By Kee Foong
Dec 22, 2021
Ed. Note: Thanks to you-know-what, the last time we published Best New Openings of the Year lists – for Hong Kong and anywhere else – was 2019. So, throughout this series, you’re likely to encounter hotels, restaurants and bars that launched in 2020, included both to make up for missing them last year and as a hat-tip for persisting through the pandemic. Wishing all you wanderlusters happy holidays and best of luck getting back on the road and in the air to visit these places soon. – Jeninne
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES. When the pandemic first struck, there were desperate pleas to save Hong Kong’s hospitality sector from collapse. Cue 2021 and restaurants and bars have roared back, with more new venues opening than you can poke a chopstick at. With the city’s borders still closed, those of us lucky enough to have cash to splash did so on dining, drinking and staycations, with top tables reserved weeks and months in advance. So, here’s our comprehensive roundup of the best new openings to bookmark, or book ahead.
THE BEST NEW AND REVAMPED HOTELS IN HONG KONG
Four Seasons Hong Kong
The already excellent Four Seasons got even better, with the unveiling of its smartly renovated rooms and suites, and Argo bar (see below). Accommodations are havens of beige and greige, with silk and wood-paneled walls and subtle Asian accents. Add to that eight Michelin stars under one roof, stunning views, central location and the best pools in town, and you have a property that’s hard to beat.
Wong Chuk Hang
Get a new angle on Hong Kong with a stay at the Arca, a family- and dog-friendly hotel in the up-and-coming industrial neighborhood of Wong Chuk Hang. The 187 rooms mix contemporary design and craft touches, with views of either Aberdeen Harbour or surrounding warehouses. Suites feature dining areas and kitchenettes, great for longer stays, and the rooftop pool is small but well formed.
The Hari, located in the bustling commercial district of Wan Chai, is a major step up from your regular convention hotel. British interior designer Tara Bernerd injects the 240 compact, yet thoughtfully laid out rooms and suites, as well as the communal areas, with pops of color, texture and art. Facilities are limited, though The Terrace is lovely for an alfresco cocktail or bite.
THE BEST NEW RESTAURANTS IN HONG KONG
Whether you know a little or a lot about Neapolitan cuisine, Estro is a revelation. Chef Antimo Merone elevates the humble and under-appreciated food of southern Italy with knockout dishes such as Genovese ragu, made with little more than onions and beef; and pigeon covered in burnt artichoke and ash. The earthy yet chic dining room is designed by star architect Andre Fu.
Courtesy of Wing (3)
After honing his unique style of Chinese x French cooking over the years, Vicky Cheng, of Michelin-starred Vea, has opened fully fledged Chinese fine dining restaurant Wing, one floor below. Every dish is meticulously presented, from the cold starters of goose tongue and smoked eggplant to the petit fours and fruit to finish.
Durian ice cream with caviar, soupless bak kut teh with roasted pork, and curry laksa using konjac rice instead of noodles… Singaporean chef Barry Quek combines French technique with the flavors of his heritage to brilliant effect at one of the year’s most deliciously intriguing openings.
Courtesy of Moxie (2)
Moxie is the flexitarian dining concept we need right now. Opened by Shane Osborn, of Netflix’s The Final Table fame, and helmed by chef Michael Smith, the all-day diner has a menu that’s two-thirds vegetarian and vegan, and one-third seafood. Standouts include Jerusalem artichoke salad, three-grain ma po tofu and a wicked pavlova.
Rex Wine & Grill
Rex is no ordinary chophouse, with British chef Nathan Green working his magic on meat in a dark and moody basement space. Pig’s head pie or lamb’s brains, anyone? Don’t knock it until you try it. If offal isn’t your thing, then opt for the top-drawer steaks, or wild-caught seafood.
A new venue, new chef and new menu sees Belon morph from neo-Parisian bistro to seriously slinky fine diner. Taking over the reins is Matthew Kirkley, who had a knack for gaining three Michelin stars in America before his move to Hong Kong. His exacting seafood-focused menu is up for more acclaim; the question is, how much?
Yung Kee has been the city’s go-to for roasted goose and other Cantonese classics for nearly 80 years. A major revamp sees it back and ready for a new generation of diners, with social media-friendly food presentation and vintage design details, such as the retro-fabulous golden phoenix dragon sculptures.
Pull up a chair at Cultivate’s 22-seat kitchen counter for an evening of playful contemporary American fare courtesy of chef Leonard Cheung. The highly seasonal tasting menu may include steak tartare done in the style of LA burger joint In-N-Out, or maitake mushroom swimming in a heady vegetarian broth.
