Home to Hong Kong’s most famous nightlife, Wan Chai also boasts some of its best culinary finds. Whether you are in the mood for a casual drink after work, a sit down lunch or a delicious dinner, Wan Chai offers something for every occasion. We’ve narrowed down a list of some of our favourite restaurants and bars for you to check out!
Ship Street, starting on Johnston Road and crossing Queen’s Road East, has no shortage of diverse spots for drinking and dining. It’s been made famous by the tapas restaurant 22 Ships, which features some of Hong Kong’s most innovative and delicious tapas. From the same stable of restaurants (that also includes 208 Duecento Otto and Duddell’s), is Ham and Sherry. With celebrity chef Jason Atherton at the helm, Ham and Sherry, as its name suggests, serves 50 delicious sherries, classic tapas with a twist and aged hams from around Spain.
After exiting Ham and Sherry, look for a hidden door located in the adjacent alleyway for some fabulous cocktails in their ‘moody yet buzzy’ speakeasy, Back Bar. It’s also great for late night bites and who doesn’t love the thrill of finding a secret door with plenty of booze behind it?
Mr Brown, a recent addition to Ship Street, gets its name from the southern slang for the dark, smoky outside part of barbecued pork shoulder – that should give you an idea of what kind of place this is. Expect choice cuts of meat and fresh fish expertly smoked, roasted and grilled. Sides aren’t too shabby either, like baked potatoes covered with confit garlic, dill and sour cream. The charred theme carries over to dessert, with burnt cheesecake, or smoked and grilled fruit served with buttermilk cream.
On the upper side of Ship street, Three Blind Mice is a good bet for casual, filling food in an equally casual atmosphere. We especially like the themed nights when we get a hankering for a Beef Wellington (every Wednesday from 5pm until close) and a traditional Sunday Roast (every Sunday from 12 pm until close). Come for a fun and festive Christmas dinner, when they do a free flow feast with all the things you miss from back home – roast turkey, cranberry sauce, sticky toffee pudding – plus 2.5 hours of unlimited booze.
‘Demon Chef’ Alvin Leung, whose Bo Innovation changed the local Chinese food scene, has also given us innovative Korean dining with Bib n Hops. With two Wan Chai locations, Ship Street and Brim 28, people come here for the much-talked about Seoul-style street food. The kimchi rice ball with bacon, seaweed and mozzarella goes well with a cold Hite, or pair some Iberico ham tater tots (deep-fried mung bean hash browns) with a ‘Labuyo’ cocktail – chili infused vodka, Korean mandarin juice, and cranberry juice. Obviously, there’s bibimbap on the menu, but it comes in some refreshingly new renditions like bulgogi beef and and soft shell crab.
In the same building as Bib n Hops’ Ship Street location, the Michelin star-winning Bo Innovation, home to Leung’s ‘extreme Chinese cuisine’, can be found. The food is exquisite, unusual and visually stunning. It’s a must try particularly for a special occasion.
Johnston Road is home to the first Le Pain Quotidien outlet in Asia, housed in The Avenue. They’re big on bread, and are well known for their tartines (Belgian open-faced sandwiches) that are fresh and filling and covered in wonderful ingredients like beetroot hummus or avocado and smoked salmon. Their extensive menu also contains hot dishes, salads and an entire section devoted to eggs. Oh and then there’s the bakery, boasting to-die-for continental pastries – you have to try the Belgian speculoos biscuit if you’ve never had one.
Not too far from Le Pain Quotidien is Ophelia on Lee Tung Avenue. The gorgeous bar and performance venue, which has a ‘no shorts, flip flops, collarless or sleeveless shirts’ policy, is not for the quick-pint-and-chicken-wing crowd. The decor is stunningly intricate, with a dominant peacock theme (including real peacock feathers), copper and stainless steel motifs, and lush seating for taking in the exotic cocktails.
