Traditional Hong Kong Revisited
If Hong Kong is all about modernity and contemporary architecture, some heritage buildings are being preserved and long-loved traditions protected. At the heart of the beating city lie trendy restaurants, creative shops and cutting-edge art galleries all tucked away in cool historical buildings. Let’s explore the neo-traditional side of the city where old institutions meet new ideas.
Asia Society, arts
Visiting the ‘Asia Society Hong Kong Center’ is quite an experience. This is your starting point for some of the city’s most important cultural life. Lectures, performances, film screenings, and exhibitions all take place here, within the walls of a former British military building at the old Victoria Barracks that used be known as the ‘Explosives Magazine’. Among the must-see places are the Joseph Lau & Josephine Lau Roof Garden that offers a great view over the dense green vegetation of Admiralty and the Chantal Miller Gallery, situated in Former Magazine A. The gallery is a great spot to work up an appetite and showcases exhibitions of all types: photojournalism, jewels, sculpture, videos, you name it!
Dim Sum Library
What would Cantonese cuisine be without dim sum, those tiny dumplings and rolls filled with exquisite fresh ingredients? A stone’s throw away from Asia Society, the recently opened Dim Sum Library has become a not-to-be-missed spot in just a few months. Chef Leung Kok-Wah has created a mouthwatering menu that mixes traditional dim sum with original, more European-inspired produce using exceptional ingredients such as truffles, foie gras and wagyu beef. Even some of the desserts are dim sum; the Lava mango roll is exceptional and Simone Rossi’s cocktails are a must-taste too. Try classics like the Vieux Carré as well as one of his tea-based creations such as the 13 Tiles made with Hennessy cognac and smoked black tea. It’s the perfect fusion of modernity with tradition.
Set within historic, grade III listed buildings dating back to the 1950’s, PMQ has rapidly become one of Hong Kong’s most creative hubs. Design studios and pop-up shops can be found alongside the offices of the American Institute of Architects in Hong Kong as well as artists in residence. Here, you’ll find names such as the Hong Kong-based Goods of Desire, fashion designer Yeung Chin and Provence-inspired shop Maison Bremond 1830, among others. It’s a subtle way for the new creative forces within PMQ to pay tribute to the building’s past as the Police Married Quarters, itself built on the World War II bombsite where the original Central School once stood. This government school was the first to provide western education at the end of the nineteenth century.
Hutong. The name brings up images of the old narrow streets and alleys once found in Beijing. Not traditionally Hongkongese, the restaurant is a delicate reminder that this Southern metropole has always been a multi-cultural city where every cuisine has its place. Dark brick walls, wooden paneling, and upturned roofs suspended above some of the tables are reminiscent of the old Beijing neighborhoods. The food however, is resolutely Cantonese: Jiangsu style sweet and sour eel, braised seafood soup and sautéed, crispy shredded beef with chili are just a few of the succulent signature dishes to be discovered. For something a little different, the Ao Yun Tasting menu is a must. Here, Chinese delicacies are paired with Ruinart Brut Rosé and Ao Yun, the ‘Grand Cru’ from the iconic Shangri-La Winery. To top off the experience, book by the window; the view over the bay from Tsim Sha Tsui is simply fantastic.
The Pawn, restaurant & bar
An iconic landmark in the Wan Chai district, The Pawn restaurant and bar owned by acclaimed British chef Tom Aikens, is located inside an historic building dating back to the late nineteenth century. The name itself has history, as this is where the famous Woo Cheong pawnbrokers once stood (pawn shops are still a real institution in Hong Kong, taking property as collateral for loans). The three floors of The Pawn include the Botanicals bar, the Kitchen restaurant and a garden right at the top where herbs and vegetables are grown, to be used in Tom’s creative, British-influenced cuisine. Botanicals bar with its original cocktail menu is worth a visit on Friday and Saturday nights during the live DJ sessions. Head to the terrace and sip a ‘Remember Nature’ cocktail made with vodka, pea, apple cider, Maraschino liqueur and rosemary from the rooftop garden. It’s your guarantee for a great night out.
Mandarin Oriental, Hotel
The original Mandarin Oriental hotel opened on the island of Hong Kong back in 1963 and has since then offered its impeccable services to the crème de la crème of society. With its ideal location in the heart of Central District, exquisite service and elegant décor, it comes as no surprise that this hotel is one of the best in town. It’s worth checking out the Mandarin Suite while you’re there for the incredible panoramic balcony. Add to that great food at restaurant ‘the Pierre’ overseen by three Michelin-starred, French chef Pierre Gagnaire and ‘Man Wa’, a more traditional Chinese restaurant, and you’ll know you’re in for a treat. For an unparalleled, luxury experience, the Krug Room is definitely worth booking. Only a dozen guests at a time can enjoy the privilege of tasting specialties prepared according to the daily inspirations and whims of chef Robin Zavou alongside perfectly matched Krug champagne. Couple this with décor designed to recreate the inside of a particularly glamorous train carriage, and you’ll find that your time in the Krug Room will definitely be a high-octane experience.