Nothing feels quite like landing in Hong Kong and taking the A21 into town, watching the landscapes, harbours, bridges and city begin to appear like a miniature lego town on steroids. The perpetual throng of people. The neon. The red taxi's and double-decker buses. It really is half way between Asia and Europe, and the perfect melting pot for people like me.
I used to live up in Tai Wai, and spent most of my time eating from the local shops there, or cooking at home, so alot of my culinary discoveries were made on subsequent trips.
There are literally thousands and thousands of amazing places to eat in this city/country and I by no mean's am attempting to even scratch the surface. This is purely a collection of places I have had the pleasure to eat at, and a short review about them. Shockingly enough, not a single one was bad.
My list of the best restaurants and bars in Hong Kong:
One Dim Sum ($$)
Perpetually rammed to the rafters, there are few places in Hong Kong you can eat this quality Dim Sum for a pittance. Dishes average out at around 2 US Dollars a plate, so go hard. The Har Gao here is some of the best I have ever tasted, as are the steamed rice noodle rolls with shrimp. Addictive texture, slippery but not gluey, perfectly plump shrimps, steaming hot and drenched in sauce. Make this your first stop!
Yat Lok ($$)
Unspeakably delicious, moist, crispy skinned goose drumstick. Literally one of the best meat dishes I have eaten anywhere in my life. It put a big fat f****** grin on my face, and should put one on yours too. No wonder the Michelin guide awarded this place 1 star.
Watch Mark Wiens sampling the famous goose:
Din Tai Fung ($$)
I have already squandered far too much time in the past writing about DTF. Having regularly eaten my way through most of the menu in Taipei, Bangkok and even KL. That aside, this is one of those OMG places. Their signature Xiaolongbao (pork soup dumplings), are akin to worship. Their pot stickers, shrimp dumplings, spinach tossed with garlic, fried rice, chilli wontons, are all absolutely divine.
Go here when you are famished and let the gods in the kitchen soothe your brow and make you feel alive once more.
Some of the best vegetarian food you will find outside of India. Located in Wing On Plaza, on the 2nd floor tucked away in a corner, I cannot recommend this place highly enough. Tipped off by a local friend who knows how high my standards are for Indian cuisine, I trusted him implicitly. It would literally be criminal to miss out on this if you are a worshipper at the altar of Indian legumes and vegetables.
Dim Dim Sum ($$)
This particluar spot was recommended highly by an unashamed addict. Being alone (something you should never be in a Dim Sum place) I had to bashfully order only 3 dishes since there was no way I could manage more. The steaming baskets and plates came out in quick succession and I forced my way into the barrier of food.
Everything was delicious. The problem was I couldn't even finish half of it. I needed a partner in crime to stuff his/her face with the remaining morsels so that I didn't look ungrateful when the server came to clean my table. One of the best Dim Sum places in Hong Kong!
Islam Food ($)
Here since 1950 (be sure to attend the Tak Ku Ling Rd one and not the new modern one 2 blocks away) and famous for enticing people from all over Hong Kong to make the journey to Kowloon City for their astonishing beef buns. These things are truly one of the single best things I ate in Hong Kong, ever! Take any means possible to head out here and have a good old feed.
Never shying away from a chance to taste good Ramen, my buddy at Mei Wah Tattoo lavished praise on this restaurant up on Gough St. As could be expected there was a 45-60 minute wait so we wrote down our names and headed to the other side of the street to sip some wine and wait.
It was worth it. The ramen was excellent, the broth was deep and flavourful, the egg was divine. Price-point aside, this is a spot I would come to regularly if I lived in Hong Kong.
Tim Ho Wan ($$)
Hong Kong's answer to Din Tai Fung, Michelin star Dim Sum at a fraction of the cost of most restaurants bestowed with the tyre man's honour. Their pork buns are legendary (if a touch too sweet for me), but savoury delights await in many forms. Don't dine alone, grab a few random strangers, the whole point is to try multiple dishes. Order a ton, pick and mix, order more if you are not full yet.
Tip: They have multiple branches,but it's worth visiting the original one in Sham Shui Po.
Tsim Chai Kee ($)
Lauded by throngs of devotees, I managed to lump my way over to Central and walk the alleys full of suits, up to Wellington Street. Surprisingly the restaurant was half-full and I procured a much lusted over booth. I ordered the 3 topping noodle soup. Below were springy yet rather tasteless noodles, cocooned in rather ordinary broth, but the toppings... oh the toppings! This place is known for it's fish balls, something I would never normally order but these were sensational. The shrimp wontons were divine, the beef tender.
