One of the world's great food cities, Hong Kong offers culinary excitement whether you're spending HK$30 on a bowl of dumplings or megabucks in a chic temple to haute cuisine.
As you might expect, the best of China is well represented, be it Cantonese, Chiu Chow (a regional cuisine of southern China), Northern, Shanghai or Sichuan cuisine. If you've been on the road in China for a while, and all this is old hat, fear not. The international fare on offer is diverse, too, including Italian and Asian fusion, some sensational Japanese food, cheap and cheerful Thai, fiery Indian curries, Malay laksas, and innovative vegetarian options.
It is an expensive place to dine by re-gional Chinese standards, but the price of a decent-quality meal is comparable with similar places in Beijing or Shanghai, and usually cheaper than Sydney, London or New York.
If you can't decide exactly what you fancy, following your nose along certain streets in the main districts can be rewarding.
On Hong Kong Island, SoHo has easily the biggest range in an attractive setting, while Central, Lan Kwai Fong and Wan Chai are also good bets. In Kowloon, Lock Rd and Ashley Rd in Tsim Sha Tsui have a growing mix of trendy eateries, and Knutsford Tee is also worth a look. The southwestern pocket of Wan Chai between the tram tracks at Southern playground and Star St is Hong Kong's latest dining hot spot.
While you're in Hong Kong do try dim sum, uniquely Cantonese dishes normally steamed,' served for breakfast, brunch or lunch. You pay for these delicacies by the number of baskets or dishes you order. In larger places these are stacked up on trolleys and wheeled around the dining room; just point at whatever catches your eye as the trolley rolls by. In smaller places you order from a menu card.
In Cantonese restaurants, tea is often served free of charge or at nominal cost and refilled indefinitely. When the teapot is empty and you want a refill, signal the waiter by taking the lid off the pot and resting it on the handle.
Hong Kong Island
The city's best range of food is on Hong Kong Island.
Malt's Noodle ( 2854 3810; 77 Wellington St, Central; dishes HKS25-50; £) 11am-8pm) The won-ton soup noodles (a major hangover cure) and beef brisket noodles have been drawing patrons to this low-key place for decades.
Lung Moon Restaurant (2527 2343; ground fl, 130-136 Johnston Rd, Wan Chai; cold dishes HKS35-50, soups HKS40-60; S 11am-4am) This unassuming, family-run joint serves great Shanghai staples, including dumplings, hot-and-sour soup - almost a meal in itself- and aubergine fried with garlic (HKS55).
Yung Kee (2522 1624; 32-40 Wellington St, Central; dishes HK$55-150; S 11am-11.30pm) Operating since 1942, the four-storey Yung Kee is Central's most famous Cantonese res-taurant. The roast goose (HK$100 for one or two people) and dim sum (served 2pm to 5.30pm Monday to Saturday and llam to 5.30pm Sunday only) are the signature dishes, though everything in the phonebook of a menu is pretty good.
Luk Yu Tea House ( 2523 5464; 24-26 Stanley 5t, Central; rice & noodle dishes HK565-160, mains HK$100-350; ® 7am-10pm) The Luk Yu is a Hong Kong classic, with distinctive old-style decor and divine dim sum (served 7am to 5pm) compensating for rather cavalier service.
BnTmi City Hall Maxim's Palace ( 2521 1303; 3rd fl, Lower Block, Hong Kono City Hall, 1 Edinburgh PI; dim sum per person about HK$100; S Ham-3pm & 5.30-11,30pm Mon-Sat, 9am-11.30pm Sun) This is the full dim sum experience, in a huge kitschy hall with hundreds of locals, fantastic food and fine harbour views.
SoHo is home to several Chinese restaurants, but two Sichuan places stand out. Shui Hu Ju serves delicious, chilli-packed Sichuan dishes in a delightful Chinese setting that makes you feel like you're dining in one of the neighbouring antiques shops; while Sichuan Cuisine Da Ping Huo serves similarly fiery set meals (such as chicken and peanuts in sweet chilli) in sleek surrounds, after which the owner-chef emerges to sing Chinese opera. Book ahead.
