Hong Kong: beyond the high rise

Like many, I never fully appreciated what Hong Kong has to offer (besides shopping and dining) until recent years. Now I finally know what I have missed out on for all those years!

When I contacted my new friend whom I met on a hike last year, we decided to try out Sai Kung since we it was new for both of us. Our original plan was to take a bus from Sai Kung town centre to Pak Tam Au and do the Maclehose trail section two. However, after some consideration, we opted for an easier section (one) of the trail and started from Pak Tam Chung instead.

Although the day started out with an overcast, the sun did show its face in the afternoon and it got quite hot as we walked around the High Island reservoir. It is rare to see clear blue skies in Hong Kong these days because of pollution, so even though the clouds cleared, it was still quite hazy.

While we were having our packed lunch at a picnic spot, we spotted a cow wandering on its own; initially, we worried that it was going to come towards us but it never did. We were surprised to see a cow walking freely (in Hong Kong) and were worried about its safety especially when we saw taxis speeding along the road!

The trail around the reservoir was relatively easy because it was mostly flat but the scenery didn’t change a great deal until we reached the East dam. After over 2 hours of walking, we decided to make a pit stop at the beach past the 300-year-old, Pak Lap village.

Well, the pit stop turned out to be our end point because we loved it so much that we almost didn’t want to leave! The beach is sandy, secluded and even the water quality seems decent! There is a cafe by the beach and we decided to have a beer (not sure it was the best thing to do after a hike!) while the owner and his friends played volleyball on the beach. It would have been nice to carry on after the pit stop but we realised that the sun was setting and we needed to leave before it got dark.

I have heard a lot about the beautiful beaches in Sai Kung but I was still surprised to see such an unspoilt part of Hong Kong. I probably wouldn’t have time to do Sai Kung again on this trip but it will definitely be on my agenda next time. I also think we should be grateful that the British protected the most beautiful part of Hong Kong before they left; if not, Hong Kong would probably end up like other cities in China… an urban concrete jungle!


Hello Hong Kong


My original trip to Asia involved 2 weeks in Hong Kong (staying with family and catching up with friends), a few days in Bangkok visiting the BIF+BIH trade fair, followed by a week in Tokyo for the Tokyo design week.

Sadly, I had to postpone my trip to Bangkok because of the floods (not sure when the situation will improve), hence, I have a bit more time to relax in Hong Kong before leaving for Tokyo.

October and November are probably the best months to visit Hong Kong because it is not as hot nor wet. While temperature in London is falling, it is rather pleasant to experience temperatures around the upper 20s here.

Thanks to my jet-lagged, I managed to catch the sunrise, a rare sight for a non-morning person, so I am quite proud of the photo taken from the terrace using an old iphone…

In Hong Kong, besides shopping, most people’s lives revolve around food and dining, so it is impossible for me to avoid dining out almost daily…

As always, coffee comes first for me… so I made a trip to one of the hidden gems for coffee on Old Bailey Street in Central.


Olympia Graeco Egyptian coffee – 24 Old Bailey Street

This place has been around since the 50s and it is easy to miss (by sight) amongst a row of dry cleaners and small art art galleries. However, it is hard to miss the smell of freshly roasted coffee… Once inside, everything seems to be stuck in a time warp; there is an ancient roaster, postcards and posters of Greece and press clippings of Old Master Ho & his beloved shop. Shops like this are disappearing as fast as Starbucks’ new store openings and it does make me feel a bit sad… I just hope that people will make more effort to support independent small businesses and business owners who devote their lives pursuing their passions.

Another fine day – 13A Prince’s Terrace, Mid-Levels

My friends who use to own ‘One Fine day’ in Central, have just opened a new shop near the Mid-Level escalator. Located in a residential area, the space is smaller than their previous premise but the ‘shabby chic’ deco remains. The shop/ tea room feels a bit like a friend’s sitting room, and it certainly attracts many curious passersby.

The main attraction of the tea room is that they serve tea from Fortnum and Mason, which is rare to find in Hong Kong. In a fast-paced city like Hong Kong, it is not easy to find somewhere where you can slow down and spend some precious time on your own, but Another fine day is an ideal spot for it.

Sushi Kuu – 2-8 Wellington Street, Central

Although Japanese cuisine is one of the most popular cuisines in Hong Kong, authentic Japanese restaurants are hard to come by until recent years. Unlike the specialist restaurants in Japan, most restaurants here tend to offer menus with a wide range of dishes from sushi to sukiyaki to tempura etc and prices tend to be either low or overpriced.

