Designer mega-brands have established Hong Kong as a luxury shopping destination for some time now, but recently, a surge of smaller, independently minded businesses have been infusing the city’s neighborhoods with a bit of bohemia. Craft coffee culture joins the city’s world-famous tea houses, while a vibrant food scene anchored by dim sum now welcomes speakeasies for the cocktail-crazed and a growing number of ex-pat chefs and dine-in kitchens. Here’s our round-up of eight small treasures to seek out among the city’s 7,650 skyscrapers.
From pre-warming the glass for your piccolo latte to distilling the nuances between flavor profiles of single-origin roasts, the staff at industrial-chic Barista Jam in Sheung Wan offer a level of service exclusive to bona-fide bean geeks. House coffees are roasted in Hong Kong and blended on premises, while a rotating menu of guest coffees from around the globe like Square Mile from the U.K. and Sydney’s Mecca Coffee offer customers the opportunity to try new brews. If you’re feeling inspired, browse the retail area upstairs stocking all manner of French presses, La Marzocco machines, Cafelat tools and slow-drip filters.
First of all, yes—you should hit all of the dim sum joints you can squeeze in. At some point, however, you will inevitably want a break. When that moment arrives, head to Yardbird in Sheung Wan. Opened last year by Chef Matt Abergel—previously at Masa in New York—this chicken-only yakitori den is as laid back as it is seriously legitimate. Try the oyster—which is actually two plump pieces of dark meat, near the thigh—the spicy, citrusy hearts and the large, juicy meatball with egg yolk dipping sauce to start. Then order one of everything else.
Fungus Workshop in Sheung Wan is divided into a retail shop for fine leather goods and an artist’s salon. You’ll go to admire its unconventional yet sophisticated wares and leave wanting to sign up for one of the hoiming classes, no doubt discussing fashion or design philosophy with another patron in the convivial atmosphere while you’re there. Take note the shop’s limited hours—three days out of the week, it doesn’t even open before 6 p.m.
c’est la B
After draining your bank account in Causeway Bay, take time for a repast at c’est la B in Tai Hang. The eatery marks the first in a new collection of tiny cafes that trendsetter Bonnie Gokson is launching around her signature jewel-box cakes. The bite-size desserts, artfully capped with butterflies, flowers, pearls and dramatic spikes, are almost too precious to eat—but that would be a waste, because they are infinitely tasty, too. Say you were there before it appears everywhere.
Central Hong Kong has no shortage of loud and rowdy bars. Housed behind an unmarked door in the middle of a wet market, Speakeasy 001 (LG/F Shop G1 Welley Building 97 Wellington Street) offers the opposite experience. This hard-to-find haunt invites you to unwind with its quiet atmosphere, colorful cat-house decor and cocktails like the Midnight Manhattan, using homemade vanilla and cherry-infused bourbon.
One of the best parts of returning from a trip abroad is bringing back gifts you can’t find elsewhere. Kapok Shop in Wan Chai is known for supporting young local brands, and the outpost on Sun Street stocks an eclectic selection spanning elegant goldfish rope soaps, diminutive travel candles, sharp canvas totes, beautifully packaged teas and many other curios.
A proper gentleman in Hong Kong would certainly have his entire wardrobe made by Moustache in Sheung Wan. Not only does the tailor specialize in well made, tropical ready-to-wear, but Moustache also regularly prints its own indispensable guide to Hong Kong, spotlighting new and exciting stores, restaurants, and experiences.
Alongside its own whimsical collection of clothing and accessories, Dream Nation in Wan Chai curates the work of other local fashion designers, musicians and artists, going as far as staging small performances and happenings inside the shop. I was so taken with Dream Nation’s fantastical atmosphere that I bought a cream leather crown, and haven’t regretted the decision since.
If you tire of all of the eating, drinking and shopping, fear not. There are plenty of things to see in Hong Kong without opening your wallet. Wander the alleyways and ladder streets and you will quickly find a world of street art on display. In the evening, ride the Star Ferry over to Tsim Sha Tsui and take in the light show that goes off across the harbor every night at 8:00 p.m. as a dazzling finale for any adventure.