Australian food writer Kirsty Manning-Wilcox gives her guide to the top eateries in Hong Kong.
A highlight of any trip to Hong Kong is always going to be the food. Locals insist on the freshest produce combined with a mixture of textures and flavours on every plate, so every restaurant has to play its A-game to survive.
With so much choice, a good fodder guide is a must. On my list of the best to visit, I've included two Michelin-starred French restaurants - overkill to some, perhaps, but the food at these places is fresher and more innovative than at many of the modern French places in France.
There are great lunch deals to be had around town as time is money - people want to be in and out within 45 minutes. Nights tend to be a glittering affair with swanky bars, hawker-style eateries and serene restaurants heaving. In Central Hong Kong you can have so much within one kilometre. Here are some of the best places.
Chef Richard Ekkebus has taken modern French cuisine to new heights, relishing the abundance of fresh ingredients available in Hong Kong daily as well as the best the world has to offer. He's consistently awarded two Michelin stars for his efforts. Fresh and seasonal is the key here, with favourites including the duck foie gras presented as a cute little lollipop, Iberian pork and Lozere lamb, as well as line-caught John Dory.
Every restaurant has to play its A-game to survive.
11-19A Queen's Road Central, Central, Hong Kong.
Elegant decor, impeccable service and commanding views of Hong Kong Harbour mean Pierre is the place for a long lunch. French chef Pierre Gagnaire has long been considered one of the forefathers of modern French fusion cuisine and his Hong Kong restaurant shows there is no chance of slowing down.
Menus change seasonally but some of the autumn highlights include the entree with abalone, pork belly, and grilled foie gras and duck infused with cinnamon.
5 Connaught Road, Hong Kong.
Hong Kong has embraced the Mexican food wave. This place doesn't take reservations, so you just have to wander down the hidden lane in trendy bar area Lan Kwai Fong and take your chances. The young and beautiful mingle and sip cocktails in a jumble of concrete, graffiti, old posters and shared tables. Don't miss the yellowfin tuna tostidas, a mix of four tacos and the fish ceviche.
20A D'Aguilar Street, Central & Western, Hong Kong 852.
Hollywood Road in Sheung Wan is the hottest zone for new restaurants and bars and Blue Butcher is the latest steak house to open in Central. It's hard to get a reservation so take your chances and squeeze into the bar, where the crowd is hip and loud.
There's a cute Prohibition-era theme going on with exposed brickwork, a meat hanging room, American diner-style bar and cocktails such as apple pie moonshine served in brown paper bags. Gimmicks aside, crowds flock for the aged beef cooked to order and served on large wooden chopping boards with sauces of your choice.
108 Hollywood Road, Central & Western, Hong Kong.
Private kitchens are all the rage in Hong Kong at the moment and Magnolia, a Louisiana-inspired Creole kitchen, is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Aussie expat Emma Levy says: "The food is all family style, so you need a lot of people to get the most out of it.
"There is no choice with the menu - you get what you're served!
"Highlights for me are the amazingly moreish corn bread, the ribs and the pecan pie."
You'll need to book a few weeks in advance and pay a deposit.
17 Po Yan Street, Sheung Wan.
The writer travelled courtesy of Cathay Pacific and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group.
Where the locals eat
Richard Ekkebus's restaurant Amber, at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, was the only restaurant in greater China to feature on the San Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants list. We asked him for the lowdown on his favourite places to eat in Hong Kong.
Dimdim Sum Dim Sum Specialty Store
The restaurant is rather sober, with mirror-panelled walls that allow you to see what the locals are ordering. Try their excellent fried stuffed eggplant treasures wrap of chicken, fish maw, mushrooms and ginger, or the pan-fried tofu skin with chicken and unusual cumin. For those going safe, the siu mai and har gow are good, too. For those more adventurous, fried nine dishes and pig's blood with XO sauce or steamed tripe with black pepper sauce. Excellent smaller sized pineapple buns and good sesame seed balls. 7 Tin Lok Lane, Wan Chai, Hong Kong.
This 50-seat izakaya style restaurant with very minimalist design (wooden floors and concrete walls) opens between 6pm and midnight. It's the perfect place for informal dining and we love to go after service or even on my day off. The restaurant is open from Monday to Saturday (closed on Sunday). The chefs grill and caramelise all parts (including delicious giblets) of chicken, yakitori-style, over a charcoal fire. The restaurant makes its own signature Shichimi Togarashi (Japanese seven-spice blend). No reservations are taken, but turnover is high and there is a great bar. 33-35 Bridges Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong.
Wing Wa Noodle Shop
Specialty: one of the very last places that make their own bamboo noodles above the shop. This is not a luxury dining room, and setting and service are rather basic. The quality of the bamboo noodles with barbecue pork and a great broth make up for the lack of comfort. 89 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai.
Sang Kee Congee Shop
In true Hong Kong style, for a great, authentic congee, this is probably one of the best places to go to. Recommended dishes include pig's heart congee, liver congee, chicken congee, dried scallop congee, fish belly congee and vegetarian congee. Prices are very good — normally, you will get change from $HK50 ($6). Open daily, from morning until late in the evening (there is no sign in English so you have to ask passers-by and show them the restaurant's name in Chinese). 7-9 Burd Street, Sheung Wan.
Spicy Crab under the Bridge
This is a place I go with colleagues after having a beer or two and it is open until 6am. This Wan Chai restaurant is an institution and in its version of this dish, deep-fried crab is tossed in its legendary chilli mix and has a dry, crispy mix of garlic, chilli, black beans and spring onions. Other seafood dishes it does well include clams in black bean sauce and deep-fried silverfish. Under the Jaffe Road bypass (not the ones at Lockhart Road), Wan Chai.
Cathay Pacific has flights to Hong Kong from Sydney and Melbourne (about 9hr) for about $1512 return, including tax. cathaypacific.com.au.
The Mandarin Oriental Hotel is one of the great old-style hotels of the world and a foodie's mecca, with 10 venues on site including three Michelin-starred restaurants (which include Pierre and the dazzling Krug Room). Rooms start at $HK4500 ($557) a night, plus 10 per cent service charge. 5 Connaught Road, Central, Hong Kong. mandarinoriental.com/hongkong.
For a funky crowd smack bang in the fanciest shopping and bar district, and the much-awarded Amber restaurant, try The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong. Rooms start at $HK5600, plus 10 per cent service charge. mandarinoriental.com/landmark.