- This calm, minimalist cafe sits in the heart of Central, but away from the hustle and bustle of the city
- The cafe is trending on social media, so go early to avoid missing out on the best baked goods
Mono Lab 7/F, 31-33 Hollywood Road, Central Instagram: @monolab.hk
Grub: An absolute heaven for spectacular pastries, with voguish bagels and seasonal flavours, pound cakes and cheesecakes, plus a wide range of coffee beans for true cafephiles.
Vibe: High up in an old tenement house slap bang in the middle of Central, Mono Lab is in the city, but away from the hustle and bustle. The calm atmosphere is enhanced by the clean colour palette of minimalist, matte black tables and bleached wood chairs.
Its top-floor location means it’s perfectly placed for early morning and late afternoon sun, which beams in through the windows. The way the light and shadows play on the floor and walls adds to the cafe’s aesthetic appeal. There are two-person and four-person seating arrangements, seemingly set up to allow you to take the optimal shots for your ’Gram. (Of course, during these Covid times, there are “social distancing screens between tables.)
There is also a very spacious outdoor terrace overlooking PMQ, with beachy wooden chairs and tables and tropical plants creating a restful place where you can read a book while enjoying your cup of coffee.
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Who to take: The more of you in a group, the more of the daily specials you can try at once! Of course, this is something to look forward to once social distancing rules relax, so for now, bring one hungry cake lover, or coffee snob. The space is quite small, though, so you won’t be able to sit for too long – crowds will be clamouring for your seats.
What’s hot: Despite the cafe’s name, the baked goods are never monotonous. Bagel flavours range from the dark beauty of tiramisu, to the funky and groundbreaking bonito, dashi, edamame, and cheese. There are also bagzels (a combination of bagel and pretzel) supplied by Instagram shop @_tout.la.nuit, whose wow factor will appeal to all the bae-gals out there. Badoom.
The tiramisu bagel is indulgent, encrusted with a sweet, almost custardy pineapple topping, and filled with rich, molten chocolate paste, which forms a swirly pattern when the pastry is cut in half.
The caramelised pineapple pound cake was smaller than we expected from the posts on social media, but no less delightful than we hoped. The lightly baked pineapple chunks and caramel-kissed sponge are a delightful combination!
We also tried the cheesy bagzel, which was an intriguing – and yummy – balance of a crisp pretzel crust and chewy bagel insides, brought together with a garlicky, cheesy filling.
The cafe also does limited-edition pastries; when we went, they had yuzu matcha burnt cheesecake, and brownie Basque burnt cheesecake that looked amazing.
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What’s not: Cafe-loving IG hounds seem undeterred by the pandemic, and continue to flock to cafes for lunch, so Mono Lab is always busy. And because they’ve been trending on social media, their stock sells out pretty quickly; if you're not there early, you could well miss the bagels, and the cakes are seldom far behind.
It’s also hard to feel comfortable reading your book or scrolling through your feed when you know someone is waiting outside for a seat.
Cost: HK$48-HK$68 for pastries; HK$35-HK$85 for coffees and other drinks.