made use of the accidental morning off work by reserving a last-minute lunch spot at soland, a rare treat as it's in central and only opens from 12 pm to 3 pm on weekdays.
after the trek up the dingy, suspicious-looking stairwell (see photos), i was transported to a different world upon stepping into soland. gregorian chants were playing in the background, while diners were either enjoying their solitude or having a quiet chat with their companions. the only conspicuous noise throughout my time there was the occasional whizzing of the blender in the kitchen.
tables are arranged into four areas from which you choose a seat you're comfortable in. while you'll probably have to share a table, unlike in cha chaan tengs, it doesn't feel like you're being squeezed in to maximise real estate space or pressured to finish your meal to make room for the next diner.
soup was presented soon after i sat down, and it was delicious. i could tell it had been made from scratch.
mains are fixed, with the only option being two choices of sauce, which the lady serving will ask you in chinese. today it was either "see gua" (she couldn't tell me what it was in english; with my limited cantonese i'm guessing it's some kind of gourd?) or tomato. i opted for the "see gua" sauce, though i noticed most others going for tomato.
the dish is definitely diffferent from the mainstream, and is what i would describe as "guinea pig" food (ignoring the rice and the fact that it's cooked) - a wholesome mound of raw and cooked veggies. while i can imagine it raising skeptical eyebrows and looking/tasting bland to those with more salty palates, i enjoyed it and slurped up everything on the plate.
i added on a smoothie fruit shake with flax seed, which wasn't as thick as i'd liked it to have been, but still palatable (i could taste the strawberry/banana).
the three-course meal came up to hkd55 (hkd50 if it's just mains and soup). if you like the food here and intend to visit regularly, you can buy a set of coupons at a discounted price.
some things i found interesting were that the food wasn't hot and that, according to their reading material, besides the "five pungent plants" that buddhists avoid, no mushrooms are used - is that supposed to be healthier or is it for other reasons?
if you're booking at the last minute, call rather than whatsapp them between 10 am to 2 pm.
i'd be a regular here if i worked in central.
Cons: limited operating hours