This month marks my first year anniversary in Hong Kong. I must have eaten and drunk my way around hundreds of bars and restaurants within the last 365 days – yet it still seems I have only just scratched the surface! This month I really wanted to discover some more ‘local’ restaurants to balance out the wide range of western eats I’ve tried in Hong Kong. So I went further a field, to lesser known restaurants and cute, hidden away coffee shops while still discovering the best of the rest in Central, Soho and beyond. Here’s what I found.
Da Ping Huo, a Sichuan restaurant hidden off Hollywood Road was my first stop on the quest for local restaurants. Serving spicy dishes like Hot and Sour Jelly Noodles and Chengdu Fish Fillets in hot chili oil, it wasn’t a lunch for the faint hearted. The best bit about the meal? Having a performance by Ms Li Yilin, a folk soprano singer, while we ate! I found out Da Ping Huo were celebrating their 20th anniversary (this alone deserves a round of applause in HK) and Ms Li Yilin will be singing every Wednesday and Sunday evening until 13th June to celebrate! The set lunch is only $120 per person and comes with way too much food – not that I was complaining. Probably my favourite discovery this month – spicy food, singing and change in my pocket – well done me (for finding it and, y’know, eating).
LG/F, 49 Hollywood Road, SOHO, Central
I told you I wanted to get off the beaten track this month – so where else to head than the Hello Kitty restaurant? I’d be lying if I said I went here because I really wanted to try the food. I, like 99% of my fellow diners, came here to go all fan-girl over Hello Kitty dim sum, and of course, take way too many photos. Surprisingly the food was actually pretty good, and didn’t differ too much from regular dim sum – apart from being about a third more expensive. Definitely go for the custard buns ($62 for 3). Because a) they are the best shaped Hello Kitty characters and b) because who doesn’t love custard buns?! Would I go again? No. Is it somewhere everyone needs to try once? Yes.
Lee Loy Mansion, 332-338 Canton Rd, Yau Ma Tei
One of the most well-known vegetarian restaurants in the 852, and I’ve only just got round to trying it out. Since moving to its new location last summer it now occupies a huge space on Hollywood Road with enough room for every vegan in Hong Kong. All the food is lovingly prepared by executive chef Peggy Chan, who is a passionate supporter of deliciously healthy cuisine, eco-conscious practices and catering for special dietary needs. I do love vegetarian food – I went meatless for 2 years – however I am not too keen on ‘meat replacements’ and was hoping I wouldn’t find any of that on the menu. I needn’t have worried as Peggy’s menu is creative, unique and a breath of fresh air. Absolute must tries are the beetroot gnocchi (ricotta, sage, roasted baby beets, cashew, hollandaise, lemon thyme pesto parmesan and sprouted nutmeg with spiced walnuts) and the Szechuan vegetable stir-fry (hedgehog mushroom Chinese celery, glutinous rice cake, grilled cabbage, bell pepper, eggplant and toasted cashews with steamed brown rice). And while the restaurant is completely meat-free, it is still a great place to bring your meat-eating friends or anyone with special dietary requirements.
108 Hollywood Rd, Sheung Wan
Sushi Tokami is tucked away in the ultra-crazy Harbour City, and to get me to step into that madness at the lunchtime rush hour, it had better be as good as I’d been told. Famous for its tuna dishes – the owner of Sushi Tokami is also the founder of Yamayuki, a specialty shop dedicated to tuna located in the Tsukiji Market, Japan – I was obviously going to be ordering A LOT of tuna! In fact, I was going to be ordering a lot of everything as their lunchtime set menu is a grand 16-pieces. Now, I’m not going to bore you with a description of every piece, but what I do have to say is that the tuna was hands down the best I have had in Hong Kong– the tuna tossaki temaki is pretty much perfection in a hand roll! Honestly, this is easily my favourite sushi in town but with a price tag of $1000 for the set lunch I don’t think I will become a regular.
Shop 216A, Level 2, Ocean Centre, Harbour City, TST
The brilliant people of Beef & Liberty have come up with a genius concept of beers, burgers and beats and named it Beats & Liberty. Overtaking a huge space in PMQ with art, a stage for bands and of course a burger and beer bar, it’s kind of everything your weekend ever needed! This pop-up restaurant (open until mid-September) will be serving classics like bacon cheeseburgers and pulled pork sandwiches from 12pm and on weekends live music will be rocking the first floor of PMQ. Their opening night was a pretty epic party, so if the following weekends are anything like that one, I’ll be heading over every Saturday to fill up on good music and good beer before the lures of Soho set in.
PMQ, Staunton Street, Central; Daily from 12pm, live music on Fri and Sat evenings
If you live any where near Sai Ying Pun I’m sure you’ve already seen Winstons’ alluring exterior, and when a new coffee shop hits town, you’re also sure to find every Instagrammer inside snapping their next post. Those posts showed matcha egg tarts and some eye-catching coffee designs, so I was over before they could say ‘how do you take your coffee?’. Winstons is one-step ahead of the rest in SYP, they not only serve amazing coffee, snacks and cakes but also COCKTAILS! Open until 11pm every day, that little thing called an alcohol license sets them apart from the 6pm coffee shop closures. A cool, laid back vibe allows you to stay put for hours while indulging in some of their fine coffee. Bravo to Winston (if he is an actual person) for giving Hong Kong exactly what it needs – an unpretentious, reasonably priced place to hang out day and night! If I gave stars you would get 5!
213 Queen’s Rd W, Sai Ying Pun
It’s still all about the matcha in Hong Kong, and I can’t get enough of it – especially if it comes in a ridiculously cute coffee with an alien design on it. Cafe R&C have been around a good while now, and just like newcomer Winstons, its coffees dominates Instagram coffee hashtags. Serving coffees in all shapes, sizes and designs, while offering a shelter from the Causeway Bay rush, it’s easy to see why it has stood the test of time. Other designs to be enjoyed are minions, cats, cartoon characters and pretty much anything you request.
G/F, 22-24 Haven Street, Causeway Bay
Three Lanterns – Tai O
Last but no means least was this gem in Tai O. After taking a trip to Lantau this month to show a visitor around, I absolutely fell in love with the Tai O. I’m sure many of you have been (if not, then go) and while we were there we didn’t want to leave– so stumbling upon Three Lanterns Cafe was just the excuse we needed. Set on stilts overlooking the canal with boats sailing past and the sun setting in the distance, you could easily feel that you were somewhere in Italy. The cafe re-opened in January, and the owner Joy is the sweetest lady ever! She welcomes you to sit and relax on the balcony and chats away about her cafe. I have to be completely honest, the coffee wasn’t amazing, however the scenery and atmosphere makes up for it – plus the beers are cheap! There is no website, however to find it just keep walking along the main market street until the market stalls end and then turn left onto the pathways through the stilts where you will find many cafes and restaurants.
Sarah is a 27 year old professional world wanderer. Four years ago, she left the UK and everything that offered security and routine in exchange for a life of constant excitement and adventure. Through working as a Scuba Dive Instructor, freelance writer and running her blog www.coffeewithasliceoflife.com she now leads a life as a full time digital nomad. Based in Hong Kong you will most likely bump into her typing away on her laptop in one of the city’s latest coffee shops.