Hong Kong is a place Renée called home for 15 years. It is a city that never sleeps, where people hustle from one destination to another, where things are happening every second. Although once a local, she often feels like a visitor in a foreign land whenever she goes back. Some of the childhood memories are still there, but many have transformed into something else. In this Departing To post she will share with you her travel diaries, and her take on the city from a visitor and ex-local point of view.
After moving back to North America, there was a time when visiting Hong Kong was the last thing on my mind. But as friends who relocated back started to get married, I found myself going back for the past 4 years. Things that bothered me are still there – the crowdedness, the pollution, and the humidity. But things that I love are also still there – the concrete jungle, the liveliness, and the lingering colonial influence. Hong Kong was once a colony of Britain, and it is a great city to witness the beautiful melt of Eastern and Western cultures. Although it is now part of China, that colonial influence is still evident in every day life. It is interesting to take in the city you once called home through the lens of a visitor, discover new hit spots in town, and revisit old establishments that you used to frequent.
I usually go back during Christmas/ New Year’s time. It has its pros and cons. Hong Kong is one of the best cities to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s. Plus the weather is nice 95% of the time and you don’t have to deal with the heat and humidity. However, the city is extremely crowded as many come home to visit friends and families, on top of the tourists flooding the streets. Plane tickets and hotel prices are through the roof if you don’t book in advance.
If you don’t care for Christmas/ New Year’s, but still want to avoid the nasty humidity, mid October to November, and January to April are still relatively good months to visit. You can even experience the Chinese New Year atmosphere if you visit during January and February.
One of the annoying things when traveling is the super expensive, lack of, or super slow data. Well, in Hong Kong you can buy phone cards and data for a pretty low price. There are many companies to choose from. I usually get mine from CSL. You only have to pay $200 HKD (~$25 USD) for a phone card with a week’s worth of data. Most malls also have free wifi so make sure to check wherever you are!
What you see on the price tag is what you pay. Simple.
Don’t need to worry about language barrier, most locals understand and speak English. Plus there are so many expats in Hong Kong, it would be a problem if they couldn’t communicate with the locals.
Wherever you are, especially during rush hour, try to keep up with the pace. If you are lost, or want to stroll, move to the side and try not to get in others’ ways. People think New Yorkers walk fast, the pace is even faster in Hong Kong. Yes, you are on vacation and you want to enjoy your time, but you also need to respect the local way of life. A grumpy old lady who is on a mission may literally shove you to the side if you keep standing in the middle of the street, blocking everyone’s path!
Unlike North America, you do not need to tip in Hong Kong, be it at restaurants or taxis. Pretty amazing right? Instead of worrying about whether it’s 10% or 20%, people usually just leave the random cents behind.
Like New York, everyone jaywalks. But keep your eyes out for policemen as you do get a ticket if they catch you! If you were to jaywalk, make sure the road is absolutely clear, cars really don’t stop for pedestrians even when clearly you are in their line of sight. Pedestrians have the right of way? Not in Hong Kong.
Just because it is tropical climate does not mean you can get away with just T-shirts and shorts. If you are visiting during Spring/Summer/Fall, still bring light layers with you to carry around, like a shawl or cardigan, as they BLAST the AC everywhere. It is very easy to get sick from the temperature change going in and out of malls and restaurants. If you are visiting during Winter, definitely bring warm jackets and scarves, even a coat, as it does get cold! It feels a lot colder than it looks on the paper due to the humidity, plus most places do not have heat. The last thing you want is to get sick while traveling, which somehow I always do when I’m in Hong Kong…
Always have one or two packets of tissues with you anywhere you go. Many local cafés do not supply paper towels when you dine in so you have to bring your own. Also, if you are visiting in Summer, you can easily use up a pack a day just from wiping those sweats off your face and neck from the grueling heat and humidity.
Although a metropolitan city, Hong Kong is one of the safest cities in the world, both day and night, even for solo females. There were times when I walked home after midnight and I still felt completely safe. Of course use your common sense when you travel, but overall you shouldn’t worry too much about your safety in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong has one of the most advanced transportation network, and there are many ways to get around the city. Regardless of when you visit and your main means of transportation, one of the first things you should do is to purchase an Octopus card. You can buy them at any MTR stations.
