Hong Kong is one of the most dynamic cities in the world and its restaurants and nightlife comprise a vibrant mix of glamorous bars and eateries and grand prestigious clubs and Michelin-star restaurants, serving exotic cocktails and cuisine from all over the world. In a city where the hotel restaurant used to reign supreme, new independent restaurants continue to spring up catering to an insatiable, sophisticated residential and international market. Some of the current ‘kings of cool’ are:
Located in the basement of the Standard Chartered Bank’s head office building in Central, this is the place to go for delicious contemporary Chinese food such as signature dishes ‘Apple-wood roasted 42-days Peking Duck and Smoked Black Cod, and desserts which combine intriguing flavours from the East and West. The extensive wine list supplements a long list of exotic cocktails featuring ingredients like Osmanthus honey and goji berries, or pomelo or star anise etc. As you descend the dramatic spiral staircase, you are transported into another world...the low mood lighting enhances the dramatic design of the interiors (‘lofty New York industrial style with Chinese imperial elements’ (think ‘Mad Max’ meets Old Shanghai) and it’s great for cosy trysts. Even the communal restrooms are a talking point – vintage ‘Mr Crapper’ loos!
It's long (14 metres) stone bar is where all the great and groovy of Hong Kong meet – plush banquettes and bar stools are packed every night and you will find yourself squeezing past Hollywood movie stars, Chinese millionaires, fashion czars and all manner of celebrities – it’s Will.I.Am and Victoria Beckham’s favourite hangout when they’re in town. Since Upper House opened in 2009 in Central’s Pacific Place complex, the hotel has redefined the local definition of a ‘hip hotel’ and the Café Gray Bar, located on the 49th floor, offers amazing views of the city to impress out-of-towners. The eclectic menu features acclaimed Asian fusion cuisine and their cocktail list offers intriguing tipples like Earl Grey Martini – tea-infused gin with hints of orange and lemon. It’s another nightspot with amazing loos – and in Hong Kong there’s stiff competition for this particular accolade
For many years Kennedy Town in the eastern district of Hong Kong island was dead at night but a rash of trendy new nightspots has seen it morphed into the new Soho where locals ‘in the hood’ go to chill and have a little fun with easy dining options...K-Town Bar and Grill’s cool and casual vibe makes it a popular place to meet friends for a bite – they have a ‘tasting’ a selection of wood-fired pizzas, tasty pastas and burgers with an Asian twist (their Wagyu Steak sandwich is divine).
‘Hopheads’ will love Little Creatures nearby, an Aussie imbued microbrewery with enormous copper ‘coops’ of flavourful home-brewed beer and a menu to suit. Easy to access via quaint electric double-decker trams (in operation since 1904 and a secret to most tourists), this historic part of the island harbour front is enjoying a major revival.
When the China Club opened in the old Bank of China Building in 1991 with its fabulous contemporary Chinese art and 30’s Shanghai décor, it changed the private dining scene in Hong Kong forever. The brainchild of the late Chinese entrepreneur and socialite, Sir David Tang, its immediate success spawned similar exclusive clubs in Beijing and Singapore. The next-best-thing for non-members, however, is a table at his China Tang restaurant in the Landmark building in Central, sister to the swanky China Tang in London’s Dorchester Hotel and equally popular with celebrities and high society. Chinoserie décor is given a modern twist with trompe l’oeil on glass and mirrors, and an elegant ‘bordello’ bar with the longest silk bench curving round the wall. The food is equally impressive with three-star Michelin chef commanding the kitchen and excellent French wines. And yes, the classy washrooms are so comfy you want to move in...very much a signature feature of Sir David’s clubs and restaurants.
Ping pong Gintoneria
In between Hong Kong Island’s Central and Kennedy Town is the Sai Ying Pun area and the location of Ping Pong Gintoneria (no relation to the Ping Pong restaurants in London)....the evocative former home of the HK Ping Pong Association. With gin experiencing a massive national revival and new colours and flavours flooding the market, this is an ideal spot to savour whopper G and T’s in large wine glasses with all sorts of leaves and berries....You never know who you will meet of an evening in the large cavernous room – all manner of musicians, actors, poets and artists soaking up the louche atmosphere and excellent tapas – or is there an Ethiopian food promotion on this week? Go figure!
...And as an afterthought, if you want to hang out with a gang of old Hong Kong Belongers, they all decamped from the original Va Bene in Lan Kwai Fong to Gaia Italian Restarant in Sheung Wan, and can now be found sitting outside dining al fresco (under the heaters in winter), cigars and Tignanello in hand and lovlingly ministered to by the legendary Manager, Pino Piano. Chef Paolo is brilliant and will rustle up anything to order...just beware the grapes soaked in grappa – lethal