COURTESY OF THE MURRAY, HONG KONG
BY IDGE MENDIOLA
There’s a Hong Kong that everyone knows—it’s the former British colony that’s transformed itself into a financial capital with a skyline that boasts the most number of skyscrapers in the world.
Hong Kong offers an exquisite balance of old-school charm, owing to its Sino-British heritage, and of global appeal, thanks to its exponential development. There’s almost always something new—another skyscraper, a theme park expansion, more Michelin-starred holes-in-the-wall—in every visit, which can easily be as often as every quarter of a year. Beyond visiting all these spots noted in guides and listings, however, what is worthwhile to discover is the Hong Kong that is in the forefront of innovating norms on design, dining, and, ultimately, living the good life.
COURTESY OF THE MURRAY
Taking space in Central’s Murray Building, a former government office and deemed a historic landmark, is The Murray, Hong Kong, a Niccolo Hotel. Opened to the public in January, The Murray has retained the building’s timeless structure and exterior, and transformed the interiors into a luxurious, tasteful accommodation. Its suites are sleek and contemporary, with stunning views of the city, Hong Kong Park, and other Central landmarks. The hotel also offers topnotch dining options, from the Cantonese Guo Fu Lou to its rooftop restaurant and bar Popinjays, as well as a superb events space in The Arches, the building’s former driveway.
22 Cotton Tree Drive, Central
EAT & DRINK
COURTESY OF BAKEHOUSE
There are usually a couple of lines snaking out of Bakehouse’s doors at any time of day. One is for those who want to grab freshly baked goods and leave right away, and another for those who want to dine in and try their breads as vessels for the tastiest fillings. Both queues are rewarding and the prizes you’ll receive are beyond satisfactory. Their arsenal of croissants, sourdoughs, buns, baguettes, and savories are worthy of heavenly praises, while their sweets (including a fantastic cinnamon bun, the prettiest tarts, and humongous cookies) will make you utter expletives.
14 Tai Wong Street East, Wanchai
There’s almost too many bars and pubs in SoHo, yet newcomer The Old Man effortlessly stands out. Helmed by beverage industry heavyweights Agung Prabowo, James Tamang, and Roman Ghale, this bar, both warm and lively, feels a lot like handsome lounge decked out with stylish furniture and the most sought-after spirits. The bar pays homage to the great American novelist Ernest Hemingway, whose novels are the names of most of the items on the menu. You won’t go wrong with the classic cocktails, but the innovative creations—some made with curry leaf, pandan, and Gruyere—are musts.
Lower G/F, 37 Aberdeen Street, Central
It was in 2015 when Vicky Lau was named Best Female Chef in Asia. Two years prior, her restaurant Tate Dining Room was awarded one Michelin star, a commendable accomplishment for the year-old French eatery. Tate has since moved to a new location, but continues to offer a unique dining experience for its loyal followers. Lau marries food and art in her masterpieces that are almost too pretty to eat. There is beauty in every corner at Tate—from the feminine interiors to the poetic tasting menus.
210 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan
COURTESY OF GRASSROOTS PANTRY
In any other restaurant, grilled tikka and nachos would be loaded with pork and beef chunks. But at Grassroots Pantry, hedgehog mushroom takes the place of chicken and beef, and pulled “pork” is made out of jackfruit. This is, of course, Hong Kong’s well-loved vegetarian eatery that puts a premium on unprocessed, sustainable, and organic ingredients. Owner Peggy Chan (bottom left) peppered the menu with gluten-, nut-, and even Buddhist-friendly items, including lemon chia seed pancakes, Koji smoked carrot crepes, and a delectable orange sans-butter cake.
108 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan
When yearning for a break from all the dimsum and congee, going Thai is always a good option in Hong Kong. Awarded Best New Restaurant in 2017 by Hong Kong Tatler, Samsen should be top of choice post whole-day shopping marathons. The cozy joint, decked out to mimic a Thai hole-in-the-wall, is a temple of comfort by way of noodle bowls, spicy sharing plates, and refreshing fruit shakes. You’ll be happily pleased after a meal of Wagyu Beef Boat Noodles, Crab Meat Fried Rice, Crispy Turmeric Squid, and their heavenly Mango Sticky Rice. Get there 30 minutes before opening to avoid the lines.
68 Stone Nullah Lane, Wanchai
COURTESY OF KUBRICK
Kubrick isn’t just another bookstore. Within its walls, you’ll find a café, a health shop, and a cinematheque and film kiosk. Its shelves are filled with hard-to-find covers that any literature buff will appreciate, as well as film collectibles that will get any fan excited. The collection of art pieces up on the walls will also catch one’s attention. Take a breather from all the usual touristy activities and find yourself in this creative sanctuary, where you can easily chill and dine without noticing the time ticking.
3 Public Square St., Yau Ma Tei
What was once a key 19th-century military complex in Admiralty is now Hong Kong’s hub for culture and the arts. Before becoming an architectural oasis in the middle of the bustling city, this complex formerly housed buildings used for storing explosives and ammunition. A product of heritage conversation, this design haven now features event spaces, galleries, and a multipurpose theatre. The site is open to the public and promotes active learning by exploring its grounds.
9 Justice Drive, Admiralty
Since its humble beginnings as Hong Kong’s first lifestyle select store along a secluded backstreet, Kapok has peddled internationally sourced clothing and design pieces. Focusing on keeping their shelves stocked with “future classics,” Kapok curates items that champion unbridled quality, craftsmanship, and creativity. The retail store has since expanded to several concept outlets around Hong Kong and now also stocks independent and locally produced items. Kapok’s brands range from Maison Kitsune to A.P.C. to Future Classics.
5 St. Francis Yard, Wanchai
Ever since its conception, K11 Mall in Tsim Tsa Tsui has changed the norms of shopping. Art, people, and nature are in the forefront of this mall that features shops that champion sustainability among the three. In its flagship store, the K11 Design Store, the same core values are given the spotlight. The shop is filled with unique designer goods and knickknacks, ranging from art pieces and gadgets to beauty and household products. Every product, sourced from Europe, Africa, or the rest of Asia, balances craftsmanship and originality, and tells a story.
K11 Art Mall, 18 Hanoi Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
Contemporary Asian Restaurant
Retail and Furniture Store