Taking the MTR is the most convenient and quickest way to get around. Hong Kong prides itself with one of the cleanest, most well maintained, and most efficient subway systems. There are multiple lines to help you get across Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, New Territories, the airport, even to the Chinese border. The map may be a bit confusing at first but it is very easy to understand. Try to prevent taking the MTR during rush hours, unless you want to experience something like this.
Ah, the famous London double decker bus, yes you will see them everywhere in Hong Kong. There are so many routes to so many places, we usually take the double decker bus when we don’t want to deal with the MTR crowds, or when the destination isn’t reachable by subway. It is always nice to sit on the top level and people watch from the bus.
Mostly taken by locals, minibuses are sort of like buses but they go a lot faster. Plus it only seats 16 people so it won’t stop for new passengers when it’s full. You better really know where you are going and shout when your destination is coming up, or it may just fly by it…
You know how New York is full of yellow cabs on the streets? Hong Kong is full of red cabs. Cabbies are aggressive so if you want to get from point A to point B quick and don’t want to hike up and down the MTR stations, taxi is your best bet. Hop in and get ready for a crazy taxi ride! Make sure you have cash handy as they don’t accept Octopus cards.
This is one of my favorites; it is so old school and such a landmark (that moves)! Trams, or the more affectionate name “Ding Ding” as it makes a ding ding sound, have been around since 1904, and it is the cheapest way to get around Hong Kong’s Northern corridor. It has its cons – it is slow, it only services one section of HK Island, and it does get packed like a sardine can during busy hours. But when you aren’t in a rush, it is a fun experience.
This is such a typical touristy thing to do, but a must. Even locals go up there once in a while for a stroll along the mountain. There is no better place to take in the Hong Kong skyline than up on the Peak. Tourists usually take the tram up, which is interesting but overhyped, plus the line can be ridiculous. I recommend you take a double decker bus up the windy roads, which is scary at times as the roads in general are super narrow. But it is cheap, and you will have a seat guaranteed. Moreover, you get to see some pretty nice condos as the area surrounding the Peak is mostly residential of the mighty rich. When you are up there, grab a bite at The Peak Lookout, instead of the restaurants in the newer buildings. It looks like a little house from the outside, with the cutest outdoor area. The restaurant has been there forever, so if you want colonial ambience, this is the perfect place.
Soho, which is located in Central/ Sheung Wan, is an area full of old and new independent shops, restaurants, and cafes. It is also home to many art galleries and antique shops. Grab a bowl of beef brisket noodle soup at the famous Kau Kee, then pop your head into one of the modern boutiques. You can easily spend an afternoon just wandering the streets. It is a nice little escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. You will still see people on the streets, don’t get me wrong, but at least you won’t have to battle your way through. One of the easiest ways to get there is taking the Central-Mid-Levels escalator. There are multiple points to get off, but I like to take it all the way to the top and work my way back down.
The Victoria Harbor is one of the many iconic landmarks of Hong Kong, and if you have money to spare, there’s no better way to admire the coastline than chartering your own boat. You can rent Junks if you want a more nostalgic feel, or a yacht if you want something clean and modern. As long as you have the money, the options are endless. Money really does make the world go around in Hong Kong.
If you have limited time in the city or don’t want to spend money on chartering your own boat, you can still enjoy the coastline by easily hopping onto a Star Ferry. The Star Ferry has been around forever, and transports passengers between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. It is dirt cheap, only around $3 HKD (less than 40 cents USD)! When we aren’t rushing somewhere, and have a little bit of time to spare, we take the Star Ferry across the harbor. The view is the best at night, or during sunset.
They don’t call Hong Kong the shopping mecca of the East without a reason. You can literally buy ANYTHING in this tiny city, and there is a mall on almost every block. Needless to say, people in Hong Kong love to shop. From high end to low end, there is something for everyone.
