With weird and wonderful craft beers and a food menu of reimagined Chinese classics by Little Bao’s May Chow, this gastropub is set to become a neighbourhood favourite.
*Featured in Crave’s September 2016 issue
Text by Tiffany Chan
From the team behind TAP – The Ale Project, a small gastropub often credited with starting Hong Kong’s craft beer boom, Second Draft is in exactly what the name implies – a Mark II.
“When we opened TAP in 2014, the local craft beer scene was just starting to take off, and everything we did there was a blueprint to test the response,” explains general manager James Ling. “This is our second draft.”
Second Draft occupies the ground floor of Little Tai Hang, a serviced apartment development due to open later this year. The decor is decidedly nostalgic, with two-toned sage green and off-white walls, glossy dark wooden booths and tongue-in-cheek wall stencils.
The beer list is a curated collection of 25 or so unique local and imported brews, available in three glass sizes: 200ml, 330ml and 450ml. In addition to the brews, the team invested in several refrigerators to store each beer in optimum conditions. The beers are stored at one of three temperatures, depending on style: drafts are stored and served at 3°C to 5°C, real ales at 11°C to 13°C, and richer beers at 14°C to 16°C.
“We’re not trying to be pretentious. But not all beers are designed to be stored ice-cold and need to be treated properly,” Ling says. “To maintain the level of yeast activity, [some need to be stored] at a warmer temperature and hand-pumped to introduce oxygen, like decanting wine. With richer, complex beers, you want to serve them at 14°C to 16°C, otherwise the flavours are all locked in and the drinker will think it’s poorly made. And why wouldn’t they if it’s stored 10°C lower than the brewer intended?”
Where there is beer, there is food. The team invited Little Bao’s May Chow to design a food menu to complement the beers. Intent on capturing nostalgic local flavours, Chow created her own inventive twists: golden, thick-cut Hong Kong-style French toast arrives with a cold slab of foie gras butter and a touch of Tai Koo syrup, and ma po pork ragout is served with a pearly globe of burrata.
“Our aim is to have craft beer, of course, but we want to be an all-rounded gastropub, with more food options,” Ling says. “But the beer will always come first.”
1. HK French Toast
Watching the cold slab of foie gras butter melt into a gloriously golden fried slice of thick-cut toast was almost pornographic. Crisp and sufficiently greasy (perhaps a bit too greasy), the toast was fluffy with a nice bite and the foie gras in the butter enriched it but didn’t overwhelm. We paired it with Salty Kiss from Magic Rock. Light, tart and fruity, this sour beer was perfect for opening up our appetite for the rest of the meal.
2. Ma Po Burrata
Ma po and burrata is an unlikely combination that we thought would be more novel than delicious, but we were wrong. Spicy and punchy, the pork ragout is served cold and mixed with the burrata, which is typically the highlight of any plate. Here, it is used as a substitute for tofu and provides much-needed relief from the spicy and tangy pork. Dense rather than creamy, it worked, and it worked well. Rich and intense Grand Maestro IPA from local brewery Lion Rock cut nicely through the heaviness.
3. Flower Crab Pasta
Thick Shanghainese noodles are dressed in a rich buttery, eggy béchamel sauce, and tossed with chunks of sweet flower crabmeat. A few drops of Chinese black vinegar completely transform the dish and rid the pasta of any richness. It’s an unusual execution for the familiar flavours of sweet crab, tangy vinegar, spicy ginger and fresh cucumber. Paired with Momo Wit, a soft, mild witbier from Young Master Brewery, it is summer’s ultimate comfort food. Our only complaint was that the noodles were slightly overdone.
4. Hanger Steak
The simplest dish of the evening was also our favourite. Known as the butcher’s cut, the hanger steak was served rare, much to our delight. Red through the centre with a slight char on the skin, it was beefy and lean but tender with a nice bite. Dipped in simple black pepper sauce with garlic, dried shallots and oil, it didn’t need anything else. The Darth Saison beer it was paired with was much more adventurous: funky, peppery with a sour, yeasty aftertaste.
5. Octopus and Pork Belly
In the richest dish of the evening, charred octopus tentacles arrived atop a pork belly throne, with a nam yu-based sauce. While the octopus was beautifully charred, crispy and tender, the pork belly fell a bit flat. We expected the pungent nam yu to dominate, but the sauce was soupy, thin and very subtle. Ironically, the strongest aroma came from the beer, two-year-old Boon Uide Lambiek from Boon brewery, which was fruity and smelly, not unlike blue cheese.
98 Tung Lo Wan Road, Tai Hang
Tel: 2656 0232