Xi Yan Sweets : The new joint from a local TV chef who runs private dining club Xi Yan is an oddly successful fusion of Asian savoury dishes (shrimp and pomelo salad, osmanthus-smoked duck eggs, Sichuan hot-and-spicy beef) and puddings (ice cream with durian fruit, glutinous rice with banana ice cream).
Nha Trang: The regular Vietnamese diners in this stylish restaurant are testament to the quality and price of the food.
Lively little Wing Wah Lane, commonly known as Rat Alley, is home to restaurants serving Malay, Thai, Sri Lankan and Indian food. The outdoor eateries, including Good Luck Thai , are the perfect place to fill up before/while/after sinking a few beers in neighbouring Lan Kwai Fong . It's easy to find: just look for the mega-coiffed touts.
Naturo : A small range of snacks and sandwiches plus wonderful Tibetan yak cheesecake and outdoor seating in a leafy, secluded Wan Chai haven.
Bricolage 62 :French brasserie-style food cooked from the open kitchen, some great wines, and a selection of large (steak /rites, braised beef shin) and snack (salt cod cakes, bruschetta) dishes make this tiny place a winner.
Duke's Burger : Hong Kong seems to have gone burger mad recently. This place does very posh ones with Wagyu beef and foie gras, for example, and you can get all manner of fancy fries with that.
Pawn : Occupying an old colonial building, the Pawn serves ac-complished modern British pub grub, such as fish and chips, ham hock and prune salad, and roast pork belly; plus there's a great list of wines by the glass, carafe or bottle. It's popular, so book ahead.
Top Deck at the Jumbo : This tourist institution is the larger of two floating restaurants moored in Aberdeen Harbour. But forget the old restaurant and head straight upstairs to Top Deck for fine seafood in a prime indoor/outdoor location. The food (mostly seafood) is consistently OK but it's the knockout setting you come for.
La Kasbah :A kind of Frenchified Maghreb caravanserai, La Kasbah serves delightful North African dishes in a wonderfully escapist underground setting.
Life : Life has taken vegetarian Hong Kong by storm, serving vegan food and dishes free of gluten, wheat, onion and garlic over three floors. Recommended, whether you're vegie or not.
Fringe Club : Apart from entertain-ment, the Fringe serves popular vegetarian lunchtime buffets upstairs in its Fotogalerie; there's seating on the roof terrace, too.
Kung Tak Lam :This long-established place serves Shanghai-style meatless dishes, and the packed tables attest to the quality of the food. The vegetables are 100% organic and dishes are MSG-free.
ThreeSixty Store: This extensive organic and natural food store is on the pricey side but is a good place to stock up for a deluxe picnic.
The enormous gourmet dty'super : supermarket has ready-to-eat food like sushi and salads and lots of fresh but pricey produce. Other branches include Tsim Sha Tsui .
There's plenty of choice in both cuisine and budget, especially in Tsim Sha Tsui, although perhaps not quite the range of places on offer over the harbour.
Happy Garden Noodle & Congee Kitchen : This top budget opporridge dishes to choose from, including shrimp wonton noodles (HKS28).
Wu Kong Shanghai Restaurant: This long-running place is known for its cold pigeon in wine sauce and crispy fried eels, but also serves dim sum and a vast array of other dishes.
Spring Deer : Hong Kong's most famous Peking duck is served here (HKS280 for the whole bird), but the service can be about as welcoming as a Beijing winter, c 1967.
Hutong : Panoramic views and some exemplary contemporary Chinese dishes, such as wok-fried prawns with salty egg yolk and crab roe (HKS188), and crispy deboned lamb ribs (HKS248), give a meal here a real sense of occasion.
Gaylord : Classy service and live Indian music every night complement the excellent rogan josh, dhal and plenty of vegetarian choices in Hong Kong's oldest Indian restaurant.