You will see Louis Vuitton and Chanel stores everywhere. To give you an idea, there are 2 standalone Chanel stores in Los Angeles, whereas in HK there are SEVEN! And LA is 16 times bigger than HK. The 1% of Hong Kong is filthy rich, and they do not bat an eyelash when dropping $$$. If you want designer brands, Hong Kong will not disappoint. The city has pretty much every designer brand you can think of, and they are littered all over Central. Canton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui is another good option, lined with ginormous flagship stores. Prefer department store? Head to Lane Crawford, which is equivalent to Saks/ Barney’s. If you want to stay indoor, below include some of my favorites.
Aside from designer brands, many contemporary brands are setting shops in Hong Kong. However the prices are much higher than the US as they position themselves as premium brands in Asia. What you should check out are the local boutiques. You will find many of them in Causeway Bay and Wanchai. You may feel like a giant when you shop in HK as the sizes are tiny. If you are a XS or S in the US, you are probably an M or L in HK. Just be emotionally prepared. Also, many do not allow try-ons and returns, so be 100% sure it fits before buying!
Of course, in true tourist fashion, if you want to buy souvenirs or experience the local street market, head to the Ladies’ Market (Tung Choi Street), which is located in Mongkok, Kowloon. I go there when I want to buy souvenirs as you can find interesting trinkets in bulk without breaking the bank. There are many street markets all over Hong Kong, but the one in Mongkok is definitely the biggest and most well known. Remember to haggle! If you don’t get the price you want, pretend to walk away, that’s when they usually go “ahh ok fine fine fine!”
Hong Kong is known for its very skilled tailors, and there is a place for every budget. Many celebrities and politicians such as Bill Clinton have had their suits made in Hong Kong. My husband usually gets new ones made every time he visits. Nothing fits better than a tailor-made suit and shirt. You get to pick the fabric, the buttons, the collars, basically everything. It does get overwhelming so it is important to have an idea on what you want. My hubby’s go-to is Jantzen Tailor in Central. You can find tailor shops all over town, so be sure to shop around first and make sure you feel comfortable before making your decision. Your hotel can usually recommend several reputable ones in the area.
Hong Kong has a buzzing night scene, and in the center of it is Lan Kwai Fong, located in Central. It is a small square of streets full of bars, lounges, and clubs. You will find many expats and returnees hanging out there at night. Drinks are on the pricier side, but you cannot visit Hong Kong without experiencing the night scene in LKF. It is also a popular area for New Year’s Eve countdowns. Some clubs don’t close till 6 in the morning, depending on the crowd and the night, so if you want to party all night long, it is not a problem in Hong Kong! For a complete night life experience, hit up Tsui Wah for a late night snack to satisfy that after alcohol food craving. It is “the” go to spot for many after a night of rendezvous, so be ready for the crowd and the non-existing service!
Karaoke is a big business in Asia. It is a social gathering activity. A typical night in Hong Kong may include hitting up a bar then heading over to a karaoke place where the drinking continues. It is also a popular afternoon activity when you want to escape from the grueling heat and humidity. All karaoke places have private rooms with serious high tech machines, some rooms even come with their own bathrooms. If you have an hour or two to spare, feel free to experience this popular local activity! Neway is the biggest karaoke chain in town.
As mentioned in the Getting Around section, trams have been around for a really long time. It runs along the northern corridor of Hong Kong Island, from Shau Kei Wan to Kennedy Town. One of my dad’s favorite things to do when we have nothing on our schedule is to hop on a double decker tram during slow time, grab a seat on the second level, and take a tram ride from start to finish. It is a relaxing experience, and you get to see different neighborhoods and observe the daily lives of locals. For the full ride you only have to pay $2.30 HKD, which is 30 cents USD, probably one of the cheapest activities if you time to spend! If you want a true tourist experience, book a TramOramic Tour, which includes vocal guides on board.
Most tourists focus on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon when visiting, as that’s what Hong Kong is known for, the city life. But there is another side where it’s full of greenery and suburban life, where life moves in a slower pace. Lantau Island is the biggest outlying island, it is also where the Big Buddha is. If you want to experience what Hong Kong used to be when it was a fishing village, head to Lamma Island and Cheung Chau. For true rural life, Peng Chau is full of rusticness. If you don’t want to trek all the way to the islands, New Territories offers many options to be closer to nature. Sai Kung is a nice area to relax and explore. The village is quite charming, and many come here for the fresh seafood.
