.
22 Ships, 22 Ship Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
N.B. We rocked up and paid for dinner at 22 Ships ourselves, and all opinions are our own.