Felix atThe Peninsula is one of Hong Kong's leading lights on the culinary scene, and a dynamic duo is putting their stamp on the modern European dining destination with a personalized twist.
Mixology and modern cuisine meet in the creative hands of seasoned professionals, Chef de Cuisine Juan Gomez (left) and mixologist Marko Petrovic (right), in an immersive and fun dining experience centered around a "Long Table Cocktail Bar" where guests are encouraged to discover pairings suited to their palate.
The charismatic duo boast impressive credentials and are making waves pairing modern ingredient-led European cuisine with stunning craft creations, served against the backdrop of spectacular harbour views to DJ curated soundtracks
Guests seated at the sought after Long Table Cocktail Bar, or Petrovic’s “Stage of Cocktails” are treated to a selection of signature cocktails along with Chef Gomez’s tapas menu during “Sky High Soirees” while observing the internationally trained Petrovic, work his mixology magic behind the bar.
In the restaurant, the "New Felix experience" menu highlights signature dishes like "Hokkaido Scallop Semi Sashimi " and "blue lobster linguini" where Spanish chef Juan Gomez showcases almost three decades of international culinary experience garnered in a variety of award-winning and Michelin-starred restaurants from the UK to Australia.
We caught up with the dynamic duo to quiz them about how cocktails fit in with fine dining and what diners can expect at Felix.
What are the similarities and differences between a chef and a mixologist?
I think that the skills required are very similar, as both a Chef and Mixologist is looking to transform ingredients by a mix-and-match of different elements, and ultimately we want to make guests happy. Generally speaking, I think the main difference lies in our appearance as Mixologists usually looks more handsome! (Juan)
I can see many similarities in the skills in the kitchen and the bar – the evolution of cocktails in past 20 years came mostly from applying cooking techniques in preparation, as well as the way of planning and management, especially in bars with a high volume of guests. When it comes to differences between the two – I would say, bartenders and mixologists are far more charming then chefs but obviously it is not the case with Chef Juan, as he has a unique charisma with a Barcelonan flair! (Marko)
Juan, how would you describe the cuisine at Felix Restaurant?
We want to create a gastronomic delight which is good for the body and make it a playful and enjoyable experience – we call it “Fun Dining”. Interaction with guests is crucial from the floor staff presenting all the plates to the sommelier recommending your wine, or the chef coming to each table to chat with the guest. I think personally, the human touch is very important in concluding the experience for diners in every restaurant.
Why did Felix decide to offer cocktail and food pairings?
I think mixology and food come together, from the same principle of how food and beverages come together. In our collaboration, we mainly play with the tapas menu and the cocktail/ ingredients that we have at the Long Table, where Marko does his magic. We get together and try to come with something that makes sense – something that complements each other from a cultural and tasting point of view. (Juan)
How do you create the flavour combinations between cocktails and dishes?
Most of the time, we start from an idea from either one of us. We talk a lot (we love to talk) and we develop the creation based on our background and experiences in different parts of the world. It will then become the basis for further sampling and adjustments. (Juan)
My inspiration for flavour combination usually comes from everyday life! I usually tend to make an aperitif for Chef so he can return the favour later of course (haha), and that’s how we click especially when he has something new for us. Spending
time with Chef Juan is truly inspiring as through his cuisine, I understand much more about the gastronomic culture in the Mediterranean region. (Marko)
Hokkaido Scallop Semi Sashimi featured in the Felix Experience Menu
How do you manage the seasonality of the ingredients in the cocktail list and the menu?
In terms of food, I would say it's quite established and as one of the key characteristics at Felix here is to work only with the best ingredients (which are obviously in season). If you take this and further experiment and play with the ingredients with creativity we have in the kitchen, we can come up with a huge list of ingredients and elaborations that are now available on our tapas and dinner menu.(Juan)
As we are fortunate enough to be exposed to products of the highest quality from around the world, seasonality is not a challenge for us. From where I grew up in Serbia, I tend to preserve some of the best fruit products and use them throughout the year. This approach really complements mixology (citrus/ champagne marmalade preserve, cherries, etc.) (Marko)
How does cocktail pairing differ from wine pairing?
Cocktail Pairing with food is adapted from palette to palette. For me, I would try to spend some time with my guests and understand what they feel and if they have any preference in the taste/ note of the drinks at that particular moment – as it helps me understand what would go along with their dish. I would say wine paring is very different from cocktail pairing – it is indeed a very charming pairing, but cocktail pairing has been very well received and goes very well with food. (Marko)
Blue Lobster Linguini featured in the Felix Experience Menu
Do you think cocktails are becoming more popular as part of the fine dining experience?
I think that cocktails are part of a fine dining experience. Much loved by the guests, everyone enjoys an aperitive cocktail at the beginning of a meal or a digestif at the end – why not have a full pairing with some tapas? (Juan)
It's definitely very popular. It also depends on the concept, character and style of the restaurant. I would admit that just being around all the best ingredients and advanced cocking techniques and inspiration of Chef Juan’s indeed have brought special impact to the flavour of cocktails. Our Mise en Place at the Long Table is also another key element which brings out the best in our cocktails as it allows us to play with various techniques. (Marko)
How would you convince a wine connoisseur to try a cocktail pairing instead of a wine flight?
Usually, diners who prefer wine over a cocktail to complement with their food would probably stick with their options and I wouldn’t really push for a change. However, I am always up for the challenge in creating a bespoke cocktail/ mocktail for guests who would like to give it a try. (Marko)
And finally, can you give us 5 top tips on how to pair cocktails with food Juan?
- Have a concept/ idea, behind which is an interesting story or history that you would like to elaborate to your guests
- Play with the intense flavour of the ingredients and to garner the power of the cocktail – that the two will go harmoniously with each other
- Complement the acidity of the cocktails with the sweetness of the food (and vice versa)
- Refine the presentation to excite the guest – but also to leave the spotlight to the taste of the dish
- Play with different textures and allow the guest to discover thorough the experience
... and Marko?
- Follow your instinct
- Know your classics, products and flavours
- Italian Aperitivo always helps
- Listen to your guest’s needs
- Have fun, and order Martini