It’s no secret that theDesk team loves to explore local restaurants, cafes and bars. It’s in our DNA to find great neighbourhood places and share them with our members and community.
In the first of a new series, Dining with theDesk, we experience Metropolitain Restaurant, High Street, Sai Ying Pun. This warm and inviting French bistro hits all the buttons: amazing food, fantastic wine and drinks, friendly easy-going service and a wonderfully relaxed vibe.
Named and modelled after the iconic metro stations of Paris, Metropolitain is a great place to enjoy an authentic taste of France. Cuisine by Chef Frank Lebiez brings classic, authentic bistro fare for people who adore quality, French cusine.
Address: G/F 46 High Street, Sai Ying Pun,Hong Kong
Hours: Monday to Sunday, 9 am – 11 pm
Phone: 6271 6102
Special promotion: Members of theDesk can enjoy a range of special offers, courtesy of Metropolitain Restaurant. Terms and conditions apply.
What a great discovery. Metropolitain is an authentic, French bistro dining restaurant, nestled on the corner of High Street and Centre Street in Sai Ying Pun. The casual, inviting atmosphere makes you feel you’re among good friends. The interior decor and vibe transport you across the globe: maybe to Paris, Bordeaux or Lyon.
And the food? Ahhh! Genuine, classic French casual cuisine, under the direction of chef Frank Lebiez. Feast your way around the regions of France, dine on platters of cured meats, cheeses and fresh breads, exclusively selected and imported. Transport yourself to the French Alps with rich, warm tartiflette and a glass of mulled wine. Or devour a bowl of Bouchot mussels. The daily and seasonal specials mean there’s always something new to enjoy.
And you can expect this restaurant to have a wine selection to suit your wallet, your meal and your mood. These people are crazy wine experts and deal directly with vineyards in the south of France. If you’re not sure what to order, you’ll get plenty of guidance to find the perfect match.
Eating out in France is much more than fine-dining. The variety and quality of local bistros and bars represent the true flavour of French cusine. Whether it’s relaxing over a few drinks with friends, taking a break for an afternoon coffee, or enjoying an evening out with someone special. Metropolitain is a place you’re to going enjoy again and again.
Meet the Chef: Frank Leibvitz
“We trust our customers. We have customers who spend HK$300 one day and HK$1000 the next. They know about food, you can’t trick them,” says Frank Lebeiz, Chef of Metropolitain.
Frank, from Normandy in France, serves fresh, natural classics from different regions of the country. ”Our customers travel around the world. They go to Nice, to Paris. They know what sea bass looks like; they know what a pot of mussels looks like. We provide the same experience,” he tells me.
The many flavours of France
Metropolitain wants its guests to savour the authentic flavours of France. “Our French diners tell us they get the feeling they’re at home. It’s what they would experience if they were back home.”
“We don’t specialise in food from one area. It depends on the season; what’s fresh and available. We have a few trusted suppliers who bring us their best produce, and we choose with them. Our guests love it.”
“We started serving tartiflette recently, and people went crazy. We put a glass of mulled wine on the side. Customers imagined they were in the Alps. They were saying ‘Frank, I’m there!’ OK, it was 17c here in Hong Kong, but it’s about as close as we can get,” Frank smiles.
“Our guests want the things they miss. The things they can’t find in other restaurants. We do things slightly differently.”
Indulge your inner foodie
I noticed Metropolitain’s guests are an eclectic mix. Locals, expats, young and old, couples, friends and colleagues. The vibe is chilled and welcoming. And Frank and the staff are on hand to guide you to make great choices.
“If you’ve never tried French food and you want to, at some point you need to be a foodie. I’m going to guide you straight away to the snails, to the foie gras. Maybe something more healthy like quinoa salad,” he says.
“There’s always flavour. Of course, steak tartar is my favourite. Even the salmon tartar. I’m going to guide you to try some special items. Of course, if you’re vegetarian we make the right choices, so you don’t need to compromise.”
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Crazy wine experts
Delicious food is only one component of this relaxed, casual restaurant. The owners and staff are wine experts. “We know our wines. We work closely with the vineyards in the south of France. We deal with them directly.”
The restaurant group, French Creations, is so serious they run a wine store, French Flair, also on High Street. “Most of our wine we import directly through our wine store. But not all of us are wine experts. It can be difficult to decide without guidance. That’s where the service staff step in to help.
“Simply, when a customer asks me to recommend wine my first question is ‘what’s your budget?’ It doesn’t matter if its more or less money, there’s always a way to find the right wine.”
“The next question is what are you eating: fish, meat, maybe a beef stew with intense flavours like beef tenderloin. I could go for a Pinot Noir for the beef, a Cote du Rhone for a lamb shank.”
“The best wine depends on entirely on what you’re eating, your mood and your budget.”
Frank explains, “I talk with guests and listen to their tastes and people value having someone to guide them. Some feel nervous about making a choice. It’s what’s right for the food but also what’s right for your wallet. As long as you’re happy and it makes the perfect accompaniment for your meal, I’m happy.”
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The essence of French cuisine
Many people in Hong Kong associate French cuisine with high-end fine dining. But that’s only a part of what makes this country’s food and wine so internationally renowned. I wanted to know how Frank describes the essence of French bistro dining.
Frank laughs, “For me, foie gras, wine and cheese. Three classics. I always encourage people to try it. It’s stunning.”
But it’s more than food; it’s the whole experience. As Frank explains, “It’s about dining together, sitting with family friends, neighbours, enjoying time with great food and wine. The atmosphere is what makes it so unique. Even a simple dish with friends, like a barbecue and some fresh bread. Great conversation. That’s it.”
An obsession with quality and origin is another aspect of what makes French food stand out. “Even supermarkets in France sell great products,” Frank says, ”but going to the weekly village market, full of small local farmers and producers is what makes it special. Staying close to the origin.”
Seasonality is another pillar of French dining. But Hong Kong only has two main seasons. As Frank explains, “Working according to the season is important. We’ve lost that a little in Hong Kong. For example, we can get tomatoes and strawberries all year.”
The need to adapt to the local climate and expectations doesn’t go down well back in his hometown. “I went to see my father. He looked at me and said ‘Frank, try this. It’s now in season. It’s fresh and full of flavour.’ And he was right.”
“He told me, ‘You’ve forgotten how important it is to eat seasonal produce.’ But I told him ‘No, we haven’t forgotten. It’s that our customers want things all year round. We lose the seasonality of food, but we try as hard as possible to keep some essential elements.”
“My approach is to keep it simple and focus on what seems right for the time of year,” Frank explains. “We change our board three times a week. And from December to April we serve more winter foods: big stews, mushrooms, warming foods.”
Preserving the essence of what makes French cuisine stand out is what makes Metropolitain a special place. And one that you will want to visit time after time.
About theDesk reviews
We love supporting our neighbours and trying local restaurants, shops and cafes . We aren’t professional food critics, and we don’t take payment. We just want to tell people about great places. Sometimes, at its own discretion a restaurant or cafe offers a special discount to members of theDesk.