Hong Kong is my home away from home, a travel destination that is less about having a jam-packed itinerary but reconnecting with people and places that I’ve missed since my last visit. It has been almost eight years since the last time I was in Hong Kong, which is the longest I’ve ever been away from the city. It is rare for me to not over-plan for a trip, especially a ten day one, but I knew this trip is more about having dim sum and with relatives to catch up on the last few years. I still managed to visit a few of the cafes and bakeries on my list. I ate at my grandma’s home for almost my entire stay there and those were some of the best meals of my trip.
Here are some highlights from my 10 days in the city (in the order I visited them and presented in the photos below):
Food & Coffee
Elixir – my first coffee in the city was at Elixir, a very clean and sleek coffee shop in Central. Most of the coffee shops I visited are in Central and Sheung Wan (both of which have their own MTR metro stops and are in close walking distance to each other) and walking between the two neighbourhoods allowed to discover many more cafes along the way. Despite its mostly concrete interior and exterior, Elixir was actually quite a welcoming space and great spot to rest and enjoy a coffee after hours of exploration in Central. I ordered something that I normally wouldn’t order, the osmanthus cold brew + tonic, and really enjoyed it. The osmanthus was perfectly fragrant and the floral notes held up really well against the coffee. It was so refreshing after spending most of my time outdoors in 30 degree weather
Dang Wen Li – Dang Wen Li by Dominque Ansel is a place that has been on my Hong Kong list for years, ever since they opened their first location in Hong Kong. I’ve visited Dominque Ansel in New York, but what makes DWL really stand out is the incorporation of Hong Kong nostalgia and flavours into every baked good. I had a really hard time choosing what to get but eventually ordered the cake that I’ve saved on my phone for years, a cake that resembles a stack of “Haw Flakes” with hawthorn raspberry mousse, lychee gelée and and Japanese soufflé cheesecake. The gelée was a bit stiff (it actually fell out of the cake when I cut into it) but overall the cake was still perfect. The flavours of the cake reminded me of the childhood snack I grew up eating. Almost every guest in the bakery was taking photos of all the unique desserts for social media.
NINETYs (Soho) – NINETYs has several locations in Hong Kong and was recommended by a friend. I went to the Soho location in Central and it’s easy to miss because it’s tucked to the side behind a set of escalators. NINETYs is on the pricier side, but worth a visit if you’re looking for a place that serves high quality coffee and a full food menu. I ordered an Ethiopian pourover that had notes of jasmine and orange peel (delicious!) and one of their Copenhagen-inspired brunch boards. You get to choose 4 – 6 different dishes to complete your board and each board comes with choice of rice or bread. I got furikake mentaiko rice as my starch and four dishes: grilled miso eggplant, sweet and sour cauliflower, miso-glazed halibut, and bonito + crab fat scrambled eggs. The scrambled were the highlight for me — they were so silky and rich, making the most decadent bites.
Bakehouse (Soho & TST) – Bakehouse is perhaps one of the most famous bakeries in Hong Kong, and you will always see a line outside the bakery with people eager to try their famous sourdough egg tarts. I went to the Soho location at 10am on a weekday and got one of the last egg tarts of the morning batch, so please go early when you visit! The egg tarts are immaculate — a rich flakey crust holds the most tender egg custard centre that can barely stand on its own because its so delicate. I want to relive that first bite over and over again. Bakehouse has several locations but I visited the Soho and TST locations. I preferred Soho because it was a larger space and has more area around the bakery for you to enjoy your pastries.
Halfway Coffee (Sheung Wan & Mong Kok) – I went to two locations of Halfway Coffee because I enjoyed the vibes so much. Both locations have a great olds school look and feel and if you order a hot drink, it is served in vintage Chinese ceramics. The Sheung Wan location has lots of outdoor seating which spills onto a street of many antique stores. There is an “Instagram bench” at the Soho location which happened to be free when I visited, but soon after I ordered my coffee I noticed a lot of people eyeing my spot for their photo. The Mong Kok location is much smaller but still has a great charm.
Little Bao (Central) – I revisited Little Bao on this trip because I had such a good time here the last time I was in Hong Kong. Little Bao was celebrating their 10th anniversary and since my last visit, they have opened a second, larger location. The one thing I knew I wanted to order was their Caesar Salad. What makes this Caesar salad so special is that instead of using anchovy in the dressing, LB uses local cured fish with fermented black bean. I grew up eating the iconic tinned black bean dace fish and every bite of the salad gives such great nostalgia. I also ordered the Impossible BAO with a thick impossible patty and fuyu mayo and black pepper glaze.
Clean – Coffee shop laundromats are such a common concept in Hong Kong, but completely novel to me. Clean is a beautiful coffee shop with a super clean (as its name suggests) aesthetic and great outdoor seating. The outdoor seating is built into the exterior of the building and I loved people watching while enjoying their self-proclaimed best oat milk latte in the city.
Coffee & Laundry – also a very cute half coffee shop and half laundromat. This space has a much more vintage look and feel, with black and white tiling and wooden furniture. There is only one set of seats for it is a great spot for people watching too.
Australia Dairy Company – you know I can’t write a blog post about Hong Kong without talking about Australia Dairy Company. We finally made our way out of Sheung Wan and Central and to Jordan. Located conveniently near the Jordan MTR station, ADC is a traditional Hong Kong restaurant (cha chaan teng) that specializes in steamed milk pudding and scrambled eggs. It may sound and look simple, but they have really perfected scrambled eggs. The eggs are the silkiest eggs you can find in the city and they’re perfect on top if the barely toasted slices of buttered white bread. Don’t leave without trying their steamed milk pudding, which is my favourite menu item. Because it is a very popular fast casual restaurant, you will be sharing a table with other diners and the service is very rushed. I think it’s all part of the experience!
