By Kee Foong
Sep 14, 2022
WILL IT, OR WON’T IT? While Hong Kong’s officials argue over whether to drop compulsory quarantine, the city continues to languish in the travel doldrums as the rest of Asia and the world fully reopen. While you can visit if you are willing to do three days strict hotel quarantine followed by four days where you are allowed out, except to restaurants, bars and anywhere fun, I wouldn’t assume that’s going to make you jump on the first plane here.
There’s pressure to eliminate quarantine (fingers crossed) in time for the Sevens rugby tournament in November 2022, the first truly international sporting event that will be held in Hong Kong since the beginning of the pandemic. When that happens, book your flight quick sticks—there have been heaps of exciting openings and happenings since you’ve been away, and lots to discover if you live here. This best-of list represents only a few of our favorite places to go and restaurants and bars to indulge in, new in 2022, old and updated, that’ll whet your Hong Kong appetite this fall.
WHERE TO EAT IN HONG KONG
Everything old is cool again as The Magistracy breathes new life into a gorgeous century-old heritage listed former courthouse. First phase of one of the year’s biggest openings is the Magistracy Dining Room, which were delighted to visit pre-opening, with its soaring ceilings and period detailing, solid timber panels, brass chandeliers and lipstick-red leather booths. A wooden spiral staircase leads to an intimate semi-private dining mezzanine that overlooks the glam scene below. The seafood-focused brasserie menu by lauded American chef Matthew Kirkley is inspired by London institutions Scott’s and J Sheekey. Think oysters and caviar, crab toast, double-baked souffle, whole dover sole and excellent prime rib carved from a silver trolley. The garden lounge is lovely for pre- or post-prandials, or a visit on its own.
Ho Lee Fook
The number of female head chefs in Hong Kong remains dismally low, and a woman in charge at a Chinese restaurant is even more unusual. So, toques off to ArChan Chan for taking the reins at Ho Lee Fook, one of our favorite eateries in town. The basement dining room has had a total makeover, too, ditching the somber black interiors for a sexy burst of red and gold everything. The food is now more Cantonese, with new hits including steamed razor clams, claypot curry beef cheek, and Chan’s take on roast duck. Their monthly Sunday brunch is a champagne and dim sum treat worth getting out of bed for.
It’s art on a plate at Mosu, the contemporary Korean hotspot housed within M+ museum. Seoul-based executive chef Sung Anh worked at celebrated fine diners The French Laundry and Benu in California, and his exquisite cross-cultural cuisine is wowing diners in the form of abalone tacos, white sesame and uni dumplings, and acorn noodle with truffles. Add to that beautiful minimalist interiors, terrific views of Hong Kong’s skyline, and it’s no wonder reservations are hard to come by, so book well ahead.
Michelin-starred Yong Fu is making concerted strides to broaden the appeal of the cuisine of Ningbo, located on China’s east coast. The vast menu has been updated with brief English-language descriptions, though it can still be overwhelming. Signatures include chilled mud crab with mashed ginger and coriander, fresh walnuts with shrimp skin, yellow croaker fish in a fermented vegetable broth, super-crispy-skin chicken, ma po tofu their way, and pork dumplings handmade to order. The tasting menu is an easy way to sample several of the restaurant’s greatest hits.
Bluhouse and Glasshouse at Rosewood Hong Kong
Rosewood continues to up its already strong dining game with the launch of two new venues within the luxurious waterfront hotel. Bluhouse is composed of an upscale Italian food hall serving quick and easy rotisserie items, pizza by the slice, pasta and pastries, and an adjoining dining room for a more refined and leisurely dining experience. Then there is the Glasshouse by Asaya Kitchen, serving wholesome Mediterranean fare in a jewel box of a space overlooking the pool and Victoria Harbour beyond.
We love The Upper House, but its food rarely hit the same heights as the hotel and its stunning urban views. Enter Canadian executive chef Cary Docherty, who worked with star Brits Gordon Ramsay, Clare Smyth and Jason Atherton, and things are looking up indeed. The cuisine remains approachably Mediterranean, with refreshing salads, comforting pastas, obligatory steak, and toothsome desserts such as rum baba and lemon tart. Monthly wine dinners with bespoke food menus are held in the stylish private dining room.
Hong Kong Cuisine
The name may not be inspired, but Hong Kong Cuisine serves a nouveau-Chinese-meets-French menu that will tickle your tastebuds. For many years, head chef Silas Li used to cook privately for a big-name tycoon, before taking the reins and completely revamping the menu at this decade-old venue. Signatures include steamed cod wrapped in miso fish mousse in a mushroom and beef broth, though our picks are the classics with a twist, like chicken wings stuffed with braised boneless duck web, and a cracking crispy-skin chicken.
