Kam Kee Café, Peking Restaurant pushed out by soaring rents

Last orders after more than 40 years for two local eateries pushed out by skyrocketing rents

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 December, 2012, 10:27am

Two old-style Hong Kong restaurants that have served diners for more than 40 years closed this week due to soaring rents.

The 45-year-old Kam Kee Café, a Cantonese-style eatery in Shau Kei Wan, served the last cup of its famous milk tea on Wednesday after the rent was increased by 150 per cent.

Over in Jordan, the 42-year-old Peking Restaurant will serve the last of its popular Peking duck and Shandong roast chicken tomorrow. While the entrance sign said the restaurant was closing because the lease had expired and staff would not divulge details, a long-term customer said the closure was due to soaring rent.

At Kam Kee Café, 91-year-old owner Chan Gui-chou and his wife, in her 80s, were philosophical as their restaurant was taken apart piece by piece.

"There is no banquet under heaven that never ends," said Chan's wife, using a Chinese saying. "We heard that the new owner bought the property for HK$30 million so it's not a surprise that they've pushed up the rent." They do not plan to reopen in a new location.

The Post earlier reported that the property owner wants to increase the rent for the 650 sq ft premises from HK$20,000 to HK$50,000 from January.

It left a lasting impression on 25-year-old Wei Kai-cheng, a civil servant from Taipei, when he tried Kam Kee's condensed milk and peanut butter toast with cold milk tea for the first time a few years ago during a vacation.

When Wei heard Kam Kee was closing, he made a trip to Hong Kong to savour this local fare one last time. But he was disappointed to learn the eatery had already stopped serving yesterday. "The flavour of the tea is much stronger at Kam Kee compared to other places," Wei said. "When you walk in, the interior makes you feel like you are travelling back in time."

It does seem that time has been standing still at Kam Kee. The menu bears a six-digit telephone number of a type not used since the 1980s.

At Peking Restaurant, Carmen Lau So-man, who works at garment maker TAL Group, ate with her colleagues and took photographs inside the restaurant. "My company has had a close relationship with the restaurant, having hosted New Year staff dinners here for the last 30 years," she said.