Hello again, Wan Chai
Wan Chai 灣仔 is like an old friend – one I always visit whenever I am in Hong Kong.
Wan Chai’s appeal is multifold. It is far from the maddening crowds of Central yet not too estranged from all the action. Stay options are ample (to suit any budget) and so are top-notch F&B establishments. You’d never be in want of good food in Wan Chai.
Earlier this year, when my department organised a team-bonding trip to Hong Kong we stayed in Wan Chai – at Kew Green, a cosy, contemporary-styled hotel 6 minutes walk from Wan Chai station.
In and around Wan Chai
To the young ones, the night in Hong Kong was a never ending invitation to play. The same went for us travellers even though we were no longer young. Perhaps we were trying to relive our youth in a foreign place where nobody knew us. Luckily, our destination of choice was nearby.
The Pawn, 5 minutes by walking from Kew Green, was a restored heritage building, previously a pawn shop. The alcohol wasn’t cheap but the ambience was great. It was the perfect place to see and be seen (although most of the time it was quite dim). Expect to see lots of expatriates.
Le Pain Quotidien – translated into The Daily Bread is a wonderful brunch option if you want a change from the Hong-Kong-style teahouse. Located further down the road from the Pawn and right behind Wan Chai station, it is the perfect place to people-watch. Again, you’d be seeing many foreigners.
The food was good, though the servings were large. I ordered a cappuccino which came in a bowl. I had the scone which was excellent and came with very fresh cream. These 2 were enough to keep me feeling filled-up for the rest of the day.
For a more upclass brunch, feast on dim sum at one of the top Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong, Fook Lam Moon.
Fook Lam Moon (35-45 Johnston Rd) was just 2 minutes from our hotel. We almost missed the unassuming booth at the building entrance on the ground floor. There, we were greeted by the concierge. We were in casuals and obviously didn’t fit in with its target clientele but they didn’t shoo us away.
Fook Lam Moon had been called the Hong Kong’s tycoons’ canteen. Expect the price to be tycoon price too. That said, the food quality (and service) was aligned with the price. We didn’t see any powers-that-be there but we did see a group of very good-looking young people. In the end, we felt it was money well-spent.
The beef cheong fun 腸粉 was the best cheong fun I’d ever eaten. Their pineapple bun 菠蘿包 was a signature dim sum dish was it was pricey so we decided to save our moolah for dinner at the airport. Will have to leave that for the next trip.
The evergreen favourite, Honolulu Cafe, was only a 7 minute-walk from Kew Green. For a slightly different skew, walk for another 5 minutes to Chrisly Cafe (Heard St) for their Truffle Scrambled Egg toast or Pork chop buns.
The happy atmosphere in Chrisly was contagious and the perfect antidote for a hung-over morning.
To get a bite on Hong Kong’s signature dish, the roast goose, there’s no need to go all the way to Central to Yung Kee (good but pricey) or to Yat Lok (more affordable michelin-starred alternative near Yung Kee). Instead, take a slow stroll (8 minutes) to Kam’s Roast Goose or to the Joy Hing’s Roasted Meat (Bib Gourmand).
I’m not able to stick any photos from Kam’s because we ordered takeaway (long queue outside restaurant) and finished all the roast goose and char siew in our hotel before we remembered. But take our word for it: It was better than Yung Kee and Yat Lok.
Within the Wan Chai precinct, there were also many traditional shops serving up fresh seafood, meat, tarts, noodles etc if you know where to find them.
Amongst them is Kang Kee Noodles (4 Tai Wo Street) where locals get traditionally-made noodles made from shrimp, abalone, tomato, spinach, sesame to name a few. I saw many locals ordering wanton 雲吞 and har gao 蝦餃 skins so I bought some too. These had to be consumed within 3 days (longer if you freeze it) but they were the best wanton skins ever.
Stepping outside Wan Chai
There were times when we had to venture out of Wan Chai for some special stuff. Like Kwan Kee Claypot which I’d always wanted to go but never made it. This time, thanks to an ex-colleague, we managed to book 4 tables.
The claypot dishes were indeed cooked very well. The side dishes we ordered were also excellent.
This Kwan Kee branch was located at 243-254 Hong Kong, Sai Wan, Des Voeux Rd W. Take the MTR to Sai Ying Pun station, get out at exit B3 and you’d see Kwan Kee (1 minute).
Shang Kee Congee at Sheung Wan is an old favourite. I love the congee there especially the beef congee and I’d always try to make a trip there for breakfast. Shang Kee serves noodles as well.
Take the MTR to Sheung Wan station. Exit A2, walk for 3 minutes. The address is 7-9 Burd Street.
This trip, the usual suspects such as Horizon Plaza was disappointing (tenant mix changed). Citygate Outlets was still a reasonably good place to part with your money for discounted branded items but it could get a bit overwhelming and distracting.
One of the new places I visited was PMQ, short for Police Married Quarters. It used to be the living quarters of married police officers (hence the name) but had been conserved and made-over into a hip incubator for the creative and F&B industries.
Here, you can find a wide variety of shops offering avant-garde items and interesting eats. The open-air plaza in the centre was ideal for holding events; in fact when I was there on a Saturday, there was a bustling flea market.
But I was in a hurry to get to the Murray, so it was really touch-and-go. Hopefully, next time around, I could explore PMQ more thoroughly and many more new places.
Visited 20-23 April 2018