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Hong Kong dining recommendations

Favourite Hong Kong restaurants of Gil Lempert-Schwarz, wine and whisky auctioneer

The Dragon 8 Auctions founder is a long-time Hong Kong visitor who counts Mercato, Gaia, On Dining and One Harbour Road among his high-end favourites and Ophelia and Nocturne for a decent glass of wine

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 August, 2016, 12:04pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 August, 2016, 5:48pm

I first arrived in Hong Kong from Denmark in 1989. I was in the wine business, importing California wine and American products. Now I live between Las Vegas and here. I am very adventurous with food although I don’t eat pork because I’m Jewish.

Otherwise, I have been fortunate to have travelled the world and eaten at all the great restaurants. I’m lucky to have become friends with some great chefs too. It was cool to catch up with Jean-Georges Vongerichten at the pre-opening of Mercato (8/F California Tower, 30-32 D’Aguilar Street, Lan Kwai Fong, tel: 3706 8567). The food there is outstanding. It’s Italian but different.

I love Gia Trattoria Italiana (1/F Fleet Arcade, Fenwick Pier, 1 Lung King Street, Wan Chai, tel: 2511 8081). It’s top notch, with great pizza. But my canteen is Gaia Ristorante (Grand Millennium Plaza, 181 Queen’s Road Central, Sheung Wan, tel: 2167 8200). The director, Pino Piano, is one of my oldest friends in the business. It’s al fresco dining at its best in Hong Kong. They have the best rotisserie chicken. I love simple things like that.

I also like On Dining (29/F, 18 On Lan Street, Central, tel: 2174 8100). A friend of mine co-opened it and I think it is true to the idea of fresh modern French dining with exceptional dishes.

Consistency counts a lot to me. If I want a good top-class Cantonese meal I go to One Harbour Road (7-8/F Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, 1 Harbour Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2584 7722). I have worked with chef Tim professionally and what they do is classic. I don’t know why it is not more highly regarded.

I like Sevva (25/F Prince’s Building, 10 Chater Road, Central, tel: 2537 1388). Bonnae Gokson wanted a world cuisine menu. Today, they have it, with one of the best dosas you can get.

For a simple American burger, Dan Ryan’s Chicago Grill (shop LG2-28, Festival Walk, Kowloon Tong, tel: 2265 8811) is sensational Midwest/Chicago fare. It is still one of the most successful concepts ever in Hong Kong. It’s too bad Swire closed the outlet in Pacific Place.

I drink a lot of wine professionally but when I go out I like to have cocktails. I love the Lobster Bar and Grill (level 6, Island Shangri-La Hong Kong, Pacific Place, Admiralty, tel: 2820 8560). I like mixology and they’ve stepped up their game with fresh young top mixers.

For wine bars, The Fine Wine Experience (85 Queen’s Road West, Sheung Wan, tel: 2803 0753) is nice. They’re good guys and not afraid to open a top bottle just for one glass. But the most beautiful bar in Hong Kong now is Ophelia (Shop 41A, 1/F Lee Tung Avenue, 200 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2520 1117). They must have spent like drunken sailors on the place as it is a fantasyland of old birdcages and peacocks. Nocturne (35 Peel Street, Central, tel: 2884 9566) is a speakeasy that specialises in Japanese whisky. The bartender is from Tokyo and she has great knowledge. It’s private and very cool.