Hidden away in a corner of Hong Kong’s Sai Ying Pun, Melody takes the city’s dining scene to the next level with superb cuisine and a passion for good music.
There are things afoot in sleepy Sai Ying Pun. Hidden away in a spot once occupied by the Hong Kong outpost of Bali beach club Potatohead, Melody House of Food & Music isn’t your average restaurant. This multi-sensory dining and entertainment destination is one that reveals itself room by room, and where great cuisine is married with an ever-evolving soundscape.
First impressions will be that of yet another neighbourhood eatery, but those impressions will betray you as a spacious patio gives way to a main dining room, which in turn reveals another refined space and yet another. Made up of five rooms – a Kitchen, Dining Room, Music Room, Bar Lounge and Garden Room – each with its own design persona, this new multifaceted venue – part restaurant, part club lounge, part event space – invites guests to indulge their senses with a unique combination of delicious plates, carefully crafted drinks, and a stellar music programme.
It’s mid-week and we kick off on the patio, soaking up the cool, quiet evening air with signature cocktails devised by bar manager Kaan Gilmour that include the intriguing Deconstructed White Russian which, in addition to being served by its namesake (she’s from Moscow), is a perfectly balanced take on a classic desert-style cocktail.
My culinary wingman defies his wife’s directive and indulges in the Rhubarb Old Fashioned, an inventive rift that’s as tangy and mellow as marmalade-scented massage oil. The bar menu’s R&D section is especially intriguing and allows the venue’s mixologists to experiment far beyond the classic libations, making Melody a sound pre-dinner option for those that call the West home.
Slipping inside, we make for a perch at the kitchen counter, the perfect position from which to observe Jamie Draper, one of the city’s most popular chefs, in his element. At Melody, the former Mr Wolf chef draws from his classical culinary training with the likes of Michel and Albert Roux to create dishes that are at once imaginative and accessible, many of which benefit from the kitchen’s impressive Josper oven. The result is refined seasonal comfort food at its best.
The experience begins with crunchy, soul-hugging Alsace bacon croquettes, followed by lightly cured cubes of tuna dressed with fermented chilli mayo, fennel and jalapeños, an elegant and deceptively simplistic pairing. The fried pig’s head terrine with black pudding and braised white beans has us intrigued and turns out to be a significant departure from the cold classic of Roald Dahl boarding school tales, a gelatinous loaf quivering like a scantly clad festival goer in the rain. Instead, it’s a deep-fried slab of goodness that falls apart like braised short ribs at the slightest suggestion of the fork.
Next up is earthy porchetta, porcini and parmesan sausage given a touch of texture from a smoked apple caramel herb crust and laid to rest on a bed of wilted spinach; and a still-sizzling pork chop topped with pork rinds and given a flavourful lashing from tangy apple puree that’s like a touch of pure Provence.
The star of the show, and a recommendation from infinitely elegant general manager Giammarco Sai, has to be the medium-rare chateaubriand, which benefits from the eye-watering heat of the Josper oven and which, when sliced, reveals a perfectly charred crust complemented by meat the hue of ripe Iranian pomegranates. It’s a hefty slice of wife-forbidding heaven and perfect for sharing.
Melody also does smaller dishes which are best suited for the crowds that descend on the Lounge for volleys of aperitifs as the week shortens, or those browsing the expensive wine list (it features 150 labels including some show-stopping magnums) in the Garden Room. You’ll find these stylish souls are here for playlists curated by Melody’s music maestro, Johnny Hiller, who has been instrumental in the international club scene since the early 90s (aka the Golden Years) and who has played legendary clubs including Fabric in London, Club Air in Tokyo and Cookies in Berlin.
He was also the creative mind behind the venue’s Music Room; soundproofed like a Wall Street sex dungeon, it’s decked in elegant mid-century furniture, an extensive vinyl collection, and the kind of speakers you don’t own if you have children. Here, he promises to entertain with a mainstream-side-stepping cocktail of genres – from Cantopop to 1970s Cambodian jazz, Balearic, cosmic, and wave to electronic, with a garnish of funk & soul – that’s as eclectic as a Japanese spinster.
Expect a roster of visiting talents throughout the year that will ensure the soundscape stays as refined and intriguing as the food menu, which, let’s be honest, is bloody refreshing for Hong Kong. Combined, these elements create something truly special, a space where you can explore, indulge, reminisce, and shelter from the world beyond.
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