By Nicholas Walton
Featuring a fresh take on Spanish tapas, lashings of house-made sangria, and with just 35 seats, celebrity chef Jason Atherton has teamed up with Singaporean hotelier Yenn Wong, founder of JIA Boutique Hotels, to open his first Hong Kong eatery 22 Ships (22 Ship St., Wan Chai, Hong Kong; 852/2555-0722).
Located on unassuming Ship Street in Wan Chai, the pint-sized open-faced tapas joint has become the hottest seat in town thanks to no service charge, a no-reservations policy, and a menu of innovative and imaginative nibbles that are a play on both Spanish and English classics. In a move Atherton describes as “deformalizing fine dining,” patrons sit shoulder to shoulder on street-facing benches or kitchen counter stools and watch the culinary team—led by head chef Matt Bishop—create the likes of scallop ceviche with yuzu dressing and apple; baked smoked bone marrow with onion jam and sourdough; and decadent Manchego cheese and Iberico ham toasties.
Other must-trys on an extensive menu of para picars (small bites) and tapas dishes include the suckling pig, served with roasted apple and piquillo pepper jus; char-grilled Iberico pork and foie gras mini burgers; and the Spanish breakfast, a deconstruction of the classic Spanish pick-me-up meal, served with chorizo and potato.
Leave room for dessert; from his time at Barcelona’s acclaimed El Bulli, Atherton has been known for his talent with the sweet stuff, including the likes of crispy lemon meringue with a zesty cucumber sorbet and gin jelly; olive oil brioche with chocolate ganache and sea salt; and a local crowd pleaser—his peanut butter and blue fruit ice cream.
While you’re waiting for your seat—and you will wait—you can admire the elegant decor created by Shanghai’s Neri & Hu Design Research Office, which features vintage touches contrasted by raw elements such as naked steel and exposed brick to create a welcoming, neighborly feel.