Hong Kong is a food mecca, there are so many options it’s hard to decide sometimes! From breakfast to late night snacks, there is a place for everyone. It is very hard to recommend the best places as there are way too many and everyone has his or her go-to places. So I will share eateries I frequent every time I am in town.
When I’m in Hong Kong I try to go to as many local eateries as possible. Like designer brands, many world-renowned chefs have restaurants in Hong Kong. But I’d rather eat things I can’t have in the States, than going to a Joel Robuchon restaurant when I can find one in the US.
If you like to explore, download the Open Rice app on your phone. It is equivalent to Yelp. HK does have Yelp but it’s relatively new, so there aren’t too many reviews and pictures for you to browse through.
Most Hong Kong eateries operate similar to the US, but when you want to eat local, you will often find yourself hitting up a local café, or “cha chaan teng”. These local cafés operate on a different set of unspoken rules, so make sure you keep the below in mind when dining in one.
- Make up your mind quickly – Do not take forever to decide what to eat. Time is precious in HK, especially during breakfast and lunch time, everyone is in a hurry. You literally have 30 seconds to decide what you want or you will have an extremely annoyed server.
- Eat Fast – You don’t really have the luxury to chit chat and sip on your tea while you nibble on your food. Again, failure to follow this rule will lead to a very annoyed server and stares from waiting patrons.
- Pay the Bill when You are Done – Many Americans like to sit for another 30 minutes when they are done with their meals. Sorry, doesn’t work that way in Hong Kong. When you are done, grab the bill (which is usually already on your table), pay, and leave. If you don’t leave, your server may literally ask you to leave, ie. “Are you done?”
- Share the Table – Many local cafes have patrons share a table. If you are a party of two and there is only a 4-person table available, they will most likely seat you with another party of two. It is a bit weird but it’s the norm, plus most eat lightening fast so you don’t have time to worry about strangers seeing your eating face.
- Pay at the Front – You will see a little stand at the door in most local cafes, that’s where you bring your bill to and pay. Usually the servers don’t handle the bill as it takes away too much time walking back and forth. Again, it is all about efficiency friends.
- People Waiting at Your Table – Don’t be alarmed if you see someone just standing next to you waiting for you to finish your food so they can take your seat. This isn’t as common but still exist in very old school places. So much pressure to finish your food like NOW!
You really cannot go wrong with any of the Hong Kong-style cafés all over town. I literally look forward to breakfast every morning! And honestly, the more run-down it looks, the better the food tastes. Services aren’t the best, but you don’t go for service, you go for the yummy breakfast! A typical HK style breakfast consists of eggs of some sort, a piece of toast with condensed milk spread on top, a bowl of macaroni or rice vermicelli soup, or a bowl of instant noodles with satay beef. And you always order a cup of Hong Kong Style Milk Tea/ Coffee/ or Yin Yeung (mix of milk tea and coffee) to go with your breakfast. Trust me, you will not have milk tea any other way after you have it the HK way.
AUSTRALIA DAIRY COMPANY
I usually come here mid-day to avoid the breakfast rush, as the line gets quit long. But the food is more “breakfast” food. Australia Dairy Company is located in Prince Edward, Kowloon. It serves the world’s best scrambled eggs!!!! This place is a must go whenever I’m in Hong Kong, I crave for their scrambled eggs day and night. It is so smooth and creamy, I can have it every day. There’s probably a crap load of cream and butter in it, but I really don’t care. A bite of scrambled egg and a bite of toast, add in a sip of Hong Kong milk tea, heavenly… Their milk custard is also really good, but it is their scrambled eggs that have my heart.
TIM HO WAN
This is the world’s cheapest Michelin-stared restaurant. Honestly, I don’t understand what the hype is all about; most of the dim sum restaurants in Vancouver serve much tastier dishes than Tim Ho Wan. But there is one right across the street from my in-law’s place, so it is a no brainer when we need to grab a quick bite. I only go on weekdays though, as the wait on weekends is ridiculous. But as a tourist, it is a cool thing to tell people you dined at a Michelin-starred restaurant and only paid $15 USD.
