Mr Tall's quest for manly bread

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The other day I found myself staring forlornly into the rapidly enmist-ifying depths of my freezer. I was looking for a pack of bread to set out to thaw for my lunch the next day. And all I could see through the swirling fog was a clinical white plain of barren nothingness . . . there was none.

I recovered from my horror with a little trip down to Park N Shop to buy some of its floppy, over-risen, vaguely sweet bread. And although eating my sandwiches the next day was like unto a banquet of wormwood and gall, I persevered, and stand before you today to cry forth, in all seriousness: where do you buy good bread in Hong Kong?

First, let’s get straight what I mean by ‘good bread’. I’m no advocate of the currently-chic Atkins/all-protein/eat-whole-freshly-dead-creatures-like-the-Neanderthals diet. I like my carbs, and I like them in the forms that hew most closely to the ways le Bon Dieu has made them.

When it comes to bread, therefore, I like the grainiest of the grainy breads, those with body and heft and texture. I can go for a nice crusty baguette on occasion, but they don’t hold up well after baking, especially as I’ve got to think about stockpiling decent bread in the freezer, since we’re right back to that same problem: I can’t find enough regular sources of the bread I like, especially in stores near me.

At the moment, even with the proliferation of western restaurants and supermarket stock we’ve seen in Hong Kong in recent years, I’ve still got just two reliable sources:

Ali-Oli Bakery

Pluses: Both their ‘country grain’ and their ‘multigrain’ loaves are very, very good. The country grain is especially dense and grainy, and toasts magnificently. Ali-Oli also make a chocolate truffle cake that is transporting in its richness; it’s possibly the best cake I’ve ever had. And if you do go to Sai Kung to visit them, they’ve got an al fresco café set up outside the bakery where you can eat fresh baked goods and drink decent coffee. Their prices are reasonable, if not cheap.

Minuses: Ali-Oli’s in Sai Kung, and although it delivers, you’ve got to come up with an order of HKD300 or more, which means putting a whole lot of bread into the freezer. On the bright side, they do carry other products like jams, olive oils and deli stuff, so it’s not exactly a hardship putting together a substantial order.

Great

Pluses: there’s not much doubt Great runs the most varied and generally high-quality bakery in Hong Kong. Their multiseed sourdough bread (sliced off those huge pillow-style loaves) is fantastic, and I like their individual multigrain loaves as well. Great’s also in a convenient location for people who live on the island, and even for those like me who don’t, but who are on an MTR line.

Minuses: High prices and mildly snooty ambiance, plus the fact that you’re in Pacific Place, a shopping mall that’s never been my favorite.

And that’s it – that’s my list of places in Hong Kong that make bread I like enough to buy in bulk and keep on hand. None of the other sources I’ve bought bread from quite measure up:

  • Oliver’s (not always very fresh, and not cheap)
  • Taste (doesn’t carry the really good bread varieties that Great does)
  • 360 (good, but not as good as Great, and just as expensive)
  • Park N Shop (see above)
  • CitySuper (a weird selection, and overpriced)
  • Maxim’s, BreadBox and other local bakeries (cheap, okay in a pinch, but invariably fluffy and sweet)

So, readers, what am I missing? Are there some great bakeries out there I’ve overlooked? Do the local bakery chains have any types of bread I’ve not deigned to try, but that are in fact good eatin’?

Comments

For when you're (next) in North Point

There's a place called Luba's Bakery - near the North Point tram terminus. It's no longer run by Russians but the bread there might be worth trying. (I like the banana bread -- but don't think that's what Mr Tall's looking for! ;b)

Baguettes

The best baguettes (I'm French) in HK are without contest first at the Grocer, in Kennedy Town (nice service, too), and then Robuchon in the Landmark. Beats anything from la Rose Noire.

I'm of no great help for grainy bread, but the German bread shop in Elements has good looking stuff.

 

The Grocer

I thought I knew the shops in Kennedy Town, but this is a new one to me - and it opened in 2007! I must be spending too much time down the tunnels...

They are on the seafront at Shop 1, G/F., Grand Fortune Mansion, 32-34 New Praya, Kennedy Town, Hong Kong. Here's their website.

