Best of 2015: Dining, Drinks, Shopping and Fun in Hong Kong
What a year it’s been: Here are our favorite new openings from the last 12 months in the city.
Best Insta-worthy Eats
Why settle for hugging the plush toy when you could be munching on its adorable face instead? Hello Kitty Chinese Cuisine, the world’s first Hello Kitty-themed restaurant, opened this year and Hong Kong’s foodstagrammers jumped on it like expats at a free-flow drinks night. With Hello Kitty-shaped shrimp dumplings, lotus buns and rice to boost your social media following, who cares if you’re paying an absurd amount for standard dim sum? A-C, Lee Loy Mansion, 332-338 Canton Rd., Yau Ma Tei, 8202-8203, hellokittychinesecuisine.com.hk.
Best Value Brunch
Forget champagne brunches—cocktails are the new cool. We’ve always been fans of Zuma’s drinks, which is why we went giddy with glee when they launched Zuma’s Saturday Sessions, a new weekend brunch for $450 featuring unlimited tipples plus sushi and grilled skewers from 2:30-5pm. Start with a Lillet Spritzer (Lillet blanc, peach liqueur, citronella and prosecco), move on to a yuzu and mandarin cosmo then end up with a Japanese shiso daiquiri. Down all six drinks on the menu—then set up round two. This is one brunch we’ll be back for. 5-6/F, The Landmark, 15 Queen’s Rd. Central, 3657-6388.
Best Hipster Hangout
Communal tables, hand-sourced ceramics and organic everything makes Teakha II—the second branch from entrepreneur Nana Chan—the ultimate hipster hangout. Did we mention it’s tucked away on a more or less unknown alley in Shek Tong Tsui? Grab a cozy cup of tea and one of Nana’s homemade green tea cakes and meditate on life, the universe and the word “artisan.” 18 Po Tuck St., Sai Ying Pun, 2858-9185.
Best Cheat Food
Donuts? Check. Cookies? Check. Double Double Chocolate and “Green Crack”? Check. For waving goodbye to diets and six-packs (who needs new year’s resolutions, anyway?) Munchies is a one-stop shop for the three essential food groups: chocolate, butter and sugar. Treat yourself to a vanilla bean cookie, salted caramel doughnut or matcha ice cream sandwich and watch your waistline expand before your very eyes. 4 Shin Hing St., Central, munchies.hk.
Best Payday Splurge
Good news: Repulse Bay’s The Pulse development isn’t just for bored tai tais and millionaires. It’s also a great place to splurge all your hard-earned money on payday! And what better place than at Tri, a modern Balinese restaurant decked out in gorgeous bamboo décor and lotus-shaped pods? Complete with flickering candlelight and pools of water, Tri’s the perfect place to live the high life: even if it is just once a month. Shop 302, 3/F, The Pulse, 28 Beach Rd., 2515-0777.
Best Food Crossover
Amid a handful of high label food crossovers this year (so many afternoon teas!), Elephant Grounds and The Upper House’s pop-up café takes the crown for being the most crave-worthy. While the decadent ice cream combos have been all the rage for some time now, being able to chow down in The Upper House definitely won them (ice cream) brownie points. Too bad this pop-up’s over at the end of December. Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, 2253-1313.
After bidding farewell to its original Queen’s Rd. Central location back in 2013, Belgian beer hall Frites reopened again in Central (well, kind of Sheung Wan) in a 7,000-sq-ft space on Wellington St., bringing back its signature moules-frites, steak and ale pie and pork schnitzel. Another branch has recently popped up on Haven Street in Causeway Bay, and we’ve heard whispers of no fewer than four more locations in the works. Moules for all! 1/F, The Wellington, 2-8 Wellington St., Central, 2217-6671.
Best Cooler-Than-Thou Bar
If tossing back negronis while nodding to Berlin beats is your kind of vibe, chances are Mitte is already your go-to. This bar is all about its four signature negronis: traditionalists will enjoy the Classic ($126) made with bitters from the Negroni Distillery rather than campari, while more adventurous drinkers will enjoy the zippy but boozy Spritz ($78) featuring sweet bitters and Italian sparkling wine. Not a Negroni nut? Other cocktails are available, but you won’t be able to order them without being judged by everyone in there. 1A Upper Station St., Sheung Wan, 2803-7080.
The combined genius of top chef Vicky Cheng and mixologist Antonio Lai has resulted in the brainchild that is Vea, where food-influenced cocktails reign. Up on the 29th floor, the lounge features a long terrace for perfect nighttime city views as you sip on one of Lai’s concoctions. Try the Cleopatra Formosa ($170), a smoky mezcal, Absolut Elyx, pineapple and star anise drink, served in a gilded, lit-up pineapple goblet; or the Genmai 13 ($110), a long gin and tonic refreshed with genmaicha brown rice tea cordial. Creative fusion bar snacks also furnish the menu, such as chef Cheng’s take on the bor lor yau with chilled caramel butter ($38)—check out p.24 for more on their nomtastic bites. 29-30/F, The Wellington, 198 Wellington St., Central, 2711-8639.
