Best places to eat in Hong Kong: Where the hip hang

At last count, hungry Hong Kong tipped the scales at around 13,000 restaurants. To dine or drink here is to face a mystifying smorgasbord of ever-changing options, with experiences as varied as menus.

In the heart of Central, I'm lunching in the company of about US$20 million of artwork, a fairly typical representation of the walls inside Duddell's at any one time. This Ilse Crawford-designed restaurant opened three years ago, and is part-owned by one of Hong Kong's largest art collectors, creating a Michelin-starred restaurant that's also a high-end, ever-changing gallery space.

There's fine dining downstairs, but a surprisingly unpretentious and eclectic salon for casual eating upstairs. The salon is designed to resemble an art collector's residence, with cane chairs, bright banquettes and a manor-like library with a wall of book shelving.

The menu is classic Cantonese with a few contemporary twists, such as dinnertime dim sum, and the food is a simple mix of ingredients – such as asparagus with mushroom and black truffle – that produces big flavours.

One street north of Duddell's, Arcane is the newest venture from Shane Osborn, the first Australian chef to achieve one and two Michelin stars (at Pied-a-Terre in London).

Unsigned from the street, Arcane fills a small, almost office-like space on the third floor. It seats just 36, with additional tables on an outdoor terrace where Osborn grows vegetables and herbs for the kitchen.

Stepping out from the elevator, I'm greeted by a wall of wine bottles that forms Arcane's 1200-bottle cellar. Behind the cellar, Osborn anchors the open kitchen, where a few bar stools allow diners to converse with the chefs.

The menu is short – half a dozen starters and mains – and the food is light and rich, with the wagyu sirloin as soft as fairy floss this night.

There are two vastly different dining experiences at the Monogamous Chinese and Grassroots Pantry. Hidden beneath SoHo's outdoor escalators, the Monogamous Chinese is a fine-dining Chinese restaurant where the nostalgia is as thick as black-bean sauce.

Advertisement

Huge red lanterns hang from the ceiling and the walls are filled with propaganda-style art, dominated by a giant portrait of Mao made from business cards. Chef Shizh Hoi Ping has created a menu of classic Chinese tastes – Sichuan spices, Peking duck, fried ice cream – to create a feed as tastefully retro as the decor.

A 10-minute walk away, near popular Man Mo Temple, it's retro-be-damned at breezy Grassroots Pantry. Long windows inhale sunlight, and shelves and alcoves are stacked with pot plants to create a hanging indoor garden.

The menu's as fresh as the light, with Grassroots using no processed foods. All dishes and sauces are prepared in-house from scratch, with around 70 per cent of ingredients being organic.

Dishes range from vegetarian, to vegan, to raw, to "Buddhist friendly", featuring the likes of kelp satay noodle salad and a signature linguine containing four different types of mushroom and white truffle oil.

After dinner, an array of bars beckons. Across the street from Duddell's, Foxglove is an uber-cool bar designed like a first-class airline cabin from the 1950s. Wait staff wear '50s-style aircraft attendant uniforms, the cocktail and spirit list stretches to 30 pages, and jazz bands further cool up the night.

The whole scene is so smooth and sultry – like stepping into a pick-up scene from a James Bond movie – it has the ability to make you feel more elegant than you might really be.

For beer drinkers, the Ale Project is Hong Kong in a pint glass. The city has around 13 craft breweries, and the Ale Project is virtually a cellar door for the industry.

The Mong Kok bar has a changing list of eight local beers on tap (plus selected imported beers), revealing local brewers' penchant for unusual and interesting flavours – the likes of a Sichuan porter with peppercorns, a stout brewed with coffee beans, and a witbier with chrysanthemum buds, coriander seeds and white pepper.

There's a communal, beer-hall-type feel around the bar's long benches, and you can get a near-full spectrum of flavours with a six-beer tasting paddle.

Rooftop bars might be a Hong Kong staple, but Fu Lu Shou has altered the experience. Sitting atop a seven-storey commercial building, the small bar feels more like a cavern sunk within the surrounding high rises of SoHo.

It's an unusual and fascinating perspective, but more unusual still is the entry procedure. On busy Hollywood Road, the bar is unsigned and entry is so exclusive you must call ahead to get a secret access code for the door before grinding upstairs inside a clunky graffitied lift.

TRIP NOTES

MORE INFORMATION

discoverhongkong.com/au

GETTING THERE

Cathay Pacific has four flights to Hong Kong daily from Sydney, and three flights daily from Melbourne. cathaypacific.com.au

EATING THERE

Duddell's, 3rd and 4th floor, 1 Duddell Street, Central; duddells.co

Arcane, 3rd floor, 18 On Lan Street, Central; arcane.hk

Monogamous Chinese, 59 Caine Road, Mid-Levels; themonogamouschinese.com

Grassroots Pantry, 108 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan; grassrootspantry.com

DRINKING THERE

Foxglove, 2nd floor, 6 Duddell Street, Central; foxglovehk.com

The Ale Project, 15 Hak Po Street, Mong Kok; thealeproject.com

Fu Lu Shou, 7th floor, 31 Hollywood Road, SoHo.

STAYING THERE

Mira Moon is a stylish, boutique hotel in easy reach of everything on Hong Kong Island. miramoonhotel.com

Andrew Bain was a guest of the Hong Kong Tourism Board and Cathay Pacific.

Comments