Roman meal

Well, my freezer betrayed me again this week, so I bought some of that Roman Meal 12-grain bread you mentioned, MrB.

My review? Not sweet, and there were some 'chewy bits', as you mentioned. So, definitely not evil.

But it was a bit dry, and not quite up to the standard of my favorites.

Cheaper, though!

Verdict: a better fill-in than most local bakery stuff.

>> but the German bread shop

>> but the German bread shop in Elements has good looking stuff.

can you provide the shop name ?

>> Roman meal

Where exactly do you get it ?

Thanks

bread stuff

I think the name of the bakery in Elements is La Création De Gute.

Roman Meal bread is available in HK supermarkets such as Park N Shop, but in the bread section on the regular shelves, not in the special bakery areas.

must try it

Thanks for that - I drove past it the other day and was thinking that it looked interesting and worth a visit!

My husband has decided that now we're moving to Pokfulam that Kennedy town will be our new 'hood'

Mr Tall's quest for manly bread

I'll second those who suggested A-1 and the Holiday Inn Delicatessen, but my favourite bakeries have disappeared: the Furama Hotel had a good one, and so did the Mandarin before its renovation a few years ago (though the latter was overpriced).

The restaurants in the Grand Stanford Harbour View serve good bread (or used to - I haven't been there for a while) which I believe is baked on the premises, but they don't appear to have a takeaway outlet.

Manly bread update!

I have found another loaf worthy of the manly bread designation.

The Family Tall had dinner the other night in Simply Life in IFC. We'd eaten at their branches in Festival Walk and Tai Koo previously, and I'd noted their bread was nice, but probably not worth making a special effort to acquire.

That perception has changed: either the whole chain has upgraded its bread recipes, or the IFC branch has a particularly good baker, but the bread we had this last time was superb. A bread plate with slices of both country-style white and a fantastic, dense, delicious multigrain was plopped down on our table, and believe me, it went back empty.

Both varieties of bread are available at the restaurant's take-away counter, with the multigrain offered sliced and packaged, or cut directly from the giant pillow loaves in which it's baked. It's not cheap -- $24 for a quarter-loaf, or about seven big slices -- but it's definitely worth it.

Must try

Bread lovers

You must try Pumpernickel.  It has stores at Tin Hau, Sheung Wan, Art Centre and Quarry Bay. 

P

another vote for bread machines

We also took the plunge and got a bread machine about a year and a half ago, and it's worked well for us. In the States, I went through phases of making bread by hand; but in HK I find it too hot most of the year to contemplate turning on the oven, and I had far more disappointments with hand-made loaves here since I never mastered the heat and humidity variations. The bread machine does add heat to the kitchen, but much less than the oven does.

I've used it mostly to make basic whole wheat/oatmeal "sandwich" loaves and the occasional fruit bread; too lazy to attempt anything more complicated so far. I doubt the machine is capable of a great crusty bread. But it makes pretty good, FRESH bread consistently available at home with a minimum of fuss; and that has been a great addition to our lives.

If your breadmaker has a "rise" function, it can also be useful for preparing dough even if you then bake it in the oven or do something else with it. (We use it sometimes to rise dough for mantou and huajuan (steamed buns). After a bit of experimentation, you know pretty well when the dough will be risen, so you can plan (and in the winter, it saves quite a bit of time). Also, we've used it sometimes if we want to make a recipe which calls for a double or triple rise (since each rise strengthens the gluten, or, as they say in Chinese, the "flour muscles" 麵筋 :-)).

On the down side, breadmakers are not cheap (around 800 HK and up when I looked in 2009-2010, at least for something that will make a loaf of any size), and they can take up a fair amount of counterspace. You can sometimes find them used on the geoexpat and asiaxpat sites;  a neighbor found a Sanyo breadmaker at a garage sale for 50 HK. We (that is to say, my mother-in-law) ordered a Donlim 東菱/东菱 for us online in the mainland (about 250 RMB) and ended my miserly shilly-shallying. I wondered afterwards if we might be in violation of some tax law, but in any case, I'm a convert and won't mind shelling out here in HK when this one passes away.