Best Boozing with a View
Singaporean nightlife hotspot Ku Dé Ta has flown its first outpost, Cé La Vi, to the top of California Tower with a sleek and sexy three-story penthouse and rooftop bar, complete with some of the best views in Central and a host of refined cocktails to go alongside it. Flip through the 20-page cocktail menu to sate whatever boozy craving you have, from sweet and fruity “This is the Life” ($148) and delicate, sake-based “Flowers Hikari” ($108) to more classic drinks like the New Orleans-originated Vieux Carré ($118). Standard prices for the middle of Central, but if you’re female and head over on a Wednesday, you’ll be plied with free mini-bottles of Perrier-Jouët. Classy! 24-26/F, California Tower, 32 D’Aguilar St., Central, 3700-2300.
Best Weekend Tippling
If you’re not one of the people breaking out the heaters and down jackets this week, The Pulse’s new rooftop venue The Cabana still touts summer vibes all weekend long. Located above seafood fine-dine The Ocean, The Cabana is dotted with intimate cabanas and sun beds for optimum sunset chilling, and features free-flow champagne at its Saturday “Save Water, Drink Champagne” parties (3-7pm, tickets from $580). Don’t forget your bathing suits, so you can hunker down in one of their Japanese-style onsen baths (or prep for an imminent champagne shower…). 4/F, The Pulse, 28 Beach Road, Repulse Bay, 2889-5939.
Best Bar Bites
Korean-American gastropub Edition spins out over a dozen types of house-infused soju and soju cocktails, plus the house-inflused flavors that are all the rage in Seoul these days. Somek trains (soju beer bombs) are a comparatively tame option to start off your night: But to really make it a good one, Edition serves up fusion comfort food at its best. Think spicy, gochujang-laced fried chicken wings ($68), cheesy kimchi fries ($50), pork lollipops slathered in molten cheese ($68), gooey grilled cheese sandwiches ($50) and a pork belly pineapple bun sandwich ($85). Maybe save the diet for tomorrow. G/F, 37 Peel St., Central, 2336-6695.
Best Reformed Geek Hangout
Neo ticks all the right boxes when it comes to targeting the hip and beautiful crowd that swarms around the west end of Hollywood Road. And by “hip and beautiful,” we mean reformed geeks who are really just there to bash out a new high score on the 80s pinball machine and arcade console while their hip, beautiful dates sip on creative handcrafted cocktails. In between games, try the rum-tastic Neo Hive ($120), made with white rum and pineapple-infused Jamaican overproof rum, plus dry curaçao, pomegranate, lime and orgeat syrups. It’s super effective! 10 Shin Hing St., Sheung Wan, 2812-2280.
Best Totally Ludicrous Happy Hour
Stone Nullah Tavern’s “Beat the Clock” happy hour is still blowing our minds—and getting us doing rough sums on the back of bar napkins. It runs Monday-Friday, 5-7pm. Drinks start at $1 (yes, one Hong Kong dollar) and double in price every 20 minutes—that’s still only $64 per drink at the end of happy hour. We’re still not sure it makes any fiscal sense: But by the time we try to work it out, we’re always too drunk to think. 69 Stone Nullah Lane, Wan Chai, 3182-0128.
It’s been an age since the H&M in Central closed down and we were faced with a tedious MTR ride just to get affordable fashion. But the new H&M store in Fashion Walk has FINALLY opened up, making it way too easy to burn right through our paychecks again. It’s also got the city’s first ever H&M Home, the brand’s interiors line. Looks like we’re all about to get a whole load more of scatter cushions in our lives... Hang Lung Centre, 2-20 Paterson St., Causeway Bay, 2337-3400.
Best Shop Space
Hong Kong-based online retailers Grana have been making a name for themselves with their high-quality, not-too-expensive basics. But the problem with every online shop is: what if you don’t fit into those 26 inch skinny jeans? What if you thought you were an S but you’re actually an XL? Grana’s new fitting room means that you can go and try on everything before you order online, which takes a lot of anxiety—and refund costs—out of the whole online shopping thing. Works for us. 108 Hollywood Rd., Sheung Wan, 2755-8744.
Best Hipster Haircut
Cuts, trims and classic wet shaves are the order of the day at Fox and the Barber, which has brought a little slice of London’s Shoreditch cool straight to the SAR. Just three seats plus classic products, fragrances and styles make this experience super trendy without being insufferable. We hope you are too...41-43 Graham St., Central, 2405-6880.
