How to eat your way through Sheung Wan
Before I even landed in Hong Kong, I knew that Wan Chai was going to be cool - with its pedigree of establishments (Monocle, Phillip Lim 3.1, a store dedicated entirely to vintage polaroid cameras). But Sheung Wan caught me off guard. All that strategically placed graffiti, those art galleries, that seemingly deliberate grittiness. Suddlenly I felt conspicuous, was I hip enough to be here? Regardless, Sheung Wan stole my heart, and moments after accidently stumbling into this whimisical rabbet warren I fantasized about moving here forever. I’d live in a little white flat atop an interior design firm, sip tea on my balcony and dry my clothes out of my window. It’d be perfect.
Until such a time, I see it only fit to pass on my own culinary recommendations for the neighborhood. It’s not difficult to find something nice to eat here, though if I had to narrow it down to a few key contenders, these would be it. Here is my perfect day of eating Sheung Wan.
Breakfast at Po’s / Cafe Deadend
All work out front, party out the back. This little bakery/cafe haven is the mullet personified. You’ll see it on the street, all white walls and warm light and that unmistakable scent of cinnamon dusted carbohydrates. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – this place is flawless. Order a bostock, if they have them – a heavenly concoction of brioche, hazelnut cream, frangipane and a thick dusting of whole roasted hazelnuts. They are warm and molten and buttery and will glide down your throat like you never imagined. Eternally uncool, I myself wolfed my first one down in the street as swiftly as the chubby girl might secretly inhale her donuts in a bus stop on the way to school. I regret nothing.
Morning tea at Tea-kha
(Photo from here)
To a tea drinker in a coffee-lovers world, this place breathes reassurance. Get there early, around eleven in the morning, when it opens, as this teeny little kitchen is bubbling with every man and their tea-drinking dog by twelve. It’s really no wonder, everything about Tea-kha is dreamy. Buttery ginger scones studded with chewy bits of candied ginger. Silky green tea cheesecake. A pot of jasmine blossom tea. Morning tea here is one beautiful, lingering marathon of floral notes and buttered things. It is not to be taken lightly, but rather slowly, deliberately and if not over good company, then a quality book. What you may lose in actual athleticism, you gain in joy.
18 Tai Ping Shan Street
Afternoon snacks at Heirloom
At this point in time, with a stomach full of bread and hazelnut creme and cheesecake, the idea of a full blown lunch will probably seem intimidating, if not slightly nauseating. Behold Heirloom. The menu here is a little bit spectacular. Who’d have known that tacos and Balinese cuisine make such passionate bedfellows? Well, they do. . Here is where this post takes a slight lean towards those ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ novels of the 1980s. Do you feel like something:
A big plate of warm chocolate chip cookies (baked to order) and a glass bottle of cold milk.
Tacos. The Balinese one in particular – seared barramundi with coriander and kaffir lime dressing. Wash down with an iced hibiscus water. Repeat.
226 Hollywood Road
Dinner at La Cantoche
Effortlessly cool and tucked away on a seemingly unpromising laneway, this French-Vietnamese-Chinese-Everymese eatery is all your childhood fantasies come true. Cereal for dinner? Yes. M&M’s to follow? Sold. Can we listen to some bangin’ music and watch old clips of MJ grooving? Obviously.
Start with the rice bubbles, pork mince and Vietnamese herbs wrapped in lettuce leaves. And a pot of the duck rillet with warm crispy chunks of house baked baguette. As for mains, the chicken cordon bleu with buttered macaroni and mashed potato is slightly mind-blowing, and what it lacks in originality it makes up for in butter and free flowing melted cheese. If you are feeling full at this point, abandon such hesitations and persevere. To finish this day of the dessert of choice is unquestionably the homemade nougat and m&m ice-cream, in all its silky, creamy bleeding artificial colour glory.
5 Wa Lane / 277 Hollywood Road