Where to Eat and Drink in Wan Chai
Whether you're looking for a quick pre-theatre bite, something to fuel a big night out or a lazy weekend brunch, we've got lots of inspiration for you in this guide to where to eat and drink in Wan Chai.
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! This is by no means an exhaustive list, merely a selection of the best of the bunch.
Packed with shops selling everything under the sun, and traffic you have to dodge at all hours, Johnston Road can seem chaotic, but among the frequent chugging trams and rows of high rise dwellings you’ll find some choice eating destinations.
After a focus on urban Korean street food, ‘Demon Chef’ Alvin Leung, whose Bo Innovation helped change the local Chinese food scene, has changed gears at his Korean eatery Bib n Hops to launch Bib n Hops Refined. Housed in the space at J Residence where Bo Innovation used to be, Yeung and executive chef Yong Soo Do have taken their vision in a more fine dining direction. The popular pork mung bean pancake is now draped with Iberico ham, and Sicilian red prawns get a makeover with yuzu, fennel, seaweed and sea asparagus. Obviously, the bibimbap still features on the menu, but it comes in some refreshingly new renditions like Alaskan king crab with rumpa gochujang sauce.
In the same building as Bib n Hops, but now on a different floor, 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 also 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, but 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, which has a ‘no shorts, flip flops, collarless or sleeveless shirts’ policy, is not for the quick-pint-and-chicken-wing crowd. This is Ashley Sutton’s first bar in Hong Kong, already having left his designer mark on Bangkok’s Sing Sing Theatre and Maggie Choo’s, and it’s a marvellous creation, for Sutton is not the average designer. Each concept is inspired by a tale, in this case Mr Wong, a longtime shopkeeper in Wan Chai, who had a collection of rare and exotic birds. One day, ‘he received the most beautiful bird he had ever seen, a stunning Javanese Peacock with a copper ring band inscribed simply with the word “Ophelia” on it…’. If that doesn’t pique your interest, the stunningly intricate decor will, 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 whisky bar’, the food is focused on Japanese flavours ,and the decor is Brazil. 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 a belt-busting meal, 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.
The great Stone Nullah Tavern, with its vintage country farm inspired decor and wooden paneling, brings re-imagined American classics using only the freshest local ingredients. This means that chef Vinny Lauria gets to tweak and change the menu depending on which produce is available seasonally.
Stone Nullah Tavern sells itself at first glance with the romantic style of the opening French doors and the warm lighting during an evening visit. The American-style food on offer is well seasoned and – contrary to popular belief – does not come in the epic portions associated with a typical American meal. You can also just hangout at the bar, and there’s a $99 happy hour including free flow house drinks and snacks from 5pm-7pm on weekdays.
Stone Nullah Tavern’s neighbour, Samsen, is a much more 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. You only need to check out #Samsen on Instagram to see people rejoicing about heaping bowls of Wagyu beef boat noodles (their signature dish) and green mango salad with plump prawns. 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.
No longer a newcomer to the Wan Chai bar scene, 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 with good food and a decent cocktail menu. Tai Lung Fung manages to stick to theme perfectly, with old newspapers for menus and deliberately aged chairs placed outside for those who would prefer the fresh air. Food comes in the form of classic western food with a Tai Lung Fung twist. You can order from a set menu (for lunch or dinner) or order a la carte. Expect to pay only $45 for cocktails during happy hour.
Ship Street has 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?
Star Street Precinct is a charming area famed for its eclectic restaurants and burgeoning bar life. A notable mention here is St.Francis.St, an innovative lifestyle gallery which showcases the talents of new artists and musicians and is also home to the baking prowess of local baker Aimex Kwong. Her passion for the simplicity within baking has created the perfect accompaniment for a cup of their exclusive coffee, taking roasts from UK brands Climpson & Sons and Nude Espresso. Fresh talent and fresher pastries will see you returning for more.
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, and sadly they don’t take bookings, 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 chef Viglione’s own egg heart girasoli (large pasta parcels filled with a golden, cheesy, egg-filled centre). Pretty much everything on the menu will make you happy, so wear loose trousers when you visit.
A recent addition to the precinct, on Sun Street, 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 beef patties (Honbo’s are made with a mix of Hong Kong and US beef), and mixing things up are the breakfast burger (weekends only) featuring scrambled eggs, caramelized onions, cheddar and spicy mayo. Vegans won’t be left out with a vegan burger topped with homemade pickles and umami sauce, but what sets them apart are the scallop and soft shell crab burgers, the latter an eye-opening experience with an entire deep-fried crab sticking out of the bun. It’s a bit of challenge to eat, but very tasty, as are the sweet potato fries, sliced nice and thick.