Having lived in the States for so many years, I really am not a big fan of the crowdedness of some of the HK eateries. I’m on vacation, let me relax and enjoy my meal! Heichinrou is one of my favorite places for dim sum. They have several locations but I always go to the one in Times Square, Causeway Bay. The décor is modern and clean, the ambience is relaxing, and the seating is comfortable. Plus the food is always yummy!
A good friend of ours took us to Sushi Shin for lunch on our last trip, and it definitely was foodgasm on point! Located in Tai Hang, which used to be a residential neighborhood with unassuming eateries, it is now home to many quality restaurants and cafés, and Sushi Shin is one of them. The quality of the fish is superb, and every piece literally melts in your mouth. Come here for lunch as the price is much more reasonable. Dinner can cost you an arm and a leg. Remember to make reservations!
There are many popular ramen places in Hong Kong, but most of them require lining up, and I hate waiting when I need food. GOGYO doesn’t have the hype that comes with many ramen restaurants, but it is still delicious. Located in IFC Mall in Central, the décor is chic and minimalistic. The ramen soup base is very rich but super umami. It is pricier than most places due to the location, but the quality of service and ambience is worth the extra money. I came here with Molly and our friend when they were in Hong Kong for my wedding, they loved it so much they went again the day after by themselves! Avoid coming here on weekday during lunchtime though, as it is packed with bankers on lunch break.
ROASTED GOOSE – YUE KEE & YUNG KEE
One of the things that’s hard to get in North America is roasted goose. There are many places that serve roasted goose, but not all are created equal. One of my favorites is Yue Kee, which I used to go quite often with my parents when I lived in HK. The original store is quite a trek to get to, all the way in Sham Tseng, New Territory. But it brings back so many memories, plus eating there is an experience itself. Yung Kee is another favorite, and it is much closer to civilization, located in Central. It is one of the oldest food establishments in Hong Kong, and is on the pricier side of the spectrum, but still deserves a visit! My favorite is a plate of roasted goose with a brothy bowl of thick rice noodle (lai fun), so yum!
FISH BAR AND GRILL AT JW MARRIOTT
JW Marriott has a special place in my heart as it is where we had our wedding banquet in Hong Kong. The hotel is located on top of my favorite mall, Pacific Place. Fish Bar is located on the outdoor pool level, and on a sunny day or night, the view of the city mixed with the mountains is quite amazing.
BEIDOUWENG HOT POT CUISINE
Since it is always winter and chilly every time I go back, nothing warms me up than a good hot pot. I don’t have hot pot much and by no means is a hot pot connoisseur, but Beidouweng tastes good to me and have comfortable seating. My in-laws always come here when they want hot pot, and they are serious foodies. With several locations, the one located in Lee Theatre Plaza, Causeway Bay is the one we go to. The restaurant serves your typical hot pot fan fare plus sashimi if you are in the mood for some!
My in-laws love teppanyaki, it is almost guaranteed there will be at least one meal of teppanyaki every time we visit. They had taken us to several places throughout the years, and The Teppanroom at Grand Hyatt Hotel definitely left the best impression. If you haven’t had teppanyaki before, it is a Japanese cuisine where chefs cook the course of meal in front of you on a giant grill. What I love about The Teppanroom is the creative presentation, the high quality food, and that they cook the dessert in front of you! Usually the dessert course just appears out of nowhere from a hidden kitchen, but not at The Teppanroom.
GIANDO ITALIAN RESTAURANT & BAR
My friends in Hong Kong love to eat, and it is no surprise they befriended a chef or two. I was in Hong Kong for my birthday one year and we celebrated at Giando, opened by chef Giandomenico (Gianni) Caprioli. I honestly do not remember what food we ate as I was super jet lagged, having landed that morning, but it was delicious for sure. I do remember the amazing ambience of the location, basically no man’s land near the convention center. You look out the window and all you see is the Victoria Harbor. The restaurant has since relocated to be a much more convenient location near Pacific Place, but the previous location still exists and serves casual Italian cuisine. Chef Gianni also owns several eateries in town including EAT.it and Fishsteria. If you want yummy pasta and authentic Italian food, make sure to head to one of his restaurants!