Kam Wah Cafe (金華冰廳) – Kam Wah is another famous cha chaan teng in Hong Kong. They’re known for their pineapple buns with thick slabs of butter, egg tarts, and milk tea. The crust on their pineapple bun is thick and crisp and the milk tea was strong and ice cold. A great place to visit for this Hong Kong staple. Like most Hong Kong cafes, the service can come across as rude. I took a bit too long to order my pineapple bun so I got moved to a smaller table to the side.
Ho Lee Fook – this was my only dinner out during my 10-day trip (the rest were all family dinners at home or at local seafood restaurants) and it was a very memorable experience. The restaurant describes itself as: “[a restaurant that has] come of age, but still honours the heritage, the foundations laid. Cantonese and proud of it, the tone is an opulent night out, faint memories of wild nights out in Hong Kong, the smell in the room is just as familiar as Mom’s dumplings.” The room is stunning and the decor is quite lavish with velvet banquettes and lots of gold accents, but the service was warm and approachable. The menu can come across as very traditional Cantonese, but the way the dishes are prepared and presented really makes the food stand out. We ordered several dishes which were all great but my favourite was the steamed clams with Chinese egg custard, Chinese zucchini and premium soy sauce. The service was spectacular — they offered us a complimentary birthday dessert for my mom and emailed the next day to make sure we enjoyed our experience.
Tai On Coffee & Tea Shop (大安茶氷廳) – Tai On is a modern cafe inside an old school Hong Kong cha chaan teng. The cafe is beautiful with ceiling fans, deck seatings, calligraphic signage, and illustrations of old Hong Kong. They offer their own takes on Hong Kong cafe classics like egg tarts, macaroni soups, and toasts. I ordered the caramel egg tart and ‘coffee now’. The egg tart is sweeter than a traditional egg tart (very different from egg tarts from other cha chaan tengs or Bakehouse) but I still really enjoyed it. The egg tart is served with a spoon, so it eats more like a dessert than a traditional egg tart. I don’t usually order sweet coffee drinks but the ‘coffee now’ was a lovely mix of coffee and Horlicks.
Kai Kai Dessert (佳佳甜品) – First thing you’ll see when you approach Kai Kai’ storefront is the long line of customers waiting for dessert soup (don’t worry, the line goes really quickly) and the second thing you’ll see is the wall covered in Michelin plaques. Don’t be alarmed when you have to share a table with other dessert seekers, it’s all part of the experience. I ordered the stewed papaya with snow fungus and the taro sago, both of which were great! I wouldn’t line up more than 30 minutes for it but I was happy enough with my dessert soup that I ordered more to take home. A bonus is that they take apple pay for payment!
UNAR Coffee Company – I’ve never explored the area of Tai Hang before and ended up spending so much time in this neighbourhood. It has a good mix of modern coffee shops and restaurants like UNAR as well as old school dai pai dongs (open-air food stalls). UNAR has two sets of outdoor seating perfect for enjoying your coffee and the neighbourhood views. The branding of the coffee shops are amazing and the coffee itself was great too. It is conveniently located across Cakes of Stardust if you’re craving a decadent cookie.
Bing Kee (炳記茶檔) – I didn’t make it to Sing Heung Yuen on this trip but I’m so glad I still got a dai pai dong experience this trip. Dai pai dongs, or open-air food stalls, are a quintessential part of Hong Kong food culture. The food is nothing fancy — condensed milk toast, instant noodles, and milk tea — but they do it so well. Tasty and super affordable.
Activities & Attractions
Hong Kong is definitely a food city but I had to fill in some non-eating activities between all my snacks and meals. I don’t have too many exact attractions or locations listed because I walked everywhere and every block has so much to see and do, I simply can’t list it all. I highly recommend walking between the destinations on your list and you will experience so much.
Star Ferry – the Star Ferry is as much public transportation as it is a tourist attraction. Riding the star ferry is something I associate with visiting Hong Kong and it’s a great way to cross Victoria Harbour between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. It costs less than 75 cents CAD to take the ferry and is a great way to sight see and enjoy the cityscape from the waters. I took the MTR to Central and then the star ferry from Central back to TST, and then walked all the way back from TST to Mei Foo. It was a full two hour walk that took me close to four hours because I stopped so much to explore the different neighbourhoods. I highly recommend it! If you get tired, you can easily hop back on the MTR.
Shanghai Street (and other speciality streets) – there are a lot of speciality streets in Hong Kong that are home to stores that sell similar items. For example, Goldfish Street (Tung Choi Street) as its name suggests has stores that sell goldfish and aquatic plants for aquariums, stores on Apliu Street specialize in electronics, Cat Street sells antiques, and Sneakers Streets sells… sneakers. My favourite specialty street is Shanghai Street, where one can find all the best bakeware and small kitchen appliances. I spent so much time (and money) on Shanghai Street buying cookie cutters, mooncake presses, and cookie boxes. It was baking heaven. I’ll write a separate guide on where to shop on Shanghai Street!
K11 Musea – malls in Hong Kong can be very extravagant and opulent but unlike other malls filled with luxury brands, K11 Musea also showcases a lot of unique art pieces. Exploring K11 is not as intimidating as walking through Harbour City: the retail workers are more helpful and less snobby, and you can find a good mixture of luxury designer stores as well as high-end streetwear brands. Even if you don’t intend on splurging on clothing, it is worth visiting. The mall also has one of the best views of the harbour.
Until next time, Hong Kong!