Inside Jimmy’s Kitchen, the Return of a Legendary Hong Kong Restaurant
After its lengthy hiatus, the doors are open once again in this latest incarnation.
BY P.Ramakrishnan  |  May 17, 2024
5 Minute Read

Main Dining Room, Jimmy’s Kitchen

“Is the chicken Kiev still on the menu?”

Irrevocably, it is the first question on everyone’s mind when they step through into the newly returned Jimmy’s Kitchen. Be it the beef Wellington in Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London’s Chelsea, the beef Stroganoff from the Russian Tea Room in New York, or the black cod miso at Nobu around the world, there are certain signature dishes associated with famed chefs and legendary locales that are symbiotically interlinked together.

Yes, the chicken supreme Kiev is still on the menu (and as good as memory serves). Jimmy’s chicken Madras returns in style, and the baked Alaska arrives with all the theatrics one has grown accustomed to. In fact, many of the famed fan favourites remain, as tampering with the leather-bound menu of Jimmy’s Kitchen would be sacrilege to the culinary gods and its discipled, long-time diners. Of course, there are new—and welcome—additions to the courses, but some things simply shouldn’t be tampered with. 

Chicken Supreme Kiev at Jimmy’s Kitchen

“We knew which sort of iconic dishes we were going to bring back and then it was a case of trying to fill out the menu and see if we’re missing certain dishes that people like,” says Hong Kong-born executive chef Russell Doctrove, who had the rare opportunity to expand on the tried-and-tested menu. “The French duck breast has been a really popular dish since we’ve opened, and playful appetisers like the Hokkaido scallops or the coronation fried chicken have been popular, as we just trying to keep things like light and fun.”

For guests of a certain vintage, news of the return of Jimmy’s Kitchen in Central was embraced as warmly as a reunion with an old friend. After a long hiatus, in its new incarnation in the equally famed Pedder Building, it was hard to miss the banner scroll of red and gold, with that familiar font announcing that the kitchens are indeed finally reopened.  

“It’s been a busy couple of weeks since we’ve opened. It’s been waves of people coming in; the average age was 65-plus as many were returning to check it out,” says Doctrove, familiar with what the old haunt means to people as we look around a room filled to capacity. “We’re doing 100-plus covers for lunch and dinner, Monday to Sunday.”

“Embrace” is a word that comes to mind while returning to this familiar restaurant, as the warmth and comfort the venue exudes has just the right touch of nostalgia, with the fresh appeal of new of location, décor, and furnishing, as well as a few surprises in the offing on the classic menu. It looks nothing like it used to—there’s an open, spotless kitchen with a flurry of activity; chefs in starched white uniforms are kept on their busy toes as the new expanse can comfortably seat up to 160 diners, spanning across a long dining lounge, cocktail bar, crudo bar, main dining rooms, and private dining room. As the heart and soul of Jimmy’s Kitchen, the oft-photographed open kitchen, with a row of bar seating, is where diners can enjoy their meal in full view of where the magic happens. 

For those who love a bit of Hong Kong dining history: Jimmy’s Kitchen first opened in 1928 on Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, when it was a humble affair serving old-school staples like steak and kidney pie, curries, and hybrid Asian cuisine to a mix of Western guests and Asian patrons. Six years later, it relocated to the old China Building in Theatre Lane. Finally, as many now remember, Jimmy’s Kitchen found sanctuary at the bottom of the South China Building in Central. An awkward place to park, the struggle to quickly exit a cab on the slope and find respite in the dark arteries under the neon-lit signage is a fond memory of many. 

Truth be told, Jimmy’s Kitchen wasn’t a place on the Michelin map, but a dining hotspot for friends, colleagues, and businessmen of note. Families met on weekends when helpers had their days off, and the tantalising desserts helped the young generation keep mum, as generous scoops were the norm. Ownership has changed hands over the years, but since 2002, it has been part of Epicurean Group, which blissfully did not interfere with the menu or operations. While the kitchen survived trials and tribulations, and even SARS, it was Covid-19 that did her in. Variations on the headline “Goodbye, Jimmy’s Kitchen” was in print in almost every publication in the summer of 2020 in the thick of the pandemic. As the green neon-lit signage was unplugged, many a sigh escaped mid-sentence. 

Baked Alaska at Jimmy’s Kitchen

In similar vein, let’s see the reopening as a harbinger of hope, renewed and refreshed. “I don’t think you’ll get many concepts like this in Hong Kong with this huge history,” says Doctrove. “It was going to be in a brand-new building, brand-new kitchen—which is always nice for a chef—so when I joined this project, pretty much the layout had been finalised. I prefer an open kitchen; I like to be able to see the customers. I think it keeps the team on their toes. But it is a show kitchen. It’s got some pros and cons, because obviously when we’re trying to do our jobs and prep, you have to be conscious of what the customer can see.”

While some reviews have said Jimmy’s Kitchen is the place where “East meets West,” the menu has been prepared with a different philosophy. “We are a continental kitchen, because I think that sort of describes the different influences that have shaped the menu. French influences, Asian influences, British culture—we’re not really fusion as we’re not trying to cross utilise ingredients,” says Doctrove of the restaurant. “The way I like to cook is to keep things relatively simple. I try to put less things on the plate than most chefs and there’s nothing really to hide behind. You’ve got to have a really good product.”

Jimmy’s Kitchen

M/F, Pedder Building, 12 Pedder Street, Central

Tel: (+852) 2526 5293

Reservations required.

All images courtesy of Jimmy’s Kitchen.