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Hong Kong's Jimmy's Kitchen is back with a flourish

After shutting its doors four years ago, this century-old Hong Kong dining stalwart is back, reports Carolynne Dear


Hong Kong's Jimmy's Kitchen is back with a flourish

Jimmy's is back and rocking an open kitchen in the main dining room


Hong Kong’s infamous Jimmy’s Kitchen has reopened in the city’s Central district. The sleek, new reincarnation of one of the territory’s most storied dining spots includes a new, slimmed down menu, swish champagne cocktail bar and, happily, many of the old favourite dishes.


At 92 years old, the Hong Kong dining stalwart closed its doors in the spring of 2020. The news of its demise met with such fanfare that the closure was delayed by a month as patrons scrambled to book one final table. But by then it was a shadow of its former self.


Jimmy’s Kitchen was the brainchild of one Jimmy James, an American stationed in China, who opened a restaurant in Shanghai’s dockland district serving western-style food. It became known locally as ‘Jimmy’s’ and in 1928, Jimmy’s business partner, Palestinian-born Aaron Landau, moved down to Hong Kong and opened Jimmy’s Kitchen on Lockhart Road in Wan Chai. 


By the 1930s the restaurant had moved to Theatre Lane and diners were flocking to the establishment for its comforting ‘colonial cuisine’ at a time when there were limited western dining options in the city. Highlights of the gargantuan menu included oysters kilpatrick, chicken kiev and ‘colonial curry’, with complementary pickled onions on every table. Signature puddings ran to baked alaska flambeed tableside and strawberry omelette. 


Hong Kong's Jimmy's Kitchen is back with a flourish

The luscious strawberry omelette is also back

 

But Jimmy’s enjoyed its real heyday in the second half of the twentieth century when it became a go-to venue for heads of business, entrepreneurs and even the odd movie star. 


However, as Hong Kong’s dining scene gathered momentum towards the end of the century with plenty of sophisticated new western alternatives, Jimmy’s slipped in popularity. Its final move to a dingy basement on Wyndham Street did little to rescue its fall. Eventually it seemed to be relying on name alone to attract diners. Service was old-fashioned - as a lone diner awaiting my companion I was routinely proffered a copy of that day’s South China Morning Post by a smartly aproned waiter - but in all honesty, the attraction of dining at Jimmy’s by the early 2000s was for its peace and quiet, handy for interviewing.


However, as it closed its doors in 2020 Jimmy’s promised it would be back, and here it is. Now owned by Epicurean Group, this latest iteration of the iconic dining spot has taken up residence in the newly refurbished Pedder Building.


Hong Kong's Jimmy's Kitchen is back with a flourish

Chicken madras condiments are served in their original porcelain dishes


The slick interior seats 160 diners across a casual dining lounge, cocktail bar, crudo bar, main dining room and private dining area. Seating comprises bar-stools by the open kitchen or at smartly naped and draped tables across the dining area. 


Chef Russell Doctrove (formerly of Limewood in Repulse Bay) has come up trumps with a menu that blends the old with the new. The pickled onions are back and so is the chicken supreme kiev, oozing garlic butter and served with mashed potato. 


But new dishes to grace the menu include modern fish and seafood options. The stand-out for me among the new-look starters was the king crab leg with citrus hollandaise brulee, but the crudo bluefin tuna with roasted aubergine and toasted buckwheat and the warm angus beef mince on toast with watercress and horseradish were also well-received.


Back to the mains, traditional Jimmy’s dishes are marked on the menu. I opted for Jimmy’s chicken madras, the chicken cooked in an original-recipe blend of dry spices. It came with a sauce on the side as well as a comprehensive carousel of poppadoms and condiments served in their original porcelain dishes. Apparently the madras hit the menu in the 1940s at the behest of Landau’s wife following its appearance as a staff meal pulled together by Jimmy’s Hong Kong-Indian chefs. It became an instant hit and it was a nice touch to see it back. 


Hong Kong's Jimmy's Kitchen is back with a flourish

The new-look chicken supreme kiev


Further traditional favourites include chicken a la king with rice and roasted pork chops. New items featured a dover sole and a South African wagyu sirloin.


The infamous baked alaska is back on the pudding menu, this time with a double layer of cherry pistachio ice cream. It’s also still flambeed tableside. Jimmy’s famous strawberry omelette has also returned, this time as a sharing pud. 


The Central location and quality menu should place Jimmy’s at the top of the lunch list for local business types. But the history, cocktails and glitzy redesign also makes it a buzzy and fun venue for the evening crowd. Maybe Jimmy’s Kitchen will never reach the heady heights of its glory days, but this well-executed reinvention should be enough to pull it out of the doldrums and place it back on Hong Kong’s ‘must-do’ dining radar.


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