How to eat your way through Sheung Wan

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Before I even landed in Hong Kong, I knew that Wan Chai was going to be the sort of place I’d dream about for years to come -  with its pedigree of establishments (Monocle, Phillip Lim 3.1, a store dedicated entirely to vintage polaroid cameras), how could it not be? Loving Wan Chai didn’t surprise me in the slightest, but Sheung Wan caught me off guard. Totally and completely off guard. Though maybe things are better when you don’t see them coming? When finding a place yourself makes it seem all the more of a treasure. A happy mess of run-down alleys (what is it about all these hip little nooks having alleyways?), creaky old noodle joints, art galleries, that seemingly deliberate grittiness, the Aesop office peeping out reassuringly from a seemingly forgotten little pathway. Sheung Wan was the kind of place I’d happily waste a year or two. I’d live above on of those interior design firms and

True to the notion of where there’s hipsters, there’s good food to be eaten, there’s a smorgasbord of good places to grab a bite.  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.

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Breakfast at Po’s / Cafe Deadend
Please go here! If you go anywhere on this whole list, please let it be here. You’ll see it from afar -  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.

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Morning tea at Tea-kha
(Photo from here)

Oh but please go here too. Especially if you, like myself, haven’t quite graduated onto the caffeinated side of life just yet. To a tea drinker in a coffee-lovers world, this place breathes reassurance. Like Po’s, Tea-kha is unapologetically  brazen on their butter-sugar-flour front. 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 spectacular – buttery ginger scones studded with chewy bits of candied ginger, a silken green tea cheesecake, pots of jasmine blossom tea. Morning tea here is one beautiful, lingering marathon of floral notes and buttered things.

18 Tai Ping Shan Street

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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. Ride with it. Here is where this post takes a slight lean towards those ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ novels of the 1980s. Do you feel like something:

Sweet?
A big plate of warm chocolate chip cookies (baked to order) and a glass bottle of cold milk.

Savoury?
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

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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 (it’s really, really good). As for mains, the chicken cordon bleu with buttered macaroni and mashed potato is more than slightly mind-blowing, and what it lacks in originality it makes up for in butter and free flowing melted cheese. If you are feeling alarmingly full at this point, don’t stop. 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

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