I HAD walked down from Sunset Peak, out of the country park and on to the road to Pui O in Lantau when I came upon this perfect little bistro. Outdoor patio tables with umbrellas and white tablecloths, a tree hung with empty wine bottles straight out of Lewis Carroll, a blackboard menu listing the day's specialities - this was Charlie's Restaurant and Bar, established in 1961. Charlie's was named for Charlie Fong from Peng Chau who travelled to Paris about 40 years ago to train as a chef. While there, he served a group of finicky French engineers who were coincidentally off to work in Hong Kong on the Shek Pik reservoir. They took Charlie back to his homeland to cook traditional French meals for them. He decided to stay, opened a small eatery in a Lantau village (eventually named the Tony Fuk Hilton) and the rest, as they say, is history. It seems I'm among the few who haven't heard of or ever been to Charlie's. The glittering roster of regulars, including Sir David Ford, was most impressive. But it's easy to see why Charlie's is so popular with its well-priced cache of wines, carefully selected range of imported beers, interesting coffees and such gourmet treats as crab mornay, poached squid, tagliatelle carbonara, beef with black beans and chilli, and its signature dish of pepper steak. HOW Hong Kong imbibers could have lived this long and never heard of Lillet (pronounced lil-lay), a wine-based aperitif blended with fruits and macerated in brandy, is beyond me. Drink it chilled, on the rocks, mixed with orange juice, before dinner or with foie gras as people have done since 1872 when it was first bottled in Bordeaux. It goes down more easily than Campari but looks just as festive in a glass. Try it next time you dine out, or pick up the honey-coloured white or red at Oliver's or Pacific Wine Cellars in Seibu and break the ice with panache at your next dinner party. JET-SETTING Hong Kong people who find themselves in Sydney should have 'no worries' about finding a world-class restaurant to while away the evening. Here are just a few that artfully blend excellent service with interesting architecture, pleasant ambience and damn good food: Fish Face, Sage, Rockpool, Paramount, Mezzaluna, Darly Street Thai, Mario's, Mohr Fish, Lucio's, Cicada and Merroney's. Try them out and let me know what you think. FIRST there was Julia Childs, then came the Galloping Gourmet and today there's our own Martin Yan who can cook with the best of them. Cooking has always made popular TV viewing and now there is a 24-hour cable channel devoted entirely to food, glorious food in - where else? - Los Angeles. But the way folks in Hong Kong are enjoying a major feeding frenzy, maybe the time is ripe for the territory to go round-the-clock culinary-wise too. I'M SURE I'm not the only one who dreams of the day I can walk into any bar, bistro or brasserie in town and order a proper extra-dry Martini. Here's a fool-proof formula for those bartenders who aim to please. Place ice in shaker and drain excess water. Add a splash of dry vermouth. Drain. Add vodka. Shake. Pour precariously close to the top of a large, chilled Martini glass. Slice 2.5 centimetres of peel from a fresh lemon and twist above the glass until a few drops of essence fall into the clear liquid.Now rub the lemon peel around the top of the glass and serve. Trust me, even James Bond would approve.