Basin sits nestled in the heart of the restaurant district of Central. A slice of the Mediterranean translated in its refined decor of classy marble table tops, velvety cool grey chairs, gold accents and facades of deep sea blue. A pristine open kitchen brings a live show where chefs hustle to create dishes that transport guests to the Mare Nostrum.
Founders Erik Kirakozov and chef Antoni Bernabeu come together to bring an authentic fusion of French, Italian and Spanish cuisine to the wanderlusting palates of Hong Kong.
So, where did the name Basin come from? Kirakozov tells the story of their research into the name. “The actual piece of land, which is called Mediterranean Basin, which is surrounded with these 22 countries in the Mediterranean Sea from east to west,” he says. “From Greece to Lebanon in the South, and of course, Spain, Italy and France. So that’s why we wanted to call it Basin – to send a clear message that we were focusing only on three countries which were Spain, Italy and France.”
After a delectable experience filled with exquisite food, hearty hospitality and elite service, the two founders sat down with TMS to tell us more about their journey and inspirations.
The building blocks
Successful restaurants require consistency in the quality of food coupled with stellar service, all wrapped in a beautiful concept. That is what Basin is all about. Erik Kirakozov, a veteran of the F&B scene in Hong Kong, started from the rowdy outlets of Ibiza and the bustling eateries of Hong Kong.
“I’ve been working in the restaurant industry for over 15 years, maybe, or almost half of my life,” he says, “And myself. I was born in Georgia […] but I moved to Spain when I was very young. So I’ve kind of spent half of my life in Spain. I was more familiar with the Spanish cuisine rather than other European cuisines as well. So that’s how it [the idea] was born.”
Hospitality has integrated into his life on a deep level. He speaks more than five languages, allowing him to naturally and effectively communicate and build relationships with guests.
On the other side of the partnership is Antoni Bernabeu, an accomplished chef who has been in the F&B scene for over 10 years. His personal story started in Valencia, Spain. “My grandpa, he had a restaurant – like a roadside restaurant. So I spent my childhood there. Annoying them, you know, in the beginning, they didn’t want me there. So I was always like running around, making a mess. Then it grew, the passion grew,” Chef Bernabeu explains.
They eventually sold the restaurant, funding Chef Bernabeu’s studies in culinary school. Throughout his years, he has worked in renowned restaurants all over the world, touching Michelin restaurants, first-class onboard kitchens and private kitchens.
Together the men have a synergy that encompasses Basin’s mission. “We treat [the guests] like one of us, you know? It’s like the same respect that we put into our staff and the staff put into us. We do the same for our guests, because we know it works and we know they will return,” says Chef Bernabeu. “It was clear that the hospitality was number one. Food, we had confidence in us. We knew we were going to be, not the best, but we were going to be up to the expectations.”
Chef Antoni carries on with passion for his work. “What we need in Hong Kong is more hospitality, more human touch in service. That feeling, that connection. That’s where you start making relationships.”
Bernabeu and Kirakozov pour heart and soul into their business, allowing them to organically reap what they sow.
Recalling our experience at Basin not too long ago, it really was a glorious combination of hospitality and food. Kirakozov shares his time equally among the tables, entertaining clients, taking orders and explaining the intricacies of each dish. While Chef Bernabeu bustles in the vast, immaculate kitchen, not only creating delicacies but also showing customers the power behind each seemingly effortless dish.
The degustation began with a spectacle of Caesar salad prepared by a friendly, charming member of the staff. He first combines fresh egg yolk, Dijon mustard and homemade vinaigrette. He then adds anchovies, capers and a sprinkle of parmesan. All come together into an emulsion before adding in the leaves. The light and tasty salad is paired with a Seifried Nelson 2016 Chardonnay. The wine’s balanced acidity clashes beautifully with the smooth and spicy sauce of the Caesar salad.
This is followed by an Akami Crudo (raw akami), smoked eggplant and truffle zucchini flowers. Each is beautifully presented, delighting the senses with a range of tastes and textures. The truffle zucchini flowers boast a dollop of goat cheese infused with walnuts and truffle, dipped in a batter and deep fried within the flower itself. This leaves the zucchini itself batterless and fresh flavored.
Black Angus tagliata is presented as a main, with a side of pesto and potato mille-feuille. We cut into the beautiful smokey grilled beef with a sanguine interior. Coupled with that was a finely selected Altozano tempranillo from 2020 – its deep purple color matching melodiously with the beef jus. Its notes of tobacco and chocolate are soft on the palate, not obstructing the smokiness of the finely sliced tagliata.
For dessert, our senses are once again treated with two beautifully prepared dishes. First, a divinely fine chocolate mouse is served, where subtle flavors of hazelnut are intensified by hints of sea salt. Accompanying that are fresh roasted Romea peaches topped with a fresh dollop of mascarpone and a drizzle of honey and pistachios. The warm fruits clash with the coolness of the slowly melting mascarpone to bring a delightfully sweet jolt of the senses.
The creation of a dish
The Mediterranean diet consists mainly of plant-based foods such as whole grains, vegetables, seeds, nuts, fresh legumes and fruits, coupled with smaller portions of light, lean meats. Studies have shown that the diet effectively reduces cardiovascular diseases significantly compared to other regional cuisines. So not only is the food at Basin pleasing to the senses, but it’s also a delightfully healthy option.
When asked how he creates the dishes, Chef Bernabeu says: “First you have an idea of the ingredient you want to use or the actual main ingredient, and then you start building around … But for me, everything starts with a good produce. You cannot have a good result without good produce. I give very much importance to the farmer or the people who brought me that produce so that I am able to cook.”
Coming from a background of farmers, Chef Bernabeu can easily identify good quality ingredients to use in his dishes. “For me, what I learned from my from my family’s background in cooking is that time is essential. You cannot rush things, and everything needs time. And everything has a reason behind it. So yeah, patience,” he says of his cooking process.
“We use, like we call it in Spain, cuisine of produce. You try not to play around with that produce that the farmer or the fisherman has brought to you. So with this, we just try to respect the producer as much as possible. And try not to alternate too much [with] flavors or play around, hide it [with] different techniques like other restaurants.”
You can find Basin in the dining hub Fofo on Cochrane Street in Central. A high-end, trendy restaurant bringing genuine hospitality and great food to guests, this Mediterranean hotspot isn’t to be missed.