Favourite Hong Kong restaurants and bars of Lex Mak, ex-barista and Coffee Academics’ creative director

Two cha chaan teng with a modern twist, a hidden high-end Japanese restaurant and a bar posing as an umbrella shop are among Mak’s regular Hong Kong haunts

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 August, 2017, 12:48pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 August, 2017, 12:48pm

I have a background in the food and beverage industry working as a barista and now an F&B architect, so I am always around cafes and restaurants. It’s very much a part of my DNA. To keep my palate fresh, I like to try a lot of things.

For comfort food, I love local cuisine. My favourite is probably Cheung Hing Coffee Shop (9-11 Yik Yam Street, Happy Valley, tel: 2572 5097) in my neighbourhood. They have been around a long time but are more modern and refreshing, and service is a bit more attentive, less harsh. For a cha chaan teng, there’s more attention to detail.

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Another local place I like is Joy Hing Roasted Meat (265-267 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2519 6639). It’s my place for barbecued meats. Whenever I travel, it’s always my last meal before leaving Hong Kong and I love to take friends there. It’s not on the tourist map and more local. They are very busy and it looks a bit rundown, but there’s a nostalgia to it that I love. I usually get the three treasure [three toppings] rice so I can try everything. But I love the char siu.

For a casual evening, I enjoy Little Bao (66 Staunton Street, SoHo, tel: 2194 0202). I love its relaxed nature and little bit of American influence, yet overall it is still traditional Hong Kong – which is very [chef] May Chow. She holds on tightly to her Chinese heritage. It’s a good East-meets-West option, with great music. It’s also small so it’s good for meeting new people. You can go by yourself and come out with new friends.

For something more high end, one place I always return to is Café Gray Deluxe (L49 The Upper House, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, tel: 3968 1106). I love its sophistication and elegance, but it’s not pretentious. Hong Kong has lots of places with panoramic views, but CaféGray is backed up with food and service. It’s good for drinks or meals.

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Another is Ronin (8 On Wo Lane, Sheung Wan, tel: 2547 5263). Japanese is my favourite cuisine. Ronin is very unassuming and if you don’t know about it, you won’t find it. I love the unexpectedness of it. It’s an insider’s place.

Happy Paradise (UG/F, Ming Hing House, 52-56 Staunton Street, SoHo, tel: 2816 2118) is a new place I like. It’s another May Chow concept that draws references from cha chaan tengs.

Foxglove (2/F, Printing House, 6 Duddell Street, Central, tel: 2116 8949) is a bar I frequent with visiting friends. It’s like a speakeasy. The facade looks like an umbrella shop. It shows you really need to be creative to survive in Hong Kong.

Ophelia (Shop F39A & F41A, Lee Tung Avenue, 200 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai, tel: 2520 1117) is also a very creative bar, design-wise.