Apart from cheap hotels, Chungking Mansions is packed with cheap Indian and Pakistani restaurants (called messes). Lunch or dinner will cost from about HK$50; for HK$100 you'll get a blowout, though if you want a drink you'll usually have to BYO. We've listed a couple of reliable places here, though you could just as happily follow your nose or, better, ask the locals what their favourite is. Islamabad Club ,Serves Indian and Pakistani halal food; there's no alcohol. Swagat Restaurant. The only mess with a liquor licence, Swagat is a bit more expensive but its beer deals (five bottles for HKS69 when we visited) make it a good place to start an evening.
Sushi One : Tsim trendy sushi place with a mesmerising fish-tank wall.
UiU'Wil Yagura : Terrific Japanese food covering most bases, including sushi, tempura and yakitori at pretty sensible prices. Try the grilled live scallops.
Merhaba : Merhaba is one of the few restaurants on ultracompeti-tive Knutsford Tee that is always busy. The meze is good, and Sunday is happy hour all night.
Branto Pure Vegetarian Indian Food : This cheap but excellent place serves South Indian dishes; try the dosa (crispy crepe from South India) with dipping sauces.
Wellcome : Well-stocked branch of the large supermarket chain.
Eating options are improving on the Outlying Islands. Lamma boasts the biggest range in Yung Shue Wan (cafes, seafood and others) and Sok Kwu Wan (Chinese seafood restaurants). There are also some decent choices on Lantau, Cheung Chau and, to a lesser extent, Peng Chau. Combined with
Bookworm Cafe : This long-running vegetarian cafe-restaurant serves fantastic fruit juices, organic wine and other fair fare, and doubles as a secondhand bookshop with free wi-fi.
Hometown Teahouse : This wonderfully relaxed place run by an amiable Japanese couple serves lunch and dinner, but the afternoon tea -sushi, pancake, tea - is what you should come for.
Stoep Restaurant : Right on quiet Lower Cheung Sha Beach, the Stoep serves up meat, fish and South African braai (barbecue; HKS90 to HK$170), and a chilled atmosphere.
Blue Bird : Lamma is famous for its seafood restaurants, but they are pricey, which makes the creditable sushi and other Japanese dishes here surprisingly good value.
DRINKING Cafes & Teahouses
The last few years have seen a miniature explosion of cafes - local and international - that serve a wide range of coffees. Tea and teahouses, of course, have been a major component of Chinese culture since time immemorial.
Moon Garden Tea House : Choose from many brews, then lose an afternoon perusing tea books, admiring antiques (all for sale) and taking refills from the heated pot beside your table.
Salon de The de Joel Robuchon: If you want an inexpensive slice of exclusivity, try the salted caramel tarts or other pastries at this annexe to the high-end restaurant upstairs.
Lan Kwai Fong in Central is the best area for bars, attracting everyone from expat and Chinese suits to visiting tourists. The action continues just up the hill on massively popular Wyndham St. Even further up, SoHo hosts a few bars but more restaurants; it's easily reached by the Mid-Levels Escalator. In general, pubs and bars in Wan Chai are cheaper and more relaxed; those in Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon attract more locals.
It's worth seeking out happy hours, when most pubs and bars, and some clubs, offer dis-counts on drinks. Happy hour is usually in the late afternoon or early evening - 4pm to 8pm, say - but times vary from place to place.
HONG KONG ISLAND
Barco : One of our favourite SoHo bars, Barco has great staff, is small enough that it never feels empty and attracts a cool mix of locals and expats. Happy hour 4pm to 8pm. Club 71 (528-9; (§1 2858 7071; Basement, 67 Hollywood Rd, Central; S 3pm-2am Mon-Sat, 6pm-1am Sun) When Club 64, the counterculture capital of Lan Kwai Fong, was forced to close after rents spiralled, some of the owners relocated to this quiet alley in burgeoning NoHo. Club 71, named after the huge 1 July 2003 protest march, is once again one of the best drinking spots for nonposeurs. It's accessed via a small footpath off either Peel St or Aberdeen St. Happy hour 3pm to 9pm.