Ignore the broth and the noodles and just eat the toppings.
Nyonya Coming ($$)
As the age old adage goes: Ask a local. Today I had the immense luck of a direct tip from my friends who live in Hong Kong: "Take the MRT to Tsuen Wan, find this place, we'll meet you there". I obeyed them to the T. The long walk from the station was spent with local's looking at me strangely, this wasn't the usual spot foreigners pottered around. I found the restaurant, hugged my friends and let them order.
Nyonya Coming is run by a husband-wife team, him in the kitchen, her out front. The food is 100% authentic Malaysian Nyonya cooking, and everything we had was delicous. You won't find a tastier Laksa in Hong Kong, either the regular one or the sour asam. The noodle dishes, the squid, the oxtail rendang were all faultless. A neighbourhood restaurant most definitely worth going out of the way to hunt down.
Wang Fu ($)
100% homemade Pekingese dumplings of the highest order! Perfect texture, taste, price-point. The owner is a sweetheart too, which only makes the food taste all the better.
Swaddled in between Moon, Sun and other orbital streets, Honbo is the real deal in terms of burger spots. Don't let the trendy minimal design cause doubts about the food, the burger is legit. Juicy, seasoned ground beef, great bun and quick service make this a "must do" stop if you're floating around Wan Chai.
Cheng Banzhan ($)
Never one to turn down a bowl of Taiwanese Beef Noodle soup, I got a hot tip about a place in Lai Chi Kok in a warehouse. MTR was navigated, street's laid bare in the midday sun, up into elevators to other realms, long corridors of hope, patiently seated in the waiting room (good sign) until a spot came up, headed in and sat opposite strangers, ordered, glanced around at the 100+ hungry revellers mid-delight, bowl came steaming hot, soup was good, noodles were great, beef was tender as a kiss. Another winner in Hong Kong's culinary pantheon.
Butt's Fast Food ($)
Whats in a name?
This is not your European Indian restaurant. This is home-cooked, oily, flavoursome Pakistani cooking. The chicken karahi is dynamite, the lamb curry tender and delicious, the kheema always a delight, the roti's hearty, the samosa's a triumph of mankind. Pull up a stool in this infamous alleyway under the weight of Chungking Mansions above, order some food, buy a beer from the store opposite (they don't mind if you drink it at the table), sit back and let the food do the talking.
On your way out grab some samosas and a bag of mint chutney and head down to the pier to watch the city of Hong Kong come alive while you munch on delicious pockets of pastry.
Mui kee congee ($)
Me & Congee. I know... I know. Some days I just crave this comforting bowl of silky excellence. Spoons dipped in opaque ponds, rising with seeping rice porridge and pieces of ginger, meat and scallion trapped in utensils. Mui Kee is as local as it gets. Upstairs above a market in Mongkok, no signs on how to get there, persistence pays off. The congee is cheap, not the best in HK since its cooked in copper pots which add a distinct "flavour", but worth checking out for the overall experience. Snort down a bowl while the rude servers plod along in clouds of routine.
Mak's Noodles ($)
300 meters from my airbnb "apartment" in Jordan, It may look plain, but the devil is in the details. Those shrimp wontons are plump, perfectly cooked and delicious. The broth is rather flavoursome for being so "thin-looking". Decent noodles, tender meat, crunchy vegetables and not much else makes up a perfectly respectable way to spend an evening in Hong Kong.
There is always a crowd, which is proof that these cats know what they are doing.
Daimaru Ramen ($$)
Situated in the "trendy" area of Tai Kok Tsui, full of small bars and wine rooms, Daimaru does great bowls of Shoyu Ramen (and other variations). Within 5 minutes of opening they were already packed, so be prepared to wait.
Cafe's, Bars & Curiosities
Candidate for most stunning interior in Hong Kong, not made by some poncy twat from Wallpaper magazine, but honest good taste and the despair of time. Speaking to the owner he lamented that the rent is rising too quickly for them, so they may be forced to close shop. Be sure to swing by if they're still open and have a cup of coffee and reflect on life's emptiness.
