Hong Kong’s Hippest Hood
Forget SoHo and NoHo, Hong Kong’s creative crowd is heading east to the edgy enclave of Wan Chai, one of the island’s oldest neighborhoods, and the former red light district. The historic streets are now lined with a growing number of haute restaurants hidden in heritage buildings, pulsing rooftop bars and blow-the-baggage-allowance boutiques. We asked long-time resident Lee Cobaj to give us the lowdown on the area’s hottest spots.
Hong Kongers are mad for bao, ridiculously tasty steamed buns originating from Taiwan. The classic bao consists of a hunk of barbecued pork buried in a fluffy white casing, but at fast food joint, Bao Wow, the pork is braised for five long hours and topped with crushed peanuts, coriander and sweet Chinese relish. Five other flavors and numerous zingy toppings are available, as well as side dishes like taro sticks with spicy Sriracha mayo and Kimchili cheese fries. Finish off with an ice cream baowich (a deep-fried bao filled with vanilla ice cream).
Spread across three floors in a buttercup-yellow heritage building, The Pawn dishes up swank versions of British classics. Head to the lovely roof garden at the weekend for the all-you-can-eat barbecue brunch and a whole heap of classic Hong Kong scenery – think trams ding dinging down the street, skyscrapers looming in the distance and neon lights in full blaze.
No visit to Hong Kong is complete without a cocktail-sipping session at a seriously cool rooftop bar. One of the best and yet still off-the-tourist-radar is Wooloomooloo. The view from its 31st floor terrace is simply astounding and takes in the Happy Valley Racecourse, the Wan Chai and Causeway Bay metropolis and, of course, Victoria Harbour. Stop by for a drink at sunset and watch the city ignite in a sea of neon.
Chef Alain Devahive Tolosa, who worked under Ferran Adrià at elBulli for a decade, has made Catalunya a honeypot for Hong Kong’s hipsters. Channelling cool España, the dimly-lit eatery serves up sexy dishes like the Bikini, an Iberian ham, cheese and truffle sandwiches, and suckling pig tapa with lemon purée. A comprehensive list of Spanish wines and a super-cool cocktail list completes the package.
Stone Nullah Tavern
Following on from the success of Posto Publico and Linguini Fini, chef Vinny Lauria has waved his magic wand in Wan Chai. Located on the edge of Stone Nullah Lane, opposite the historically-important Blue House, this dashing diner serves American fare with finesse. The menu is seasonal – if it’s not in season, Vinny won’t cook it – and features the likes of Boston baked beans and crispy pig’s head with lobster salad.
Tang Tang Tang Tang
Tucked below gastropub, The Pawn, Tang Tang Tang Tang – or TTTT for short – is the hottest new lifestyle brand to hit Hong Kong. The China-themed boutique is the brainchild of Shanghai Tang founder, David Tang, and is aimed squarely at the city’s bright young things. Think monogrammed laptop sleeves, bright yellow rice cookers and Chinese zodiac silk pajamas.