Named the best pizza in Hong Kong by 50 Top Pizza 2022, Fiata is certainly less high-brow than the other restaurants on this list thus far, but that doesn’t make them any less meticulous: this is the place for standout pies done the traditional Neapolitan way. Real-deal ingredients from Italy are used in creations such as the best-selling a’salsiccia, made with onion cream, fior di latte, red onions and fresh Italian sausage, cooked for 90 seconds at a scorching 510 degrees Celsius. Get it while it’s hot.
If you think Spanish cuisine is all tapas and paella, then prepare for a delectable culinary education at Agora, an intimate 24-seat restaurant by rising star Antonio Oviedo. The Madrid-born Oviedo is on a mission to show that the food of his birthplace is so much more than the standards, and he does so with success. Two regularly changing tasting menus are offered, and might include bluefin tuna dressed in a pungent homemade garum (fermented fish sauce), and a superb take on surf and turf that involves sea cucumber and pig’s blood sausage. Try it, you’ll like it.
This year has seen the sad closure of several landmark local eateries including Mido Café, Lin Heung Tea House and Tung Po. The last was a hawker-style dai pai dong, serving street-food and seafood. Archaic laws make it near impossible to renew licenses, so before the city loses more of its cultural fabric, head to the rough and ready outdoor food stalls in Stanley Street, among Central’s wet markets. Sing Kee is the most popular, with an extensive menu that spans steamed fish to salt-and-pepper squid and sweet-and-sour pork. This is homey grub, not gourmet fare, but among the best examples of Hong Kong restaurants you could find, so go now in case the experience fast-disappears (like 2022 is set to do soon).
WHERE TO PARTY IN HONG KONG
Nights at Studio 54 at Felix
Channel your inner Bianca Jagger or Andy Warhol at The Peninsula’s “Nights at Studio 54” drinks, dinner and show extravaganza. For a limited time, the hotel’s penthouse Felix dining room is transformed into an immersive theater experience that recreates Manhattan’s infamous A-list hangout. Come as your favorite 1970s or 1980s celebrity for a night of disco, glitter and glam, as actors perform among and interact with the audience. The season runs until December 10.
Terroirs by LQV
French providores LQV have opened a happening wine bar and terrace that’s good for an after-work tipple or a full spread of nibbles. The 2,000-strong list of bottles spans nearly every French region imaginable, from Champagne through to Corsica, and is designed to suit most tastes and budgets. A small menu of cheese, charcuterie, and simple bistro fare is best shared with friends, though you may wish to eat the Valhrona chocolate tart all by yourself.
Taking over the upstairs space of a former sushi restaurant is Mostly Harmless, an omakase-style bar with an ever-changing line-up of cocktails based on seasonal and locally sourced ingredients. Heading up the concept is Venezuelan bartender Ezra Star, who serves up not-your-average, fruit-driven libations that might include longan, fig, dragon fruit, mangosteen, soursop—you get the idea.
WHAT TO DO IN HONG KONG
Hong Kong Palace Museum
When plans to build an outpost of Beijing’s magnificent Palace Museum in Hong Kong was announced, it drew flak for encroaching further on the territory’s autonomy. Now that the museum has opened in the West Kowloon Cultural District however, Hongkongers can’t get enough of it, with tickets having sold out online almost immediately on release. And for good reason—there are more than 900 cultural treasures on display, including paintings, calligraphy, ceramics, scrolls, bronzes and lots more, some for the first time ever. The geometric seven-story building includes 7,800 square meters of exhibition space, that, while contemporary in design, was inspired by the central axis layout of the Forbidden Palace. With China’s borders staying resolutely shut, this is as close to the Forbidden Palace as you will get right now.
For more than 130 years, the beloved Peak Tram has made the steep climb up to one of the city’s best-known attractions, The Peak. Following an extensive, year-long renovation, the funicular is back in action, with dark green livery, longer carriages that can accommodate more passengers, and larger picture windows and sun-roofs to better enjoy the view on the ascent or descent. Thankfully, what used to be a mess of the Central terminus has also been upgraded to provide a much-improved waiting and queuing area.
Under the decade-long musical direction of Dutch conductor Jaap van Zweden, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra has evolved into one of Asia’s leading ensembles. Affectionately known as the HK Phil, the orchestra recently kicked off its 2022/2023 season, which will include a collaboration with the HK Ballet for a production of Carmina Burana, the popular Symphony Under the Stars, and a crossover adaptation of classic Canto opera Floral Princess. Bravo.