At the end of 2012, I was blessed with a visit from my boo (you can all call him Mr. Bootleg Cook–just kidding Dan is fine), who just so happens to be a very talented amateur photographer. I’d been feeling a little homesick so we decided to spend New Year’s in Hong Kong, one of the few places in Asia that makes me forget that I’m not in New York. Great western cuisine, herds of people who have no sense of personal space, grungy tiny spaces and English being spoken everywhere — definitely a welcomed break from the Mainland.
I’ve put together a little “guide” of sorts, covering pretty much every place Dan and I visited (as well as suggestions for places that we regretfully missed). Food, shops, bars, tourist traps and a few frugal tips here and there–check them out and maybe even incorporate them into your own HK travels!
*Disclaimer – 100% of these photos are phone pics*
More after the Jump!
Thanks to the Guangzhou – Kowloon High Speed Train, Hong Kong is a mere two hour trip from Guangzhou’s East Railway Station. First class tickets are HKD 190 (USD 24.50) which includes relatively comfy seats and a complimentary bottle of water. It kind of feels like the train ride from Princeton Junction, New Jersey to New York Penn Station, except you’re going 300km/hr and only stop once. You can order tickets directly from the MTR site for delivery to your hotels or buy tickets directly from the hotel business center. You could also buy the tickets directly at the station (make sure to follow the signs and go up the escalators for the Hong Kong train ticket booths). Having Hong Kong dollars in hand will spare you from the longer line.
Once you get to Hong Kong, get yourself a SIM from the first booth you see (the one right next to the currency exchange booth-they have a great HKD 60 sim that works on virtually every unlocked phone, but you could also get them at any 7-Eleven) as well as a Octopus Card, which you can use as a touch and go debit card as well as a metro card. You can “rent” you Octopus card at the MTR customer service booth for HKD 150, which includes a deposit that will be refunded once you return the card within 90 days. From the Hung Hom Railway Station I’d recommend taking the MTR one station to East Tsim Sha Tsui to explore, first.
Ovolo Hotel – 2 Arbuthnot Road and Airbnb.com
I’ve fallen in love with boutique hotels, and it’s all because of Ovolo, this cute little hotel right up the escalators from Lan Kwai Fong. Stylish, cosy, urban, yet peaceful despite its proximity to one of the rowdy clubbing districts ever, this little hotel proved itself to be top notch.
Dan and I were absolutely pampered! Our room came with a fully stocked (and fully complimentary) mini bar and fridge, a bag of snacks, luxurious Malin+Goetz bath minis, company slippers, a cute Ovolo draw-string bag, even your own little Nespresso machine, complete with an assortment of pods. The lobby even had a fully stocked beverage bar, also complimentary. What else? Free breakfast (with delivery to your room if you’d like), Wi-Fi, gym, laundry room downstairs, late and flexible check out, amazing team at your service 24/7, etc.
The best part? When we were asking for walking directions to Blue Butcher, we were informed by the concierge that because of Ovolo’s partnership with that particular restaurant, we’d be provided with a complimentary bottle of champagne during our meal. They even called ahead to inform the restaurant. How awesome, right?
Good news! Apparently there’s a promotion going on right now for up to 43% off! Get on it!
For a more frugal housing option in the Central District of Hong Kong, check out Airbnb.com. We were able to find a room in a nice little loft in the heart of LKF for our second night. Pennies on the dollar!
Places to Eat
Sorry gang, my eating habits were definitely the polar opposite of vegan/vegetarian-friendly during this trip. Meat-lovers, prepare for puddles of drool.