Sushi Kuu is one of the newer and decent-priced restaurants in Central where you don’t feel like you are paying premium prices just to cover their high rental costs. I have been here quite a few times before and the standard seems to be pretty consistent.

This time, thanks to my friend who knows the head sushi chef, we were served by him (who recommended the lunchtime sushi set) at the sushi bar. I thought the fish was pretty fresh, though my only bone to pick was the rice… it wasn’t sticky nor warm enough. Having said that, it is still good value ($190) for the standard and location, will definitely return again.

California vintage – 77 Wyndham Street

My friend who works for a local paper was offered a rather sought-after job recently… aside from her daily job, she is now an undercover restaurant critic! As her good friend, I felt ‘obliged’ to accompany her and her boyfriend on a demanding mission to try out different restaurants in town.

Being a wine drinker, I am usually fond of wine bars, but our experience at California vintage did not live up to our expectations. We all liked the idea of a wine bar serving 1/2 and full glasses with dishes that you can pair with. However, the overall execution, quality and service were a huge letdown. I am sure my friend will write about our experience in her column but I feel the need to let out some steam here…

First of all, the service was sloppy (common throughout Hong Kong) but what bothered me most was when I asked the sommelier/ manager to recommend a rose wine. He actually told me that he is not a rose drinker, hence, he has no idea which one is good!

In terms of wine, my friends thought their sparkling wine was too salty and when we moved onto the reds, they were all too cold to drink (a bit like the chilled wines you get on long-haul flights), which was probably why they all tasted bland and flavourless.

Food wise, they all sounded good on paper/ ipad (another gimmick), but the quality and execution were really not up to scratch. The salmon salad with flatbread was pretty awful… the marinade did not go well with the salmon and the salad didn’t even have any dressing on it! The flatbread pizza turned out to be too sweet and the cheese platter was a joke, for $120, I am sure I could find better cheeses at City’super. Out of everything we ordered, California sliders with porchetta was the only dish we liked, though we weren’t sure of what to do with the jus de porc and so we left it untouched! Almost all the dishes we ordered were not very substantial and so we decided to go elsewhere to fill our 1/2 emptied stomachs!

The bill came to almost $2000 and we were all glad that it wasn’t out of our own pockets since we all felt it was a rip-off! I wonder how long this place can survive when the novelty has worn off? We shall wait and see.


Yardbird – 33-35 Bridges Street, Sheung Wan

After our disappointing meal, my friend decided to take me to the hippest izakaya/ yakitori place in town, which is also probably one of the noisiest restaurants in town… I haven’t experienced such noise level since I last went clubbing a few years back! (Perhaps acoustics should be made compulsory for all interior design courses?)

Overlooking the noise level, the quality and standard of this bar/ restaurant is much higher than California Vintage. We found the service friendly and efficient and were impressed by the drinks list which offers a wide range of cocktails, beer and wine. For our midnight feast, we decided to go for the sweetcorn tempura and their signature dish: KFC/ Korean fried cauliflower. The latter is quite clever (the concept is almost similar to marinated chicken feet!) because it manages to turn a bland vegetable into something tasty and flavoursome!  This place has a ‘New York vibe’ to it, so it’s not surprising to find out that the chef/owner used to work for Masa in NYC.

It is rare to find a hip restaurant that can live up to its hype, but Yardbird seems to be an exception; however, it is definitely not an ideal venue for your first date…


Prufrock coffee

I am not embarrassed to admit that I am a coffee addict! I love the aroma, taste, colour and most of all, the experience… In the last few years, there are many new independent coffee shops opening in London and Prufrock coffee is my latest discovery.

Located on Leather Lane, I only found it by chance… I decided to give it a go because I was drawn to its space and decor. As soon as I sat down, I knew this is a special place… especially when I saw the tap, kettle and the Japanese coffee-making equipment (see above)!

The specialty coffee was slightly more expensive but it tasted great, smooth and not acidic… I was really impressed by the way the baristas prepared the coffee and their advice on how to drink it. While I was sipping my coffee, I could also hear someone practising their music downstairs, which made this place even more unique!

Oh, I can’t wait to go back there again soon… I wish that there are more of these cool independent coffee shops in London, honestly, we don’t really need another Starbucks or Costa!