Along Lee Tung Avenue, Djapa combines two completely different cultures, Brazilian and Japanese, and it works really well. Billed as ‘Hong Kong’s first Nipo-Brasileiro restaurant and Japanese whisky bar’, the food is focused on the freshness of Japanese cuisine with Brazilian flavours. The space is truly unique, not unlike an art gallery, with bold artwork by renowned artists from around the world. And if bright, colourful art doesn’t strike your fancy, than perhaps more than 300 types of exclusive Japanese whiskies, wines and sakes will.
Of course, a wander around the watering holes of Wan Chai would not be complete without a visit to Johnston Road stalwart The Pawn. Whether you just want a drink in a comfy leather chair, or are looking for an English-style boozy brunch then the Pawn has it all.
A street known for several of Hong Kong’s historical landmarks, Stone Nullah Lane is also home to some of our favourite local hot spots.
We’re a bit sad to see Stone Nullah Tavern leave the area, but in its place in the same spot is Fini’s, where we’ve had some great Italian when it was known as Linguini Fini (over in Central). They do the kind of New York-style pizza fired up in open oven that we love, and fresh pasta with homemade mozzarella. Bring the kids as there’s plenty of room – and good eats – to go around.
Samsen, is a casual affair of Thai street food brought to you by celebrated former Chachawan chef Adam Cliff and partner Bella Kong. It’s cosy (seats around 35), a bit noisy (lots of amiable chatter over loud slurping sounds), hard to get a seat at times (you’ll often see people queueing) but boy is it worth it. These will be some of the most tender, squishy noodles you’ve ever had and thankfully, the food comes to the table in record time.
Tai Lung Fung is still a local stand out. A throwback to Hong Kong’s cultural heritage, it mixes a laid-back local atmosphere and an interior reminiscent of Hong Kong in the 60s. It’s known for its long list of cocktails but also has a decent tap beer selection and light bites for snacking. Outside are some unfussy stools to park yourself on during the popular happy hour – best arrive early on the weekend as it gets packed inside and out.
Star Street Precinct is a charming area famed for its eclectic restaurants and burgeoning bar life.
A recent addition to the precinct, on Sun Street, is Roots, and we couldn’t wait to try it out as we were already fans of Stephanie Wong’s Hong Kong pop-ups. Wong left her nine-year banking career to be a chef, training in French cuisine, and now we can regularly enjoy her culinary gifts in Wan Chai. Plates are always beautifully presented with fresh ingredients delivering a novel take on homestyle Cantonese food.
Pici on St. Francis Yard, where pasta is freshly made daily by chef Andrea Viglione, is ideal for an inexpensive, satisfying lunch. This is no secret, so get there nice and early to score a table. Dinner is no exception, when diners come for the tagliolini with shaved black truffle and the ravioli, this variety stuffed with smoked salmon and mascarpone. Pretty much everything on the menu will make you happy, so wear loose trousers when you visit.
Nearby is the unassuming burger restaurant that likes to keep things local, Honbo. The veg that tops your patty is hydroponically grown nearby in Yuen Long, and their handcrafted potato milk buns are baked minutes away. Inside is small, with simple stools and tables, but the menu will instantly catch your eye. There’s the traditional patties (the beef is ground in-house daily), heaped with cheese, bacon, pickles, onions, depending on what you fancy, and vegans won’t be left out with an equally delicious vegan burger. But what sets them apart are the scallop and soft shell crab burgers, and the sweet potato fries, sliced nice and thick.
For those whose hearts yearn for Spanish tapas and a taste of Madrid, Plaza Mayor serves up bite-sized savories and full bodied vintages. The interior provides an authentic Spanish experience, with black and white tiled flooring and an open courtyard int he back. Pick up some cheeses or Iberico ham to take away, or a bottle from the good selection of wines.
Also on the Star Street Precinct, you will find Oolaa Petite offering very well-priced weekday set lunches, or why not just pop in for a coffee and cake pick-me-up?
