By now you probably know that I am NOT reviewing the latest and greatest eateries… it is very rare that I am one of the first few to try a new place (Quest by Que might be an exception) and therefore it took me a long time to visit 22 Ships in Ship Street in Wan Chai, a vibrant tapas bar by Michelin star chef Jason Atherton and Yenn Wong.
On the one hand I’ve walked past this place so many times, I stopped counting – it is really close-by to our flat and there is no excuse not to try it. But then, on the other hand, I have never been a big fan of tapas. They are usually over-priced, small portions, oily and often not very authentic. I don’t want to spend money on bad copies … and there have been too many times that I ate bad tapas in my life, so that I am really careful now whether or not to go ahead and try tapas.
22 Ships is always busy and packed – they have a ‘no reservations’ policy (except for lunch during weekdays) and therefore I cannot be asked to queue up. However, last Wednesday, we went out for a early dinner, just after 6pm. I wrapped Lina in the Moby Wrap and off we went. Initially we wanted to try a Vietnamese place, but then we changed our mind. We were planning to go up to Start Street, but as we noticed that there was no queue at 22 Ships, we took a gamble and went inside.
They had some space at the bar, which was better than at the window (I didn’t want Lina to catch a cold), and meant that we could view the kitchen and preparations. There were lots of staff members, but it was a slick and well oiled machinery – everyone knew exactly what to do and when.
Immediately after we sat, the bartender brought us some water and explained the menu as well as the specials – and for a personal touch, he added the dishes he liked best. I do like when waiters do this, but in a friendly manner – not pushing you to buy the most expensive dish, but actually trying something that they enjoy (and the bartender told us why he likes those dishes, so he knew them – a plus for him and 22 Ships).
We shared a starter, four mains and one dessert – and that was plenty for us! All the food was freshly prepared and at no time did we have more than two dishes in front of us. This was great as you could enjoy the food freshly prepared – piping hot or for the dessert: ice cold.
The tomato garlic bread is a classic – but at 22 Ships it comes with added spices and herbs. There was some chili and paprika, but probably something else too… I could not pick it out, but really enjoyed it. This was a comfy starter, home-cooked food, nicely done (and the portion size reflected the price – there was plenty of bread).
We then had some calamari with lemon and paprika aioli. Nice tasty calamari, with a spiced crust that did not fell off when you had the first bite – great! The seafood was not too soft or chewy, just about right.
Then we enjoyed red snapper with chorizo and paprika – a classic dish nicely interpreted. Delicate fish with hot chorizo goes well, surprisingly the sausage did not overpower the fish!
My favourite was a special: seabass with Japanese mushrooms – the fish was amazing, so soft and tasty. Plus the mushrooms were in a wine/broth sauce that was very yummny – I finished it with a spoon. Nothing was left on the plate.
Then we had ox cheek with cauliflower – heart-warming, comfort food that was well prepared. We could have eaten the meat with a spoon, that was how soft it was!
For dessert, we shared a green tea cheese cake with lemon and yoghurt ice cream. One of the best green tea cheese cakes I’ve ever had – I would just go back for this dessert! It was so light and refreshing, but full-bodied through the green tea flavour.
Would I eat there again? Yes. It was a fantastic dinner – I really enjoyed all dishes, but the seabass and green tea cheesecake were outstanding (and as you can tell, not the typical Spanish tapas dish at all – so I should not have prejudiced but instead gone there much earlier!). The service was flawless, and even though the place was packed (yes, people were queuing outside from 6.30pm onwards) and loud, Lina slept through our dinner – so we all had a great time!
For the six dishes and three glasses of wine we paid around 900 HKD – which is not cheap, but definitely good value for money.
G/F, 22 Ship Street, Wan Chai
Tel. 2555 0722
Open every day for lunch and dinner