Hong Kong is never shy of buffet options, so to get noticed, buffets have to do something different, and to get you to come back, that something different has to rotate every now and then.
That’s the discovery they made at The Market at Icon Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui, and luckily that discovery is accompanied by a relaxed dining room with a tranquil courtyard enclosed in the middle and the option of private dining space for larger groups.
Heading there with less of an appetite than I wish I had, my hunger soon swelled as I toured authentic cuisine from around the world, all prepared with the same care top restaurants put into their a la carte offerings.
And that rotation I mentioned could be seen at both the carvery, which served seasonal favourites; and more impressively and uniquely, starters, mains and – less surprisingly yet equally satisfyingly – desserts that incorporate Godiva chocolate.
My mission was to sample as much as I could, so resisting the temptation of that turkey-till-you-hurt Christmas feeling (it seemed a bit early in the year for that) I started at the salad bar.
Dissuading me that Ron Swanson’s assesment that salad is the food my food eats is no easy task, but when you reveal to me that you’ve got a vinegarette infused with Godiva chocolate, the kid in me perks up, and neither my child self nor my somewhat adult self were disappointed by the salad, cold cuts, duck foie gras (of course meat was involved), freshly baked bread (which yes, is a rookie move at a buffet, but I definitely don’t regret giving it a go) and other appetizers I sampled.
Still, there’s only so much warm-up you can endure before kick-off, so soon enough I was back at the buffet with intent to earn my food coma. And having being reliably informed that the shellfish wasn’t to be missed, I stocked up on fresh lobster and crab legs, as well as pork neck, sushi (which is made with a special rice base) and more Godiva chocolate, this time cooked with fish, beef cheeks and pork.
Tempted to repeat round two, I instead opted to keep the new dishes coming, knowing I’d soon eat my way to the carvery. But before that, I had some unfinished business to take care of, namely curry, pizza, the grill station where I’d noticed some lamb chops, Sichuan and Hainanese chicken, and grouper. This somewhat sporadic third plate, perhaps due to its variety of flavours and textures, was the best yet, and truly showcased something the staff had mentioned to me, namely that all cuisines are treated with equal respect.
Luckily, after a brief sit-down and a few sips of beer, I ascended once again, this time with that disheartening buffet feeling you get knowing the mature side of you wants this to be a small and final helping. But a small roast dinner is an outrage and I’m a trooper.
After answering the carvery chef’s unchallenging question ‘ham or turkey?’ with the obvious ‘both’, I stocked up on a few extra bits and topped it all with honey gravy. Once again, everything on the plate was fervently devoured, but the honey gravy was exceptional – a true must-try.
Warned by my sluggishness that the end was unfortunately nigh, I squoze in a bowl of laksa before moving on to dessert. The hearty, thick soup base that balanced spice with coconut was a winner, and the DIY element of adding the veggies and meats you want was a nice touch as it meant this was one of the many stations vegans could stock up at.
My dessert opened with a durian egg tart. As a westerner, I have a bizarre relationship with durian, having suffered quite a few perturbing disappointments. In the egg tart though, the durian flavour was subtle, and the texture was immaculate, so for the first time I actually enjoyed the flavour.
There were plenty more durian options to sample, but going to a Godiva-themed buffet then missing out on chocolate desserts isn’t in my blood, though diabetes may be at some point soon. I’m happy to report that after putting so much creativity into integrating chocolate with savoury foods, the chefs didn’t disappoint with its use in sweets.
Every cake and pudding I had boasted different crunches, sweetness and balance of flavours that now make me wish I was more poetic. But as I’m not, I’ll simply state the fact that, unlike quite a few dessert buffets I’ve been to, at this one, if it looks like it tastes good, it does taste good; in my opinion nothing more so than a nutty chocolate cake with a crunchy coating.
I capped it all off with a coffee and a trip to the Godiva soft serve, where though I was intrigued by the durian flavoured ice cream, I took the safe bet, topping my chocolate ice cream with chocolate confectionery. Once again, I regret nothing.
Overall, it’s an easy buffet to recommend. The chefs are friendly and knowledgeable – I had a chat with the durian chef who learned pastry technique in France and asked another chef for what turned out to be a perfect pairing suggestion; and the waiters and waitresses assisted when needed but didn’t pester. I was also delighted to meet their Director of Food & Beverage Lavin Samtani, who said he hoped to bring much of what made dining at his previous employer W Hotel with him to Icon. Hearing some of the thoughts he’s already had, I expect my next trip to be somewhat more gin-infused, much to my approval.
Since going, I found out that for eight years, the buffet has topped Open Rice and while I usually find that site to be very hit-and-miss with its advice, this time around I completely agree. While a good chunk of Hong Kong buffets seem to go the Jack-of-all-trades route, it’s clear at this one that they’ve hired cooks that are dedicated and talented in their own cuisines.
With all that, there’s no question as to whether I’d go back, as the food, space and staff are all phenomenal. The only question is whether I wait for the seasonal carvery and Godiva partnership to be changed over.