Away from Oolaa Petite, Slim’s is the perfect place to have a relaxing evening with a selection of microbrews and ales. Tucked neatly into a narrow building beside the popular salon, NailMe, the New York diner-style setting creates an intimate atmosphere and allows you to watch as the chef prepares your food. It boasts some of Wan Chai’s best pub grub and the widest selection of beers in Hong Kong.
Down the street from Slim’s in a wee space along Wing Fung Street is Le Petit Saigon. It’s the ‘little brother’ to Le Garçon Saigon located next door, and there is no messing about when it comes to the menu: they serve banh mi thit. The delectable Vietnamese sandwich comes in four varieties – pork, chicken, fried tofu and pork meatball – and you can order potato gems and fries with spicy mayo to go along. But that’s it. Nice and simple, and utterly delicious, the soft baguettes are laden with cheese, fresh veg, chillies, mayonnaise and other good stuff.
With the popularity of the Star Street Precinct, it is no surprise that more and more restaurants are found hidden away in the most discreet places, particularly in the lesser known Moon Street.
The first of these tucked away treats is the Italian wine bar, Ciacoe. It features an impressive list of rare wines and free appetizers during happy hour and is a great destination for an after work drink or for a lazy Sunday afternoon relaxing with friends.
On a corner of Moon Street sits Ted’s Lookout, with its old cinema seats in front inviting you to have a sit down with what they do best – tacos and cocktails. They have fruity and strong concoctions to go with their fish, grilled tiger prawn, Mexican chorizo and, our favourite, beef carnitas tacos. Inside, the industrial decor of concrete and metal provides a laid-back ambience for nibbling on American-style bar eats, including some fully-loaded burgers.
We know there’s going to be some opposition to this opinion, as those who like their patties LIKE their patties, but The Butchers Club Burger serves probably the best burger in Hong Kong. We knew this within the first few bites. You will have to clamour for a seat during busy times at the small eatery on Landale Street, but it’s worth it. Even the chips alone stand out, fried to a perfect crisp in duck fat. Cans of Dr Pepper, A&W root beer and Cherry Coke to wash it all down are an added treat, or skip the fizz and go for a naughty shot of bourbon.
Amoy Street is a hidden gem lined with several great takeaway places, restaurants and bars. We were led there when we heard some of the best French-style rotisserie chicken this side of France is made at La Rotisserie. It is superb – succulent, moist and dripping with juices that trickle down to potatoes roasting in a pan below, making for some of the best roasted spuds we’ve ever tasted. It’s a good takeaway option (sadly there is no seating) for nights when you don’t feel like cooking for yourself, or an entire family.
Neighbours Tallore serves up takeaway artisan broths that are a far cry from your average tomato soup. Bringing a taste of Belgium to Hong Kong (tallore means “soup bowl” in Flemish), their rotating menu of soups of the day range from the familiar clam chowder to the more exotic Moroccan surf and turf stew. The soups come in three sizes and will fill you up with bread and toppings like grated cheese, and they also do lovely salads, baguettes and wraps.
The Roundhouse Chicken and Beer does fried chicken US southern-style, hand battered and served with hot biscuits drizzled with local honey. Corn on the cob and collard greens on the side add to the southern feel, and they have a decent selection of craft beer to help soak up the calories. With the loud music and laid-back vibe inside, this is definitely one for those nights when you want to kick back and forget the diet. Find more of Hong Kong’s best spots for craft beer in this post.
On the completely opposite end of the spectrum is the chic Mizunara: The Library. It’s not your typical Lockhart Road bar, that’s for sure, and they take their drinking seriously. From the moment you walk in you get the sense that you need a private membership to belong; you don’t, but they do require a $400 minimum spend per person and there is a smart dress code in place. Bartender/owner Masahiko Endo sets the classy mood with his impeccable white jacket and bow tie, serving up serious cocktails from a vast range of spirits on hand.