When I’m in Hong Kong, most of my appetite is dedicated to the never-ending options of local snacks and desserts. There are so many yummy things to snack on all day, I almost don’t need a proper lunch or dinner! Here are my absolute favorites, and I make sure to pay my visits every time I’m in town.
HONH KONG EGG PUFFS
Some people compare it to waffles, but egg puffs are a trillion times better! Egg puffs are like bubble waffles, you tear each puff off the waffle, the outside is crispy but the inside is light, airy, and chewy. There is no word to describe the feeling of eating a perfectly made egg puff. You can find egg puff pretty much everywhere in Hong Kong, and shops are getting more creative mixing in chocolate chips or taro pieces to make theirs stand out from others. I prefer the original flavor. The most famous egg puff place is Lee Keung Kee North Point Egg Waffles, and there is always a line outside that tiny window where they take your order.
Speaking of egg puffs, Oddies is a relatively new dessert place that combines egg puffs with soft serve. GENIUS! Its most ridiculous and Instagram-worthy creation is called Night Wolf, and here is the description: Italian low fat soft gelato twisted with 66% dark chocolate served with buttery crumbles, caramelized banana ice cream, passion fruit panna cotta, brownie and chocolate chips eggettes and crunchy flakes. You are probably like WHAAAT?! Oh yes, it will blow your mind.
This just brings back so many childhood memories. Once in a while you will see an old man or lady stirring chestnuts in a giant wok, roasting them to perfection with that amazing aroma in the air. You can smell it from a block away and cannot miss it! They are difficult to find on the street these days, so whenever I see one, I HAVE to buy a bag. It’s a pain to eat as you have to peel the shell off one by one, but it’s so well worth it when you get to that sweet nugget inside with the hint of smokiness.
CONG SAO STAR DESSERT
My foodie friends are obsessed with this place, which I only heard of the last time I went back. All I heard was Cong Sao! I want Cong Sao! I was like what is this Cong Sao place?! So they finally took me, and man do they serve a good bowl of dessert! Typical Hong Kong desserts come in liquid form. Foreigners may find them weird, but they are so good, trust me! Cong Sao serves traditional desserts with a twist, incorporating many fresh fruits to make you feel a little less guilty when indulging in a bowl of mango sago pomelo. There is always a line at all of their locations, but one of the perks of being a visitor is going during down time when most are at work. Sometimes you get the whole place to yourself and can just chit chat and spend the afternoon away with friends!
YEE SHUN DAIRY COMPANY
When I want a bowl of warm steamed milk custard, I go to Yee Shun in Causeway Bay. My favorite is the one with ginger juice, which gives it a little bit of a kick. There are different options, and you can get them cold or hot. The staff is friendlier than the ones at Australia Dairy Company, plus I don’t need to trek all the way to Kowloon to satisfy my steamed milk custard craving!
HONG LIN RESTAURANT
Another famous Hong Kong snack is pineapple bun with a slab of butter in it, called “bor law yau”. Hong Lin is one of the well-known places that serve this delicacy. The trick is to wait for the fresh baked buns. So don’t order the second you sit down, start with drinks first. When you see the pineapple buns being carried out from the kitchen, tell the server you want one of the fresh buns with butter. It is so fattening but so good. I usually have half of it as it is too filling, and the hubby is always more than glad to finish my other half. Hong Lin also makes really good egg tarts. Authentic freshly baked egg tarts are nothing like the ones in America. The custard is so tender I sometimes just scoop it out and eat it like a milk custard!
One of the British traditions that’s still being embraced by the city is afternoon tea. Most go to nice hotels for afternoon tea, but if you want a boutique café ambience with amazing views, head to Sevva in Central. Sevva is located on the top floor of Prince’s Building. Take the elevator straight up to the 25th floor, and the second you step out you will see some of most amazing décor. Sevva is known for their cakes and pastries, and of course the amazing view of Central from the wrapped around balcony. Make sure you make reservations in advance as it is quite popular. Dress nice and people watch.
