Francis- the middle Eastern jewel of Wan Chai
Located just off Star Street, Wan Chai’s St. Francis street has certainly become a name synonymous with hip and happening restaurants, bars, furniture and boutique stores.
An exciting addition and one that has garnered much praise and popularity is Francis, the creation of three young entrepreneurs showcasing their own selection of wine with contemporary mezze plates that have been inspired by the co-owner and chef’s Israeli heritage.
Francis takes no reservations and on a Friday night, we undoubtedly expected a wait. Despite arriving at 7pm, we were informed of an hour long wait! I was pleasantly surprised however by how friendly the staff were to the people sitting outside, offering us drinks while we waited (unlike a certain other restaurant in St. Francis yard, my dislike of which I have made very well known!). It wasn’t even an hour and we were seated. The restaurant holds up to 30 people and the intimate setting with the semi-al fresco layout lends a casual vibe to the joint.
The menu is so refreshingly concise and confident with just one page consisting of appetizers, mains and 2 desserts. Having been to the Cheesecake Factory the previous week, which in comparison has a tremendously daunting menu, this was a far more relaxing experience.
I simply could not leave Francis without trying the hummus, so this was the natural first choice for our starters. The waiter graciously offered to have the lamb neck ragu placed on the side as my friend does not eat meat. They provided us with a generous portion of the chickpea based dip with two pieces of soft pillow-y pita bread. Personally, the hummus was a bit runny for my taste and it did not have a strong enough tahini flavour. I would have liked some paprika added perhaps to give a bit of a kick but overall this dish was still very appetizing.
Next up, came the burnt eggplant with pepper, chilli and yoghurt, Francis’ own take on baba ghanouj. This dip was so much more satisfying and flavourful than the hummus, the smokiness and slight spice from the chili gave it that extra oomph that I was longing for (my obvious Indian heritage creeping in there).
The very vegetarian friendly baked halloumi came next served with smatterings of pomegranate seeds served in a cast iron pan. This was absolutely divine with no springy texture or overly salty flavour. The combination of the tangy sweetness of the pomegranate offset well against the oregano flavour from the cheese itself. I cannot fault this dish! Simplicity at its best.
To finish, we had the grilled octopus with burgul potato cakes. The octopus was so incredibly tender, flavoured with the harissa chilli paste which elevated the entire dish. Bite after bite was heavenly!
Verdict: This will certainly not be my last venture to Francis and by the clear and continuous popularity, am guessing many others feel the same way! Unlike Maison Libanaise, they are slightly more generous with their portion sizes, particularly for the dips so 4-5 plates between 2 people is sufficient. To our delight, they use the portable credit card machine (that is widely used outside of Asia) and the wait staff were incredibly attentive and affable.
4 & 6 St. Francis Street