Best Slice of Britain
Expats missing sausage rolls, tiny packs of pre-sliced ham and almost-affordable hummus can rejoice once more thanks to the opening of Asia’s largest Marks & Spencer food store in Langham Place. New to the flagship is the city’s first Marks & Sparks hot food takeaway counter, complete with super-British fish finger sandwiches. Our tip: Go at the end of the day for all the discounted yellow-sticker stuff. It’s a Blighty bargain! Shop 25, B2/F, Langham Place, 8 Argyle St., 2415-8300.
Best Celeb Salon (On a Budget)
Stylist to the stars Kim Robinson is making his A-list haircuts and coloring treatments available to us ordinary people with the opening of a chain of KR+ salons across the city, boasting reasonably priced cuts. The KR+ salon in the artsy Soho189 complex is definitely geared toward the younger generation, with iPads stuck to the walls, a hip soundtrack by Hong Kong DJ Janette Slack and even a selfie wall where you can hashtag your new hair. #Qualitystyling at #affordableprices? Instagram away! Shop 8, Soho189, 189 Queen’s Rd. West, Sai Ying Pun, 2121-0188.
Best Surprising Use of a Tiki Concept
It’s worth heading all the way out to Sai Kung to check out Tikitiki Bowling Bar, Hong Kong’s first ever tiki-themed bowling alley, bar and restaurant. Tropical from head to toe, it’s a big joint where you can grab snacks at the “Sea Dogs & Mermaids” bar or at one of ten neon-lit “Krakatoa Lanes” in-between scoring a few strikes, or go for more serious eats at the “Beach Bums & Cannibals” restaurant. Now that’s tikitastic. 4/F, Centro, 1A Chui Tong Rd., Sai Kung, 2657-8488, tikitiki.hk.
Best Fitness Trend
A no-commitment gym pass that enables you to take unlimited classes city-wide? Where have you been all our lives? KFit, GuavaPass and ClassCruiser all launched in the SAR this year, offering unlimited classes to the city’s gym bunnies for a monthly fee. What’s on the workout agenda? Pilates, yoga, mixed martial arts, indoor cycling, muay thai, dance and more, at over 40 boutique studios and gyms. See you in hot aerial yoga. Is that a thing? classcruiser.com; guavapass.com; kfit.com.
Best Zen Experience
Sensory deprivation? Like, total darkness? No iPhone even? If every instinct in your body screams “hell no!” at the very idea, then you’re probably the perfect stressed-out candidate for the zero-gravity experience that is Float On Hong Kong. Their isolation pods seek to strip away your senses, leaving you mentally, emotionally (and physically) naked. Practitioners also swear by it for pain relief, stress management, therapy and spirituality. And no, you can’t get a drink while you’re in there. B/F, 89 Caine Rd., Mid-Levels, 2548-2844, floatonhk.com.
Best Art Fair
This year saw the emergence of Art Central, the bratty younger brother to Art Basel Hong Kong. With a more accessible vibe than Basel and some quirkier art, we really liked this trendy new art fair. Next year will see an even stronger selection of works from artists from around the world. “We’re working to cement Hong Kong as the cultural center of the Asian contemporary art scene,” say the organizers. We’ll start practising our thoughtful chin-stroking now. The next Art Central runs Mar 23-26, 2016. Central Harbourfront Event Space, 9 Lung Wo Rd., Central, 2174-0322, artcentralhongkong.com.
Best Use of Springs
Whether you’re looking for fitness or fun, it’s all better when you’re airborne. At least, that’s according to Bounce Inc, a huge trampoline park at KITEC with 80 interconnected trampolines and activities including dodgeball, a slam-dunking area and glow-in-the-dark club nights. Grab some friends and get to jumping… Bounce Inc, G/F, E-MAX, KITEC, 1 Trademart Drive, Kowloon Bay, bounceinc.com.hk.
Best Star Wars Simulator
With the new “Star Wars” movie just hitting screens, now seems the perfect time to reenact every sci-fi spaceship shoot-out you’ve ever seen, via the medium of laser tag. Lasermads has a space station arena, with awesome tunes and two different laser weapons to play with. Remember: Learn from Han Solo, and always shoot first. 11/F, Ying Kong Mansion, 2-6 Yee Wo St., Causeway Bay, 2343-3033, lasermads.com.
Best Spa Treatment
If you’ve ever been strolled through a shopping mall and suddenly thought “what’s that amazing smell?”, chances are you’ve been Lushed. The UK brand, which uses fresh ingredients to produce its aromatic beauty products, recently opened the ambitious five-story Lush Spa in Central. It offers a range of treatments incorporating color, fragrance and sound, including the “Hard Day’s Night” treatment, which combines “evocatively reworked” Beatles’ classics with massage. Fab (four). Soho Square Store, G/F-4/F, Soho Square, 21 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, 3915-0638, lush-hk.com.