Boutique coffee and tea houses are becoming quite popular in Hong Kong, and Teakha is one of the few pioneers. Both their locations in Sheung Wan and HKU are sort of hidden, and make you forget about the craziness of city life. You really cannot go wrong with anything on the menu, it is a little piece of oasis for a bit of r&r before stepping back into crazy town.
When it comes to macarons, most people think of Ladurée. Personally it is too sweet for me. My favorite macaron place is Pierre Hermé. Since they don’t have a shop in the US, I splurge on them when I’m in Hong Kong. And lucky me as one of my best friends work there, I always get the insider scoops on the best flavors and newness. The flavors are more subtle than Ladurée but super creative. Even French Vogue dubbed him “The Picasso of Pastry”.
People in Hong Kong love drinking. My friends in Hong Kong are snobs when it comes to alcohol, so I trust that wherever they go, it has got to be good. There is always a new favorite every time I’m in town, but there are a few places I do notice them going back to again and again.
It is a tiny little Japanese bar/restaurant in Tsim Sha Tsui near K11 mall, and they recently opened one in Central. Everyone knows Japanese are all about attention to detail, and Butler is the epitome of that. They use the freshest ingredients and seasonal fruits in all their drinks. All you need to do is tell your server your drink preferences (vodka/whiskey etc., light/strong, sweet/spicy) and fruit of your choice, and the mixologist will magically come up with the perfect concoction. They are very serious about their craft, and it is hard to not take them seriously when a drink is that delicious. The food is also unbelievably amazing, so make sure to book a table for some serious foodgasm!
8½ OTTO E MEZZO BOMBANA
8½ Bombana is an Italian fine dining restaurant located in Alexandra House in Central. I’ve never dined there as it is super expensive, as it is the only Italian restaurant outside of Italy awarded three Michelin stars. I have been to the bar, however, which has its own heavyweight mixologist Giancarlo Mancino. The drinks do not come cheap so be prepared, but they do have some very creative cocktails on the menu, and makes one of the best Old Fashioned. So if you want a three Michelin-star cocktail experience without paying the full Michelin price, this place is perfect for you.
The Pawn used to be a pawnshop, and is located in one of Hong Kong’s iconic landmark. It is a full service restaurant, and we mostly come here at night for drinks. The entrance is unassuming and easy to miss, but once you go up the stairs it is almost like you are transported back in time. The décor is amazing, a mix of old and new. If you are lucky enough to grab a table in the balcony, you can enjoy your drink and company while admiring the street view. It is located in Wan Chai so the vibe is more chill than the craziness of LKF.
I mentioned Sevva for afternoon tea and desserts, but it is also a great place for grabbing drinks. If the weather allows, it is always nice to grab one of the tables in the balcony.
When we want to grab drinks with friends and can’t think of where to go, we always default to Armani/Privé. It is an outdoor lounge located in Chater House in Central, and there is almost always a table available for walk-ins. Plus the crowd isn’t rowdy, perfect for a chat and catching up with friends. There is nothing better than enjoying you cocktail or wine and staring out into the city at night. Weirdly relaxing.
This is one of my friends’ favorite lounges. Stockton is a hidden whiskey bar on Wyndham Street in LKF. When you get to the address you may second-guess and wonder if you are at the right place – don’t worry, you are. Just keep walking down that long black corridor and you will eventually find the door. Once you step in it is like another world. The décor is old world glamor, and you are expected to behave like true ladies and gentlemen here. The whole place just oozes coolness. It is super dark inside so you use the candle or your iPhone flashlight to help you read the menu, but everything is delicious and you really cannot go wrong with any of the drinks.
CAFÉ GREY BAR AT UPPER HOUSE
Upper House is a boutique hotel located atop Pacific Place, and in it is a bar with one of the best views in town. Café Grey Bar is located on the 49th floor of the hotel, needless the say, the view of the city is pretty awesome. It is really a great place to catch up with friends or show off the city to out of towners.
I am probably leaving out a lot of things to do and places to eat, but at the same time this diary is turning into a book! It is amazing how much there is to do and eat in this tiny little city called Hong Kong. So next time when you find yourself in my motherland, definitely hit up one of the spots above. It is an amazing city full of life and fun, and should be a bucket list destination for everyone!