Blue Butcher seems to have everything in its right place. That is, except for its signage (which is apparently set to be delivered soon-ish). For now, you’ll just have to identify the space as the black frontage nestled between Classified and The Press Room. There’s a mini-bar on the ground floor with a staircase which leads up to the main dining den. If the set-up looks familiar, it’s probably because you’ve been here before during its Republik incarnation. There hasn’t been a massive overhaul with the interiors – only now, instead of a long, polished bar, there’s an open kitchen where flames flicker around at incredible heights. And in place of lounge seats, the room is scattered with heavyset wooden tables which mimic butcher’s chopping blocks.
There’s a deliberately surreal and counterculture aesthetic here, which is palpable as soon as you open up the cocktail list. If you have enough people in your party, shoot for the Blue Absinthe Fairy ($695) – a towering antique fountain filled with the namesake wormwood-based spirit, London dry gin, blue curaçao, Lillet blanc and fresh lime. A slightly less potent/intimidating offering is the Blue Jack ($95) with syrupy calvados apple brandy tempered by a soft, bacon-infused finish. We prefer this over the Spam & Egg (smoked Maker’s Mark, Dolin Rouge, egg white foam and spam tuile, $120), which, despite its intriguing name, tastes nothing like the classic breakfast combo.
The restaurant also encourages sharing plates, especially in the appetisers department. They’re all hefty portions prepped with rustic finesse and the sort of generosity that only comes from people who truly love food. The kitchen celebrates local organic produce with dishes of Belgium endive in sweet truffle dressing and smoked beets served with feta. But it’ll be the meats that draw you in, like the pig’s head terrine ($80) packed with coarse bits of savoury meat. Head chef Danny Chaney doesn’t tiptoe around delicate flavours, opting to serve this cut with tangy pickled onions and a smack of mustard. There’s also bone marrow ($110) on the menu, planked on a wooden board with parsley salad, caper berries and slices of toast. The gelatinous mess may taste bland on the first scoopful but there’s a liberal spread of coarse salt on the side. Season to taste but, really, just a few flakes are enough to pull out the delightfully rich and oily flavours inside the bones.
Then there are the larger cuts, including five beef options (two of which are only available with 48 hours advanced ordering) and a scattering of other meats. One of the signatures – a 14oz wagyu rib eye ($890) from Australia’s Mann River Farm – is dry-aged in-house in a room lined with blocks of pink salt (to aid the ageing process). The thick slab arrives with plenty of juice on the meat and a rich, medium-rare pinkness in the centre as ordered. The flavour, however, is mild and overpowered by the aromatic thyme it’s grilled with. As one of the most expensive items on the menu, we’ll pass on this on our next visit. The free-range charred French chicken ($190 for half; $380 for whole), on the other hand, is pretty magnificent. It’s a plump, meaty thing (even for a half portion) with succulent flesh that yields easily to a sharp blade. It’s served in a pan loaded with baby carrots and pearl onions that have been slicked in jus and the tastiest bits scraped from the skillet.
Blue Butcher still has to sort out its signage issue and perhaps reassess whether its steaks should be signature attractions. Ultimately, though, we still have high hopes for this venue because there’s a comforting rusticity in both the food and drinks that we’ve been hungering for. Dorothy So
Blue Jack $95
Spam & egg $120
Pig’s head terrine $80
Bone marrow $110
Dry-aged 14oz rib eye $890
Charred French chicken (half) $190
10 percent service charge $148.50
Total (for two) $1,633.50
108 Hollywood Rd, Sheung Wan, 2613 9286; www.bluebutcher.com. Mon-Fri 6pm-10.30pm & Sat-Sun 6pm-11pm.