From micro-breweries to Tex-Mex joints and salad bars, everything local restaurateur Kelley Lee touches seems to turn to (edible) gold. Her latest ambitious venture with Boxing Cat partner Lee Tseng, a Western gastro-pub concept, is no exception.
Enlisting a crack team comprising ex-Maya chef Sean Jorgensen, brewmaster Michael Jordan and lauded Beijing-based mixologist Warren Pang, Liquid Laundry’s arrival has transformed a nondescript floor of the KWah Centre into a buzzing dining destination to rival neighbours Madison, ElEfante and the IAPM mall.
Starkly industrial in its decor, with exposed ceiling pipes, a curtain of steel chains and a ‘Laundry Room’ sign flickering in blue neon, the cavernous second-floor space effortlessly accommodates an open kitchen, a cocktail bar, several gleaming brewing tanks, a hulking copper pizza oven and over 200 seats – somehow managing not to feel cramped. An outdoor terrace is also slated to open.
All those hard surfaces do play havoc with the acoustics, though, and on a busy night you’ll struggle to have a conversation at normal levels. But perhaps that’s the point. It’s a hear and be heard, see and be seen kind of place, where even the staff dress like your hipster best friend in skinny jeans, braces and bowties.
As a punter, though, skinny jeans are best avoided – unless they’ve got an elasticated waist. The wide-ranging menu, split into cheekily-titled sections such as ‘Get Tossed’ (salads); ‘Sidekicks: the real heroes of the story’ and ‘Let’s Get The Party Started’ spans the Mediterranean to America’s Deep South and is chock-full of delectable dishes all vying for a place in your belly.
Homemade delicacies such as charcuterie feature strongly. (Meat in general predominates – vegetarians should flick straight to the pizzas). Housemade hot sausage (58RMB) changes weekly: on our visit, morcilla (Spanish black pudding), served in its own pan with stewed apples and celeriac puree, had an authentic crumbly texture and a ferric tang.
Also excellent is the duck prosciutto, which crops up in a salad of burrata, plums and radicchio dotted with sour cherry vinaigrette (98RMB) – though the bundle of mozzarella is meanly sized, especially given it’s sourced locally from Solo Latte.
The in-house smoker is used to great effect on Norwegian salmon (98RMB), rustically scattered with pansies and paired with a checked cloth-topped jar of egg yolk ‘jam’, melba ‘bagel’ toast and tiny, tangy cornichons.Despite its name, you needn’t be a closet cannibal to appreciate the ‘Hannibal Lecter special’ (68RMB). It’s a masterful combination of meltingly soft ‘face bacon’ (literally a pig’s visage, braised for 16 hours in a stock made from its skull, sliced and sautéed), crunchy coleslaw and spicy honey mustard, all encased in a sweet, pillowy bun.
For the main event, it’s a toss-up between a roast from ‘The Tumbler’ and one of the wood-fired pizzas. Our pick is the rotisserie chicken, (128RMB/half; 218RMB/whole) marinated in ‘ancient Chinese secret’ (sic) and slow-roasted to succulent perfection. Beware the chilli side sauce which isn’t dubbed ‘hot as shit’ for nothing. It all goes brilliantly with gooey four cheese mac ’n’ cheese (40RMB) and crisp broccolini with garlic, ginger and chilli oil (40RMB).
Out of the handsome wood-fired pizza oven in the corner of the dining room come terrific pizzas with satisfyingly chewy bubble-charred crusts – none of that paper-thin Italian-style base. Our favourite is the American Pie (118RMB) with homemade fennel sausage, asparagus, farm egg and a generous blanket of melted smoked provolone.
For desserts, if The Fat Elvis (68RMB) with banana chiffon cake, peanut butter crunch ice cream and candied bacon won’t fit inside your stretchy pants, try squeezing in the delightfully light berry pavlova (58RMB) with vanilla marscapone crème and tart-sweet passion fruit.
The only creases are the lengthy wait for our first dishes and irritating tendency for bar punters to spill into and stand around the dining area, which will hopefully be ironed out over the next few weeks. Other than that, Liquid Laundry delivers a near-spotless performance.