It can’t be an easy start when your predecessor was a porn star. Ilona staller (named after a pornographic actor and politician) proudly occupied the popular corner on the vivacious Carlie street for over a decade. With delectable hearty Italian food with flare, she was adored by her fans, many who were left rather devastated when she closed her doors for the last time.
Looming in silence post lockdowns, the spot sat idly for while, while the street waited with anticipation for its next life. Alas however, in the background, some of the city’s finest movers and shakers, (parents of Hanoi Hannah, Tokyo Tina and Firebird ) worked tirelessly to prepare the next iteration. They named her Moonhouse.
A completely different origin from the previous Italian fare, Moonhouse is Chinese with a contemporary spin. Beautiful high ceilings, a slightly art deco retro space and stunning white drop down lights, make you feel like you’re sitting under a shining moon. There’s a banging hot playlist that entices from the street, and even at quick glance, you realise this newcomer is not for the faint hearted.
Before loud music and boisterous atmosphere distract you, check out the menu. Perfectly circular, slightly preppy, Hainanese club chicken skin sandwiches have shavings of cleansing cucumber and are sweetly bunched together by a single toothpick. It’s what you’d expect at a posh HK tennis club for afternoon tea, with a freshness and crunch in each bite. ‘Economy noodles’ are clearly in the wrong seat . Whilst these slippery rice danglers are easy to suckerlingly slurp, there’s nothing mediocre about the sweet soy tangy goodness, and instead should be re-labelled ‘first class’. The colourful stir fry veggies with garlic prawns have a deep rich flouro glazed coating, lovely to eat but not quite a standout. Murray cod is where it’s at. A melting moist brick of thick skinned white flesh arrives bathing in a shaoxing broth, each bite soft and aromatic that encapsulates the many moon shades above.
To match, there’s a rounded drinks list, with options for all, be it an energetic gruner for those who like it bright, to a fragrant gamay, perfectly paired with their ‘duck ceremony’. And if you’re really celebrating, a selection of premium magnums could keep you occupied for an entire evening.
Bottom line. Carlise street may have lost its porn star, but at least we can eat Chinese under the moon.