Much anticipated, The Optimist, set to open its doors on 2 October, is now taking reservations. Dramatically changing the Wan Chai dining scene, the three-storied Barcelona chic bar and asador-inspired restaurant gives guests an authentically generous Northern Spanish experience. Located on street level at 239 Hennessy Road, Hong Kongers have a new destination for dining on the island.
The concept is a creation of two friends, Christian Talpo and Manuel Palacio, who believe in great food, friendly service and simply having a good time. “Guests come to The Optimist to indulge in an authentic taste of Spain which, for me, is the asador experience. You come here to eat your heart out, and never leave hungry. You might even make some new friends who share your love for good food,” says co-founder Christian Talpo.
In Spanish, ‘asador’ means a grill where meat, seafood and vegetables are cooked rustically over hot coals or wood, like it has been done for centuries. Most of the menu consists of asador-style grilled items, with options of sides as well as other traditional dishes from Northern Spain.
The Optimist consists of a bustling Barcelona chic Bar for drinks and all-day dining, upstairs the Dining Room hosts intimate dining and on the top floor The Grill serves grill-side casual dining and tables for larger groups. La Salita is a festive private space for up to 8 people, perfect for private events and parties.
Manning the grill is Spanish Executive Chef Alfredo Rodriquez who has over 15 years of experience in the kitchen of top restaurants in Madrid, including Lobby Market, La Barra del Cacique and Caciquito. “If you see it, we’ll grill it. With the market-like displays of seafood and selections of prime cuts presented by the grill, we guarantee the taste of grilled freshness,” says Chef Alfredo.
Unpretentiously simple yet meticulously prepared, The Optimist offers a specialised selection of classic Northern Spanish dishes available at the bar and restaurant. Start off with the Mariscada (Small portion HKD1,100 for 26 pieces, Large portion HKD1,780 for 50 pieces) that combines treasures from the sea in a tower of seafood. A genuine celebration of the Mediterranean fish market, the tower contains crab, mussels, oysters, scampi (cigala), cristal blue prawn and even lobster, all freshly flown in from Europe.
The smell of Txuleta (HKD100 per 100g) sizzling on the grill, a Rubia Gallega rib eye delicacy straight from the Galicia region, will make meat lovers salivate. Each piece is aged for over 45 days dry aged before being cut into generous thick slices (minimum 1kg) and cooked on the grill. Try the Rodaballo a la brasa (HKD105 per 100g), grilled turbot which is without doubt Basque country’s most popular fish dish. Cooked in the traditional method, the fish is grilled whole inside a metal casing called a ‘besuguera’ that stops the fish from touching the grill directly, helping it cook through to perfection. In Spain the best turbots for cooking are known as those weighing in at over 1 kg, The Optimist strictly only uses turbot with a minimum weight of 1.4 kgs, giving guests a generous portion perfect for sharing.
A meal at The Optimist isn’t complete without a sweet finish, excluding Restaurant Manager Nil Chaib’s charm, guests can satisfy their sweet fix with the signature Alfredo’s Warm Apple Pie (HKD95) served with vanilla sauce. Other traditional desserts include the Arroz con leche (HKD65), a rice pudding made with rice and cinnamon as well as theTorrija (HKD 75) a sweet harmony of caramelised warm bread brioche and coffee ice cream.
The street-level bar will be a standalone destination that attracts a fun crowd to the new hip Wan Chai space. Drink like a Spaniard and start with an aperitif of signature gin and tonic or pair a full-bodied Spanish red with the meal. The Optimist brings nostalgia with memorable cocktails from the early days including swizzles, punches, juleps as well as flips and fizzes. Vivacious Bar Manager Isabella Vannoni is always on hand for friendly recommendations and advice on pairings.
With interiors by young and daring Spanish designer Rocío Martínez, her first project in Hong Kong, The Optimist has impressive design elements that bring a true Northern Spanish experience to the city. Each detail is geared towards making customers feel comfortable in the spacious environment. Together with graphic artist Aleix Gordo Hostau’smagic touch on mural and images throughout the space, stepping into The Optimist will transport customers to a traditional Spanish asador grill house. Feature lighting and themed artwork combined with strong metallic furnishings and natural textures set the scene for the centrepiece – the food, while climbing the stairs to each floor is a nod to the nostalgia of 50´s Elsie de Wolfe interior garden remembrances.
239 Hennessey Road brings a new favourite to Wan Chai, with a flavour of authentic Northern Spanish food where freshness is King and a Barcelona-style bar hang out which brings friends together to reminisce old memories and make new ones.
2 October onwards – Open for dinner
12 October onwards – Open for late night dining
22 October onwards – Open for lunch and tea time
2 November onwards – Open for breakfast and brunch