Charm of Queen's Road East
Queen's Road East is establishing itself as a chic new destination for diners by showcasing a range of global cuisines
It's hard to believe, but Queen's Road East started life as a small fishing community surrounding Hung Shing Temple, set on a sandy bay. Major reclamation in 1921 dragged the landmass out, adding necessary hectares of land for housing on streets, such as Ship Street and Sampan Street, among others, with tenement buildings and shop houses following. Until recently, Queen's Road East was dominated, vertically speaking, by the 1970s-style Hopewell Centre. Now, many of the old furnishing and homeware businesses have made way for new blocks, QRE Plaza and Garden East, and restaurants are starting to take over, creating a stretch of road that's distinctly foodie.
1. CAFÉ POST
246 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, 800 968 688, www.hotelindigo.com/hongkong
While all-day dining in a hotel often means a beige lounge serving predictable food, Hotel Indigo's Café Post (named for its view of the old post office from the terrace), is all light wood and colourful tiles, and feels sunny and uplifting, even when it's not a blue-sky day. Rock up in the morning and grab a coffee and croissant to go, or open your laptop and surf the free Wi-fi as you snack alfresco. More substantial breakfasts are available à la carte or buffet - grab Bircher muesli and juices from the fridge and a delicate scrambled egg or omelette from the egg station. The breads are from Bread Element, and the coffee's courtesy of Rabbithole. Lunches are à la carte, with hearty sets including sandwiches such as the chicken blat (bacon, lettuce, avocado, tomato) served with chips, or there's the mixed dim sum basket that's ideal if you're the only taker. As the day comes to an end, hit the communal table for a post-work glass of wine with friends. The salt and pepper squid is a good sharing dish, and the beef noodles are awesome comfort food. The cafe is open all day to everyone and is surprisingly affordable.
2. CHEZ PATRICK
2/F, Garden East, 222 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, 2541 1401, www.chezpatrick.hk
Owner and executive chef Patrick Goubier felt so sorry for his Peel Street restaurant guests tripping down the uneven road in their high heels that he was delighted to find this airy, sophisticated space in Garden East. His signature black and white tables and chairs are tempered with a calming grey on the walls - it's a grown-up space for business lunches and intimate, romantic dinners. Goubier wows lunchtime diners with his take on the buffet, featuring individually presented delicacies, such as snail rillettes, crab mousse, his Vietnamese wife's vegetable salad and a cold soup. New is his autumn menu, with executive lunch dishes including starters, such as chestnut and wild mushroom soup, and warm oysters served in their shells, followed by beef fillet and eggplant lasagna. For dinner, it's hard not to choose the signature trio de foie gras, but the new smoked foie gras terrine delivers powerful smoke and cognac flavour on the palate, while the pot au feu features scallops in place of meat. Desserts such as chestnut tiramisu decorated with marron glacés, and mandarin orange crème brûlée are exquisite endings.
3. LA CRÊPERIE
1F 100 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, 2529 9280, www.lacreperie.com.cn
While affordable French bistros have been popping up all around Hong Kong, La Crêperie is a long-established savoury and sweet pancake eatery. The Brittany theme runs from nautical lighthouses as salt and pepper pots to marine art and stripe-topped staff, and once you pour your first bottle of cider, you'll be in a Gallic mood. There are non-crêpe starters, such as oysters and fish soup, but the buckwheat flour galettes are the stars of the show. Go simple with the ham, gruyère and fried egg of the la complete, or rich with the eckmuhl with reblochon cheese, potatoes, lardons and onions. Crispy on the outside and stuffed on the inside, the galettes are full of flavour, the ingredients contrasting with the nutty buckwheat. The restaurant features seven kinds of cheese, from rich roquefort to mild goat. A new menu item is the super complete, with ham, sunny-side-up egg and emmental, camembert and roquefort cheeses. It might be difficult to fit in a dessert, and although the salty caramel and banana crêpe is tempting, the lemon and sugar crêpe is a classic.
4. NORTHERN DUMPLINGS
259 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, 2838 8486
This famous brand brings the street's international gastronomic tone back to a grounded, local feel. The typical local interior of lino floor and wooden stools at round tables is comfortable enough, but you won't be there long - the place is so popular there's often a queue, and a sign on the wall asks patrons to leave once they've finished. But as soon as you dig in, you'll understand the fuss - the dumplings are fresh, large and generously filled with pork, mutton or shrimp. At the 10am opening time, catch a late breakfast of pork and cabbage dumplings in soup, or stop in at lunch to try the dumpling noodles, sesame butter noodles or the spiced donkey meat if you're feeling brave. Pork and watercress dumplings in spicy and sour soup hit the spot. If you still have room, there are sesame rice balls in ginger soup or red bean paste pancakes.
5/F QRE Plaza, 202 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, 2836 0699, www.elite-concepts.com
The buzz from this restaurant hits you the moment you step into the mix of tapas bar, table seating and semi-private dining. Sip on a glass of sangria and consider ordering the 5J acorn-fed Iberico ham, an elite, free-range, beautifully marbled starter that melts on the tongue. For a visual feast, sit at the ham counter for a front-row view as these succulent slices are carved. The tomato bread is the perfect palate cleanser between courses before the paella pan is presented at your table. Scrape out the rice and tuck in, adding the delicate clams that arrive separately. There's also the Iberian egg timbale and the creamy oyster burger for something more adventurous. If you haven't booked, good luck getting a table, but waiting on the alfresco terrace with a beer or glass of Spanish wine is no hardship.
6. STONE NULLAH TAVERN
69 Stone Nullah Lane, Wan Chai, 3182 0128, www.stonenullahtavern.com
This place is off the beaten track, but you'd never know it from the crowds. Bar seating opening up to the pavement draws you in, while the dining room has a view of the kitchen, where the modern American comfort food takes shape. Using IHM's local organic produce, executive chef Vinny Lauria describes the fare as more vegetable than meat-driven, basing dishes on what's fresh. The menu is a fun challenge, with some eyebrow-raising twists. The nachos are layered with chilli con pig's head in addition to the usual salsa, sour cream and jalapenos. There's a burger with foie gras, and mac 'n' cheese topped with an egg yolk. Even the desserts are extreme - the fat kid cake is a tower of red velvet, cheesecake, chocolate mouse and crème brulée.
7. THE YUU
3/F Hopewell Centre, 183 Queen's Road East, Wan Chai, 2861 2023, www.kingparrot.com
Tucked up on the third floor of the Hopewell Centre, this eatery is a bit difficult to recognise if you're looking for English signage - just look for a wooden entrance heavily decorated with magazine articles. The interior is an attractive replica of a Showa-period Japanese courtyard, with the sushi bar and yakitori grill situated under tiled roofs sloping into the seating area. Along the windows are private dining areas divided by noren curtains. If you're dining solo or in a pair, sit at the sushi bar and watch the chefs create sashimi art or mould superfresh sushi - the sweet prawns are beautifully juicy and plump. There's a large menu of yakitori, although the prices are for only one skewer, so be careful, as it adds up. The beef-wrapped asparagus was a bit scanty on the meat, but had great flavour nonetheless. The restaurant is renowned for its tempura, which is crispy and carefully cooked, and it also serves hot and cold soba.