Pawn : Occupying a period building, the Pawn is the hot new place in Wan Chai, serving a huge range of beers and wines from comfy old beaten-up sofas inside and cool terrace tables overlooking the tram tracks outside.
Bohemian Lounge : Suitably bohemian decor and live jazz weekends make this a fun place to hang out.
Chinatown : Joyce is Not Here . A superchilled cafe-bar periodically offering poetry readings and live music.
Red Bar : Harbour views, DJs and alfresco drinking combine at this hot spot above the IFC.
Felix : Swanky Felix is where to head for amazing views and expensive drinks. Try coming during sunset, then ducking over to Chungking Mansions for a curry, to experience the two-ends-of-the-Hong-Kong-spectrum night out.
Deleft : This popular Irish pub has the full Irish theme, including good craic most of the time. It's a good choice for watching sports. Happy hour 5pm to 9pm.
Chillax : This tiny space lit by candles, patronised mainly by young locals, is good for simply sitting, slumping and taking refuge from a day spent dodging through Tsim Sha Tsui. Things get livelier later when the DJ gets going.
To find out what's on in Hong Kong, pick up a copy of HK Magazine (www.asia-city.com.hk), a handy entertainment listings magazine. It's free, appears on Friday and can be picked up at res-taurants, bars, shops and hotels throughout the territory. For more comprehensive listings buy the fortnightly Time Out (www.timeout.com.hk) from newsstands. Also worth checking out is the freebie be magazine (www.bcmagazine.net), which tends to have more complete listings. Bookings for most cultural events can be made by telephoning Urbtix . You can also book tickets for many films and concerts and a great variety of cultural events through Cityline .
Cavern : supper club, the Cavern is effectively a showcase for two tribute bands: Sixties Mania Showband, done up in mop-head haircuts and bell-bottoms, and the Rolling Bones, a great Filipino band.
Gecko Lounge : Entered from narrow Ezra's Lane off Cochrane St or Pottinger St, Gecko is an intimate lounge that attracts a fun crowd, especially for the live jazz sessions Tuesday to Thursday. It also has a great wine list. Happy hour 4pm to 10pm.
Wanch :This small venue has live music (mostly rock and folk) seven nights a week from 9pm (10pm on Friday and Saturday), with the occasional solo guitarist thrown in. Happy hour 4pm to 9pm.
Yumla : Hip without trying too hard, this scruffy, tucked-away place serves up excellent tunes and a cool crowd. Look for the murals and enter from Pottinger St.
Drop : Dance music that's a cut above attracts a buzzing crowd. Dress up to pass the door test. Happy hour 7pm to 10pm Monday to Friday.
Dusk till Dawn : This fun place is one of Wan Chai's more reliable nightclubs, and even when the dance floor is packed the atmosphere is friendly rather than sleazy. Happy hour 5pm to llpm.
Bahama Mama's Caribbean Bar : On the Knutsford Tee strip, Bahama Mama's has an 'island' feel and attracts a youngish crowd. The weekend usually sees DJs playing to a tightly packed dance floor. Happy hour 5pm to 9pm and midnight to closing Monday to Saturday, and all day Sunday.
Club 97; This schmoozy lounge bar has a 'members only' policy to turn away the badly Friday (6pm to 9pm) is a gay event. On week-ends, it kicks after lam.
Gay & Lesbian Venues
Along with the gay and lesbian clubs and bars listed here, a few straight and mixed clubs, such as Club 97 (left), have gay happy hours or evenings. For the latest events and venues try GayStation (www.gaystation.com.hk) or Gay HK (www.gayhk.com).
Propaganda :Hong Kong's premier gay dance club. The weekend cover charge gets you into Works on Friday. Enter from Ezra's Lane, which runs between Pbttinger and Cochrane Sts.
Works : Propaganda's sister club, it's a popular.
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