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? In a similar vein, Chez Patrick Deli Cafe and Classified consistently hit the spot for those looking for a spot to grab a bite to eat breakfast, lunch or dinner.
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. That’s it. No fries with that. The delectable Vietnamese ‘pork sandwich’ is served up for you as you watch behind the counter, but this isn’t a deli where you can bark out your ingredient choices. Each baguette is laden with pork belly, pork head cheese, chicken liver pâté, fresh veg, chillies and mayonnaise. It’s a smooth production line, so don’t mess with it, asking to have this or that. And get them while they’re hot – they’re served Monday to Saturday from 12.00pm until they run out.
Beef and Liberty boasts burgers created with grass-fed, hormone-free beef from Tasmania. In addition to the beautiful burgers, they offer craft beers and house cocktails, which make this place the ultimate burger joint.
With the popularity of the Star Street Precinct on the rise, 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. Averaging $100 a pop, they have a long list of 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 mini platters of macaroni and cheese, buffalo wings and typical American-style bar eats. Things can get dangerous when it comes to their burgers, though, as building one is placed in your capable hands by choosing from a long list of ingredients – fried egg, avocado, pineapple, cajun onion, a variety of cheeses, truffle mayo and more. We didn’t bring a ruler with us, but we reckon that sucker was higher than most stiletto heels you see in LKF on a Friday night.
For those whose hearts yearn for Spanish tapas and a taste of Madrid, Plaza Mayor serves up bite-sized savouries and full bodied vintages. A twist on an open-style kitchen, it is encased in glass, leaving customers watching the flare of the chefs preparing delicious paella. The interior provides an authentic Spanish experience, with black and white tiled flooring and an open courtyard in the back. Pick up some cheeses or Iberico ham to take away or any one of the good selection of wines.
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: the meat patties are made fresh throughout the day, minced to order right there in front of you, which is evident when you taste how fresh and juicy the burger is. 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.
On the same street you’ll find Djibouti, a much-buzzed about bar when it first opened in late 2014. It’s still hopping, judging by the elbows we had to knock into to make our way to the bar for one of their vibrant cocktails. The drinks really are some of the best we’ve sampled – maybe it’s the eclectic glasses they’re served in, but it’s probably down to the fact they use Moroccan teas infused with premium booze and homemade syrups. They also specialise in cocktails made with fresh fruit and veg, somehow making beetroot juice, jalapeño and cayenne pepper syrup, pomegranate vinegar and rhubarb bitters taste good (maybe it’s the tequila thrown in that does the trick). Djibouti also does lovely flatbreads, kebabs and dips with a Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flair, perfect for accompanying a round of drinks when you don’t want to go for an all-out meal.
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. They also have other side dishes that change on a daily basis and French wine, mais oui, bien sûr, to go with your chicken which comes in quarter, half and whole portions. 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 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 “African chicken and peanut stew”. The soups come in three sizes and will fill you up with added extras to go on top like croutons, grated cheese and meatballs. Strictly a takeaway place, but a great lunchtime option for those who work in the area.
The Roundhouse Chicken and Beer is capitalising on the Korean fried chicken and beer craze that is still going strong in Hong Kong. But the chicken here is fried US southern-style, marinated in sweet tea and bathed in buttermilk before getting its crispy coating after a good deep-fry. 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. Whisky aficionados can indulge in the 150 Japanese varieties from Endo’s homeland.
Pirata on Hennessy Road caters to 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) two 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 $15 a pop of fresh, fluffy donuts (or go for gold and get six for $88, or a dozen for $148). Pair one of the Hong Kong-influenced varieties like ‘Royal Milk Tea’ or ‘Yin Yang’ with a simple coffee, or a rich ‘Popcorn Caramel Frappe’.
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. Japanese favourite Jan Jan Kushikatsu, with 12 locations across Tokyo and Osaka, has also popped up in Hong Kong. Get your fix 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.
Those with a hankering for seafood will be delighted to dine at Fishsteria Seafood Place, which offers everything from lobster Thermidor to ceviche. If guzzling down oysters and caviar while listening to live jazz sounds like a nice evening out, then do pop by. If you’ve never tried abalone, now’s your chance, presented on a bed of homemade tagliolini linguine.
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 Masa 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.