The Optimist is housed over three floors at 239 Hennessy Road, presenting a Northern Spanish experience miles away from Barcelona. The restaurant is Asador-inspired, with a focus on grilled prime cuts of meat, fresh fish and sharing dishes. Take your pick from daily steak or fish, sold by weight, and watch it prepared in front of you on traditional Asador-style grills. Get a Spanish-style gin and tonic at the street-level bar, perfect for checking out the Wan Chai scenery.
Up on the 30th floor of the same building housing The Optimist is Pirata for those wanting good, old-fashioned Italian cuisine. Nothing too fancy here, but all the pasta is made fresh and the dishes hit the spot. Chef Stefano Rossi serves up dishes he learned in his native Italy, including notable plates like pappardelle with beef cheek ragu. Weekend brunch at $298 per person (add $180 for free flow) offers an array of his other culinary talents, like “M.M.M. (My Mamma’s Meatballs)”, filling enough to be a dish on their own. Read our review of Pirata’s weekend brunch here.
Since we lost Krispy Kreme years ago (some of us have never gotten over it), we couldn’t keep our sweet teeth away from J.CO Donuts. They’ve already got some 300 outlets in Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines and Malaysia, and (so far) three in Hong Kong, the first location setting up shop on Hennessy Road. Thank goodness for that, as we can get a cheap sugar fix for $16 a pop of fresh, fluffy donuts (or go for gold and get six for $90, or a dozen for $158).
Last but not least, Queen’s Road East has always been a popular strip for foodies, housing bakeries, coffee shops and eateries for all palates. At Japanese favourite Jan Jan Kushikatsu, get your fill of meat, vegetable and fish skewers and other light bites in a casual setting. The deep-fried goodness pairs nicely with their Japanese beer selection, or sake if you fancy.
Fans of spicy Sichuanese food, who know there’s more to it than Kung Pao chicken, best get themselves to Deng G. Chef Deng Huadong, highly regarded in China for his authentic yet creative Sichuan dishes, brings his noted skills and style to 147 Queen’s Road East. The venue, with touches of bamboo throughout in a nod to its roots, also has a dedicated baijiu bar, where you can sample the potent Chinese grain alcohol mixed into fruity cocktail mixtures, to numb the pain.
Queen’s Road East now has a Mana! and it’s a big one compared to their Central and Sheung Wan locations. The zero food waste restaurant/café boasts 1,600 square feet of space to peacefully enjoy organic, plant-based food (their signature flatbreads and soups are very good), or just chill with a coffee. Food can be taken to go, in compostable and biodegradable packaging, and water is always unlimited so you can fill your portable bottle too.
Two fantastic Japanese restaurants doing their own thing over at The Oakhill on Wood Road are Kaiseki Den by Saotome and Sushi Masataka. Each is a prized experience, and you’ll be talking about the food for days afterwards. Kaiseki Den by Saotome – that would be Executive Chef Hiroyuki Saotome – is an exclusive one Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant specialising in kaiseki fare, the Kyoto tradition of enjoying multiple courses of haute cuisine. This is the pinnacle of fine dining, with intimate seating and impeccable plates. Every dish is meticulously prepared, like pieces of artwork that you almost feel bad devouring as they’re so beautiful. We recommend you savour the moment and put down the phone –don’t ruin it for yourself and other diners by going photo-happy.
Sushi Masataka is even more special, as, if you’re lucky, you will be among only eight other diners. Japanese Executive Chef Masataka Fujiwara brings his omakase-style menu to the ‘most prestigious sushi bar in town’. Omakase is the Japanese way of letting the chef choose your order, and you will watch him turn high quality ingredients from various parts of Japan, like Wakayama white sea cockles or fresh salmon with roe, into remarkable creations while perched behind a fragrant cypress wood counter. How will you sit at an average restaurant table ever again?
There’ll surely be dozens more to add to this list in the coming months, so we’ll keep you posted. And when you’ve had a chance to put down the fork and knife (or chopsticks), let us know of any we should add to the list.
Nancy Matos is a lifestyle and culture writer from Vancouver, Canada currently based in Hong Kong and London.