Longtime Hong Kong resident and journalist Penny Watson has assembled her local knowledge into the city’s latest guidebook, Hong Kong Precincts, which showcases shops, eateries, cafés, and bars in 15 different neighborhoods. Here, she shares her top 10 spots on Hong Kong Island.
By Penny Watson
Ho Lee Fook
The city’s latest ode to Cantonese cool is a basement restaurant dedicated to cha chaan teng–style comfort food with a modern twist that works surprisingly well. The roast wagyu short ribs with jalapeño puree says it all (Ho Lee Fook; G/F, 1–5 Elgin St., Central; 852/2810-0860).
With just 14 leather-clad bar seats, this sleek Japanese dining bar is well worth detouring off Gough Street to find. The team behind it knows plenty about food, people, and Japan, and they have pooled that knowledge to awesome effect (Ronin; 8 Wo On Ln., Sheung Wan; 852/2547-5263).
There’s more than a hint of Parisian burlesque at Le Boudoir, a sumptuous, crimson-hued cocktail bar in a cozy basement space complete with chandeliers, gilt mirrors, and Victorian-era furniture. The drinks will make you swoon too (Le Boudoir; 65 Wyndham St., Central; 852/2530-3870).
It’s hard to beat the former Police Married Quarters complex for a one-stop shopping experience, with 100 or so outlets selling everything from jewelry, metalwork, and art to homewares, fashion, and footwear. It’s particularly good as a platform for homegrown designers and artisans (PMQ; 35 Aberdeen St., Central; 852/2870-2335).
Disguised as a traditional Chinese stamp shop, this innovative newbie turns out a contemporary take on Asian street-food favorites (beef rendang, dumplings, Xinjiang spiced lamb) in a hipster-cool setting, neon lights and all (Mrs. Pound; G/F, Ming Fat House, 6 Pound Ln., Sheung Wan;852/3426-3949).
The new showroom of designer Irene Capriz occupies a warehouse space in Wong Chuk Hang where you can tiptoe reverently around her fabulous collection of vintage furnishings and collectables: one-off 1950s armchairs, ornate side tables, Chinese medicine jars, and addorable French ice buckets in the shape of pineapples (Casa Capriz; 1/F, Kwai Bo Bldg., 40 Wong Chuk Hang Rd.; 852/9318-1730).
La Cabane Wine Bistro
The exposed brickwork, timber-paling walls, and wine-barrel tables at this gorgeous French bar transport you out of Hong Kong and into the cellar doors of rural France (La Cabane Wine Bistro; 62 Hollywood Rd., Central; 852/ 2776-6070).
Café Gray Deluxe
The Upper House hotel’s ultra-glam dining room is well known for its tiptop service, near-on 360-degree views, and cocktails that will knock your socks off. Lesser appreciated is its superb breakfast menu. Buffet be gone, this is Hong Kong’s best start to the day (Café Gray Deluxe; 49/F, The Upper House, 88 Queensway, Admiralty; 852/3968-1106).
This Tai Hang hive of activity attracts laid-back caffeine fiends, neighborly creative types, and curious tourists who mingle curbside, take-out cups in hand, imbibing the atmosphere (No website; 4 Second Ln., Tai Hang; 852/2838-5231).
Kapok on Sun Street
Founded by Frenchman Arnault Castel in 2006, Kapok now has stores across the city and beyond. But the brand’s original Wan Chai boutique remains my favorite, showcasing hand-stitched bags and wallets by Mismo, fragrances by Heeley, pottery ware, hand creams, and covetable gifts items (Kapok on Sun Street; 3 Sun St., Wan Chai; 852/2520-0114).
This article originally appeared in the August/September print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Hong Kong by the ‘Hood”)