The BellBrook Bistro Oz by Laris

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 It wasn’t even a year ago that Australian chef David Laris opened his first Hong Kong restaurant – an establishment tending towards the fine dining end of the spectrum, serving up some excellent contemporary cuisine reminiscent of his home country. 

Within 11 months, however, that restaurant, Laris, has been given a dramatic overhaul, becoming a bistro still helmed by the chef but with a far more casual feel. White tablecloths are out, recycled paper and crayons are in; conventional four-person tables and round-back chairs are out, bar stools and high tables are in. It’s a playful and hip atmosphere, and, indeed, a world away from the former space.

The food is inspired by Laris’ hometown – Bellbrook, and from the one-page menu, we naturally decide on a selection of Australian-themed dishes – although, sadly, the kangaroo loin isn’t available the night we go.

We start with the Twisties, which come as a rather fun endless string of potato on a skewer. While it looks more like carnival food than an appetiser, it’s crispy and delicious with shavings of parmesan casually hanging off its edges. We also try a scotch egg, where we savour the runny centre and delight in the fresh and zingy horseradish crème fraiche, which lightens up the crispy fried exterior. 

Next comes the burrata salad, flavoured with native thyme flower and salt bush tomato powder. It arrives with a generous helping of burrata that’s so creamy, it looks like it’s collapsing under its own weight. Combined with fresh tomatoes, eggplant and the Australian herbs, it is a well-balanced, fresh and robustly flavoured dish. 

However, the star of the meal is the flank steak. Strong smoky notes of the charred exterior contrast with the smooth pink centre of soft lean beef, together with the eggplant puree, making this a beautiful firework of flavour and texture.

While Laris featured some excellent Australian food, The BellBrook Bistro brings a more rustic take on Down Under flavours – certainly a welcome addition to the casual eatery scene. Lisa Cam

The BellBrook Bistro Oz by Laris 2/F, Carfield Bldg, 77 Wyndham St, Central, 2530 1600; diningconcepts.com. Dinner for two: $1,000.

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