BOUND by Hillywood
Probably your best bet in Kowloon for a bar where musicians hang out, Joy Division creeps onto the stereo and you can feel some sort of underground vibe. They just introduced a brunch menu with a mean bloody mary for those late-night revellers to return the scene of the crime for atonement.
This local hangout is a skip and a jump from Mido Cafe. Pop by to browse through their excellent book collection, check what's playing next door at the cinema, and keep informed of any concerts or exhibitions currently in Hong Kong. Yes, we all loved the old layout, but the past has passed.
Mum's Not Home
Quite literally a bizarre trip of a clothes shop/cafe/hang out space. Up a staircase near Kubricks, you really should pop in here even for a quick look to see what happens above street level in Hong Kong. Good refreshing drinks and snacks.
P.s. Make a note of their opening hours!
White Noise Records
Tucked up in an apartment block in Prince Edward is the place to go in Hong Kong if you are a vinyl junkie. Stroke the cat, chat with the owner and spend an entire afternoon (and small fortune) grabbing records that you simply can't live without.
Paul's and his 300,000 vinyl records are crammed into a tiny apartment next to Sham Sui Po MTR station. Walk in, smile at the utterly uninterested doorman, grab the elevator to the 5th floor, ring the bell and browse for what might be the rest of your life. Always smiling and keen to ask where you're from, this charming guy has some treasures hidden beneath all the apparent mess.
For those who's drug of choice is caffeine, Knockbox does some excellent cups. A small, always packed cafe that also sells bags of their choice blends to endless lines of shakies. The flat white here is majestic.
Another caffeine depository, but with the added co-workspace for those laptop-inclined, and a gallery upstairs with contemporary art.
This odd bookstore, vinyl store, WTF? shop is hidden down a small alleyway in Wan Chai. Head here if you like the more peculiar things in life, but remember they are closed on Mondays!
They have a Laibach vinyl on display, so you kinda know what to expect.
Time for a short break after walking around Wan Chai? Heading for a burger at Honbo or a peek at Mosses but need a drink first? Grab an outside stool and order the legendary milk tea here. Time will stand still for the duration of your stay, before propelling you back to the hipsterisms of the neighbourhood. Old is gold!
With occasional live shows, a gallery next door and a cafe upstairs with a cosy little balcony, The Fringe is polar opposite to the dregs of Lan Kwai Fong 50 meters away.
Hong Kong has a critical lack of good underground bars. Most drinking holes cater to the wealthy business men, and typify them in being souless and bereft of character. That's where Sense 99 and Club 71 come in.
I'm not sure how the new location is, but this place was a regular haunt of mine whilst in HK. Upstairs, ring a bell, live music on the top floor, stand-offish bartenders, a balcony where memories were shared, whats not to love. There was always a great mix of people here, so you'll inevitably end up in a good conversation.
Corner Stop Bar
Tai Ko Tsui has quite a few nice street bars speckled along Pok Man Street. From the token craft beer stop, to fancier wine bars and a few pubs with open facades out to the street. Well worth taking a detour here for a calmer environment to enjoy your beverage in.
Tsim Sha Tsui's bar options are paltry. Row upon row of indentical bars strewn across the streets with bouncers and blaring music. Of the torrent of crap, these two are perhaps the most "normal". Roadside is a good place to make new friends, whereas next door at Hair of the Dog you can watch the football.
Sham Shui Po Junk Market
I try to leave "sights" to other blogs or websites, but one of my favourite things to do in Hong Kong is wander around this part of town. The market is less touristy than the Ladies Market in Mongkok, and is piled high with mountains of junk (and some treasures). Another reason to explore this part of town is the wealth of old buildings still standing giving you a glimpse into a fast changing side of Hong Kong.
Central Star Ferry Bar
If, like me, you like your alcohol cheap and unpretentious then most of the ferry piers in central have bars in them. The alcohol is cheap as chips, you don't have to suffer through loud music, and usually become chummy with someone who lives on Chueng Chau or Lamma who is scoffing a quick GT before heading home.
Climb aboard the creaking star ferry back over to Kowloon as the glistening water reflects a thousand skyscrapers and the moon struggles to make an impact on the neon decadence.
(Massive thanks to Nic, Ben and Suki for their amazing tips!)
All these recommendations are just personal opinions based on my palate, things change, chefs get fired or replaced, places open-close, relocate, so take it all with a pinch of MSG and discover your own gems too. But please do try a few of these, they have been researched exhaustively