No matter how times change, Wan Chai maintains a seedy air about it that Hongkongers either love to hate or hate to love. But it’s also multi-faceted, and the neon of Lockhart Road represents only a fraction of the district. Once known as furniture central, Queen’s Road between glittering Pacific Place Three and Ruttonjee Hospital is now a vibrant neighbourhood of affluent, cosmopolitan professionals. Anchored by the upscale GARDENEast serviced apartment, the revitalised Hopewell Centre and Sino/Hopewell/URA’s new super-development The Avenue, where prices flirted with $60,000 per saleable square foot and where the renewed Lee Tung Avenue — Wedding Card Street — has been reborn with luxury boutiques and cafés, Queen’s Road East is now every bit the swank ’hood of its western counterpart.
Hung Shing Temple
This Grade I listed building dates to the mid-19th century and once faced the water. Built on mammoth boulders and noted for its tiled roof, Hung Shing is a little slice of history wedged between modern commercial towers and looming residences, and is part of the Wan Chai Heritage Trail.
Wan Chai Market
Temple Street may be more famous and Stanley Market may be more tourist-ready, but Wan Chai is Hong Kong’s most vivid street market. Known for its toys and seasonal decorations, if there’s a novelty created somewhere in the world it’s likely on sale here. Collectors can still find limited-edition gems, and everyone else can find daily goods cheap and grab a snack along the way.
With apartments set to get even smaller, interior designers are going to be in more demand than ever — and custom furniture makers right along with them. Simple Life’s showroom can help with both, and it’s a good place to start if you’re looking for home solutions.
You have the sofa and storage, now you need window coverings. Still one of the best options for home accessories like drapes and blind is importer Casa Vogue. When a blind can make or break a room, stick with the masters.
The Harbour Cigar Divan
Partnered with the Pacific Cigar Company, the Divan is ideally situated in a hip neighbourhood with fine dining. Smoking may be déclassé now, but this humidor tucked in a heritage building is more about the old world sophistication of a Cuban than anything else. Indulge in a relaxing environment with other connoisseurs.
Coo Bakery Café
This Italian-style café balances contemporary design with a relaxing atmosphere, though “bakery café” is something of a misnomer. Coo’s menu is quite comprehensive — meat dishes, seafood, beer and wine — but the eatery does indeed carry a range of baked goods, desserts and coffee.
Teeny little Jam bills art alongside coffee as part of its offerings, and sure enough, local work graces the walls, making the place feel cosier than it already is. Jam isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel or get hipster with its own roast, but its focus on the basics — coffee, pastas, café fare — serves it well as a neighbourhood hangout.
This small, speedy coffee outlet off Queen’s, the second in Coco’s mini-chain, strikes the right balance between sit-down café and standing bar for a quick jolt. Light snacks, pastas and sandwiches are available to go with the java, from beans roasted to perfection locally and brewed to some pretty exacting standards.
Mahalo Tiki Lounge
QRE Plaza is loaded with restaurants and bars, but none has the outdoor patio and view that Mahalo does. Falling on the right side of kitschy and comfortable enough for light lunches and intimate evening drinks alike, Mahalo’s creative cocktails are the real draw, served in fun vessels inspired by Polynesia culture.
Contemporary seafood dining is the name of the game at Fishteria, but the eatery does offer other options for those uninterested in the fruit of the ocean (charcuterie, meat, cheese). The macaroni lobster and baked turbot steal the show for dinner, but there’s also a nice set lunch menu for lighter fare during the day.
The Butcher’s Club
With a menu consisting of maybe a dozen items — including drinks — The Butcher’s Club would seem a poor choice for dinner, but if you’re looking for the perfect burger, this is it. Minced to order, dry-aged beef is the basis for mouth-watering cheeseburgers, best appreciated with a side of duck fat fries and a brew, two of the other items on the menu.
One of the harder cuisines to find done well yet still in the midst of a renaissance is Mexican, and low-key Verde Mar transcends tacos and enchiladas. The menu here includes all manner of soupy stews, tangy ceviche and ranchero huevos for a change of pace on Sundays — plus favourites like enchiladas.
Diners have two choices at Akrame: the chef’s menu for lunch or the chef’s menu for dinner. But what else would you expect from a Michelin-starred gastronome? The Parisian Akrame Benallal blends French and Chinese flavours and tastes for a singular dining experience that’s new every couple of weeks.
Want more Benallal? Next door is his latest French bistro, this time specialising in old-fashioned meat and potatoes. The star of the show may be steak frites, but no matter how imaginative you think you can get with the classic combination, Benallal can do better.