Blue Butcher – If you’re looking for a perfectly cooked steak, foie gras, roasted bone marrow, all in a trendy, upscale yet hipster venue, Blue Butcher is a must try! We went for the New Year’s Eve Festive Feast, a 1920’s themed event with live music, freebies and my favorite, a set menu featuring some of BB’s most well known dishes. I absolutely love when I don’t have to chose! With the exception of the the desserts, every dish was balanced and cooked to perfection. That night, I’ve probably had the best steak to date–I’m still drooling. I wasn’t crazy about the desserts, but honestly there are so many little eateries in the Central district that you can satisfy your sweet tooth anywhere. (I’ve noted *s next to items I strongly recommend)
- The Butchers Starter Board: *Bone Marrow, Quail, *Pigs Head Terrine, *Foie Gras, Oysters, *Smoked Beetroot Salad
- *Rare Breed US Kurobuta Pork Belly and Cheek with Lentils and Granny Smith Apple Slaw
- *1-oz Prime US Tenderloi with Black Truffle Potato Puree, Wild Mushrooms and Bearnaise Sauce
- Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding with Rum Banana Ice Cream and Sea Salt Caramel Ice Cream with Hazelnut Biscotti Crumble, Peanut Butter Puree and Kahlua Jelly
Blue Smoke Bar-B-Que – For being a self-proclaimed “authentic ‘Southern Hospitality’ restaurant,” I was really expecting more from Blue Smoke. I found our chicken overcooked and bland and the salad incredibly acerbic. Maybe brunch is better, but I’m not sure. The service really could have used some work, be it a language barrier or a lack of training, the whole process from ordering to getting the check was extremely tedious.
- Budweiser Smoked US Chicken
- Apple Pie
- Spinach Salad with Pork Rinds
- Suckling Pig: I didn’t get to try this because you have to order 24 hours in advance…and it feeds six to eight people.
Halal Stand near LKF – Yup. I suck. I have no idea what this place is called. All I know is that it is west of LKF, a few blocks west of Ovolo, across from a hookah bar and really close to Propoganda. Obviously to best place to get food after a night of irresponsible drinking and dancing. You must get their Falafel Wrap and Lamb over Rice or skip the rice and get it in a wrap!! Sauce? Spicy? Onions? Yes to all!
Gourmet Burger Union – This little burger joint is located on Wyndham Street, right across the street from The Centrium. Get ready for some “natural reared, grass fed, free range” beef anyway you want it! We got ours in a bowl and had a side of poutine (not as good as the stuff from Montreal, obviously, but it hit the spot).
Tsui Wah Restaurant (linked to a great review by Tim and Dan of Hungry Hong Kong: I’m a huge fan, guys!) 翠华餐厅 – On a tip from Dan’s friend, we decided to visit Tsui Wah for brunch on the day that we were scheduled to leave Hong Kong. Now I’m not a huge fan of noodles, but it was really refreshing to have a simple, local Hong Kong style breakfast. Yes, my carbohydrate intake during my trip equalled roughly that of the past month, but hey, moderation, not deprivation, right? Worth it.
- Ramen and Beef
- Breakfast Platter with Fried Fish, Scrambled Eggs, Buttered Bread, Beans and Mashed Squash
- Buttered Bread with Condensed Milk
- Hong Kong Style Milk Tea
The Lobby: Afternoon Tea at The Peninsula – Arguably the best place for traditional afternoon tea with a caveat… A monster of a line…like absolutely terrible. Tea starts at 2pm and ends at 6pm. We arrived at 1:30pm and STILL ended up waiting two hours…but I wanted my scones, dammit, and nothing was going to get in my way! Thank goodness for extended portable cell phone chargers, 3G and the lack of FB censorship in HK! Elegant, relaxing with just a touch of romance, the perfect way to end our trip.
- The Peninsula’s Classic Afternoon Tea (for two) – Includes finger sandwiches, macarons, sweet and savory tarts, cookies, cakes and the most amazing scones served with traditional clotted cream and jam! AHHH TO DIE FOR!
- Traditional Mille Feuille with Salted Caramel Sauce
- Complimentary Panna Cotta with Raspberry Sauce
Hui Lau Shan Health Dessert – Lauded as the most popular and famous healthy dessert chain in Hong Kong, this restaurant is known for its use of fresh fruit throughout its menu. I highly suggest anyone of their mango drinks! We ended up ordering the one with aloe, sago, coconut milk and mango. YUM!
Places to Visit and Things to Do!
Lan Kwai Fong – Food, clubs, bars, shops (high end or otherwise), this little sub-district has it all! Prepared to be jostled a bunch at night but keep your elbows out, skinny heels at home (unless you want to fall on your face…cobbled street and steep hill alert) and throw your inhibitions out the door and I guarantee you’ll have a blast! Clubs on my YES! list: Dragon-I, Taz, Marlin: the corner bar the has the 10 Shot Challenge, dancing in the street, etc.
Explore Tsim Sha Tsui
The Landmark/IFC Mall
Walk around Central/Soho/Etc. and get yourself VERY VERY lost
I’ll be posting a little guide for Guangzhou as well in the next couple of days, but until then, ENJOY!