By Hidy Fung
As a café or restaurant in the Hong Kong F&B industry, there is always a lot of competition to grab a share of the existing market. To stand out from the crowd, it’s important to have a special ‘je ne sais quoi’. It’s not enough to provide just another ‘cha chaan teng’ (local café) these days; F&B providers have to go the extra mile, whether it’s preparing some specialty dishes cooked to perfection, or introducing something new for Hong Kongers to try. To satisfy your taste buds, here are our top 5 niche eateries that have got it right.
Literally translated from ‘babe’ in Chinese, Bao Bei is nestled along Wyndham Street, and a few steps away from the much-Instagrammed Pottinger Stteet. It takes a bit of time to find it as the restaurant is not immediately obvious from the street. A quirky staircase amidst repurposed steamer baskets connects the street to the bar and main dining area below. The dining area maintains a light and lofty feel owing to the large windows that look downhill towards the park. Chinese design motifs are reflected throughout, from the apothecary-style cabinets adorning the bar counter to the bamboo-lined booth seats. The founders have done well to create a menu which pulls on nostalgic heartstrings by harking back to all things Hong Kong, with cocktails like “Sweet Dreams” (Vodka, Godiva Chocolate Liqueur, chocolate milk, Ovaltine, and toasted marshmallows) and “Childhood Memory” (Baileys, spiced rum, and Vitasoy malt), an in-house chef to prepare Taiwanese Braised Pork Belly Risotto and Shrimp Roe Cigars. Visit this sleek hideaway for the unique cocktails and special dishes.
Bao Bei: Basement Level, Carfield Commercial Building, 77 Wyndham Street, Central
With the French now making up the largest expat community in Hong Kong, it is no surprise that the concept of crêperies has made it to our shores in recent years and there is no sign of their popularity letting up anytime soon. With plenty of rival crêperies to contend with, Instacrepes has managed to stand above the competition by offering a hearty selection of savoury and sweet offerings from the simple toppings of lemon and powdered sugar to the satisfying combination of eggs, ham, and cheese. There are also freshly prepared vegetarian crêpe options to guarantee something for everyone.
Instacrepes: G/F, 63 Elgin Street, Central
Man Mo Café
Situated along the quaint old antique street, often referred to as Cat Street, among jade stalls and bric-a-brac merchants just off Hollywood Road, Man Mo Café is the first F&B venture to open in this souvenir shop area. Quirky location aside, this restaurant sports a contemporary style with a lot of interesting vintage furniture.
Masterminded by a Swedish restauranteur, the concept aims to fuse traditional Chinese cooking styles with Western flavour combinations. After treasure hunting at Cat Street and building up an appetite, you can enjoy fusion style dim sum including ratatouille and truffle brie dumplings. The duck and burger buns are also must-try items. Man Mo Café is not just a Chinese restaurant offering dim sum, but also doubles as a bar with a large variety of tea and wine on offer.
Man Mo Café: Wah Koon Building, 40 Upper Lascar Row (aka Cat Street), Sheung Wan
Café culture has certainly flourished in Hong Kong as of late, with new offerings cropping up daily to meet our caffeine fix. Despite the tough competition, Winstons Coffee has really come into their own since their initial opening. Nestled beside the A1 exit to Sai Ying Pun station, this café’s marquee style letter sign box can’t be missed.
This little corner shop is not just a café, but also a uniquely disguised bar that comes into its own element after hours. Offering various coffee-infused cocktails alongside green tea lattes, you can snack on some unique nibbles such as their signature matcha egg tarts, and power bites (a ball mixed with oats, chia seeds, flax seeds and nuts).
Winstons Coffee: Shop 4, 213 Queen’s Road West, Sai Ying Pun
This is the wildcard of the pack. Since they opened in 2016, Grill has become a humble favourite for LKF party goers, offering high quality street food until the sun rises. Located along a less busy side street, the smell of the Thai-style grilled skewers will already have your olfactory senses working in full swing before you even see their impressive menu offering firsthand.
Not only do they provide a huge choice of grilled skewers from pork neck meat to baby corn and everything in between, they offer a large variety of sauces to match your skewer of choice. Since the concept took off, they have been doing so well that they have already branched out to the site next door that offers a seating area with set menus for the lunch crowd and evening diners.
There may well be more Thai grilled skewers coming to a venue near you!
Grill: G/F, 17-19 D’Aguilar Street (Junction of D’Aguilar street and Wellington street), Central