This pretty in pink space is a hit with Chanel-clad ladies who lunch. They’re here for German chef Mario Paecke’s comforting yet refined brasserie fare, including oysters and caviar, Wiener schnitzel and sinfully good cakes and dessert. Martini bar Kyle & Bain is upstairs (see below).
Dang Wen Li
Sugar fiends rejoice, New York’s cronut king, Dominique Ansel, has opened a café in central Hong Kong. Expect to find textbook viennoiserie, as well as cakes and savories that nod to the city’s local snacks and foods. Not on the menu: his signature creation.
Courtesy of Censu (3)
Censu is your friendly neighborhood izakaya, a minimalist den of blond woods and concrete. Chef-owner Shun Sato creates tasty Japanese-with-a-twist dishes such as zucchini flower tempura with truffle puree, and potato salad studded with chips, best paired with sake and good company.
High above the city, but drawing inspiration from the earth, is Salisterra, The Upper House’s relaunched drink and dine venue. Architect and interior designer Andre Fu mixes art deco elegance with warm colors and shapes, while chef Krzysztof Czerwinski turns out upscale yet comforting Mediterranean fare. The bar is a destination on its own.
Any restaurant dedicated to the god of wine is off to a promising start. At Bacchus, the 800-strong list of labels satisfies most tastes and price points, from affordable and obscure to famous and expensive. Mark-ups are fair, and the terrace is a great spot to come just for a drink, or a full French-Asian feast.
Tsim Sha Tsui
This oddly named restaurant is your new date-night spot. Perched 101 floors above the city, couples will be turning their gaze from one another, to the harbor and skyline views, and chef Andrea Zambone’s innovative Italian food. The Radical menu is more creative, while the Chic menu plays it safe, but refined.
Tsim Sha Tsui
Tourist favorite Hutong has a glamorous new home, with views of Victoria Harbour and the city skyline that are as impressive as before. Northern Chinese dishes have been updated to be more Insta-friendly (check out the flaming Peking duck), and the Apothecary Bar has a large terrace for cocktails.
THE BEST NEW BARS IN HONG KONG
The Four Seasons’ new bar is a happening, high-ceilinged salon made for social media. Mixologist Lorenzo Antinori, who helped the hotel’s Caprice Bar reach the top 10 of the Asia’s 50 Best Bars list, pushes the cocktail envelope at Argo, using unusual ingredients such as sandalwood and coconut husks.
Kyle & Bain
Courtesy of Kyle & Bain (2)
Select the right bottle for entry into the speakeasy-style Kyle & Bain, hidden above Margo (see above). Head barman John Nugent mixes martinis in almost any way imaginable, from dry to dirty, but always stirred, never shaken. Currywurst, a German snack, goes surprisingly well with the cocktails.
A blast of tropical color and sunshine permeate the interiors at resto-bar Awa Awa. The drink of choice at this Okinawan-inspired joint is awamori, or fire water, though more conventional cocktails are on hand, too.
Quality Goods Club
To find the hidden Quality Goods Club, just look for the queues in a dingy alley off Hollywood Road. The evening-to-late venue is as versatile as it is fun, morphing from restaurant and cocktail lounge to live music and performance space and then nightclub. Naughty, nice and a reliable night out.
Styled as an eccentric izakaya, the Mandarin Oriental’s new flagship bar is blessed with ultra-photogenic interiors. Plush, vibrant seats, beautiful murals and artwork and objects collected from around the world make it feel like the home of a wealthy relative. The Japanese grazing menu complements the extensive cocktail and champagne list.
Finally, a bar that’s a worthy sibling to two-Michelin-star French restaurant Ecriture downstairs. Occupying a prime rooftop space in the heart of the city, Plume is an all-day wine lounge with comfortable seats and expansive views. Bonus points for the snack menu by Ecriture’s chef, Maxime Gilbert.
THE BEST NEW SITES AND ATTRACTIONS IN HONG KONG
M+ is the most anticipated art opening of 2021. The crown jewel of the West Kowloon Cultural District, the museum of visual culture is home to the world’s most comprehensive collection of Chinese contemporary art, and a beacon for design, architecture and moving images. With rooftop gardens and plenty of places to sit and rest, this is a museum for everyone.
Water World. Courtesy of Ocean Park (2)
Hong Kong Ocean Park’s major new attraction is a splash hit among the young and young at heart. The seaside Water World is a mix of aquatic slides and rides that range from mild to wild, with 27 indoor and outdoor offerings for year-round fun with family and friends.
To read about more the Best New Openings in other countries around the region, see here.