From aromatic street-food eats to world-class fine-dining, Hong Kong’s culinary scene is as electric as its luminescent cityscape. Erina Starkey spends 48 food-filled hours in the ‘Fragrant Harbour’ to uncover the very best that the city has to offer.

Hong Kong is one of the world’s great cities. Its electric skyline can make you feel as though you’re in New York or Shanghai. Its shimmering harbour could be in Sydney or Singapore. Its speedy public transportation system could be in Tokyo, and its vibrant nightlife in Berlin – but what about its dining scene? Well, it’s unlike anywhere in the world.

A delicious assortment of dim sum restaurants, siu mei barbecue meat shops, cha chaan teng cafes and Michelin-starred fine diners has helped make Hong Kong one of the most exciting food destinations in the world. But how on earth to fit it all in? Whether you’re here for a quick stopover or a longer stay, here are our favourite spots to eat and drink in the aptly named ‘Fragrant Harbour’.

Day one


There might appear to be plenty of space across this three-floor colonial tea house in Central, but it fills up quickly for its daily dim sum service, which starts at 7am. Step inside the wood-fronted terrace and you’ll be taken back to a bygone era of elegance, complete with antique vases, stained-glass windows, and Chinese calligraphy and paintings. The venue’s namesake Lu Yu, Tang Dynasty poet and author of The Classic of Tea, would approve of the loose-leaf selection, which ranges from classic jasmine to earthy, mellow pu’erh from Yunnan. Order your dim sum on the tick-box form, then sit back and watch the bamboo steamers stack up. You’ll want to put a mark next to the plump prawn har gau dumplings, the crunchy, golden prawn toast and the house specialty – siu mai pork dumplings topped with buttery, flash-fried slivers of pork liver.


Among the hanging barbecued ducks and chickens in the siu mei (roasted meats) shop windows, you’ll also find another glistening fowl – similar in shape, but with a slightly longer neck. Goose is the preferred bird in this part of world, prized for its dark meat, which is succulent, sweet and slightly gamy. Track down the golden goose at Yat Lok, a family-owned roast meat specialist which has been dishing up its prized poultry for almost 70 years. The secret is in the seasoning – a special marinade that includes soy, sesame, ginger, star anise and cloves. The birds are then hung to dry in a cool room overnight, before hitting the searing hot ovens the next day. Order by the half-bird so you can try the different flavours and textures of the meat. Scoop it up with rice, or swirl it into a clear broth with slippery noodles. There’s no wrong choice.



You’ll be waved in by a wall of golden lucky cats at Hong Kong institution Ho Lee f*ck. Descend the stairs to the sumptuous dining room, which has been decked out in plush red velvet booths, with golden wallpaper inspired by cheongsam (Chinese silk dresses) artfully wrapping the room. If the menu looks familiar to you, it’s supposed to. Ho Lee f*ck pays tribute to the Chinese diaspora overseas, particularly in Melbourne, where Ho Lee f*ck head chef ArChan Chan trained and worked for many years. Stay on theme and order the glossy red kurobuta (Berkshire) pork charsiu, which is smoked on almond wood and glazed with honey. Try it on its own or as part of a barbecue meats platter, with crisp-skinned goose and ‘three yellow’ chicken – a local breed known for its yellow skin, feet and beak. The pandan milk bread French toast is a new take on the tea house classic, served here with peanut butter and lashings of smoked maple syrup


Hong Kong is home to NY-style speakeasies, Japanese whisky bars and British gin parlours, so it should come as no surprise to find a Mexican mezcal drinking den in the mix. COA takes its name from the machete-shaped coa de jima – a specialised tool used to harvest agave (just in case you’re wondering what that giant hoe is doing on the wall). Industry veteran Jay Khan has hand-selected all the spirits behind the bar, which range from small-batch tequilas and mezcals to lesser-known agave distillates like raicilla, sotol and Bacanora. Sip them straight from a jicara, a traditional drinking bowl made from cured calabash gourd, or try them splashed into an ancho chilli-spiked negroni or grapefruit paloma.


Day Two


Take a bow, May Chow. Award-winning Chinese-Canadian chef May Chow started selling her fluffy, pillow-soft bao from a humble dai pai dong (open-air food stall) in the Tong Chong Street market. Now she owns two slick restaurants in SoHo and Causeway Bay. Chow’s steamed buns form the base for her bao burgers, filled with fried yellow chicken in a chinkiang black vinegar glaze and meltingly tender pork belly with sesame mayo. Save room for the dessert versions, which come filled with green tea or salted caramel ice cream. They are un-bao-lievable (sorry).


VEA stands for Vicky et Antonio, the two top talents behind this high-flying diner in Sheung Wan. Chef Vicky Cheng is behind the food offering, which combines his native Hong Kong cuisine with the French techniques he learnt while working in Toronto and New York. The eight-course tasting menu explores luxury Chinese ingredients, with a focus on hoi mei dried seafood. The spiny sea cucumber is a tasty little sucker. The delicacy is rehydrated over a week, before being pumped with prawn mousseline and drenched in hot oil to create a crisp outer shell. Mixologist Antonio Lai is behind the drinks list, which includes a craft co*cktail pairing, thoughtfully matched to each dish.



This subversive speakeasy in Central Hong Kong feels light-years ahead of its time. Artifact was conceived by hospo power couple and mixologists Ezra Star and Beckaly Franks, who also run dive bar Call Me Al down the road. Press to open the automatic doors, and you’ll discover surreal spaceship-like interiors, complete with a capsule bar and futuristic porthole windows. In this universe, Gibson martinis are spiked with banana shallot, and negronis come with fragrant pandan leaves. The signature Artifact sipper is the bread and butter milk punch, which brings together bourbon, corn, pomegranate and toasted bread and butter to create a liquid version of the famed Hong Kong French toast.


The airport is often the last place you would expect to find a good meal. And yet, you absolutely can at Chek Lap Kok (HK International). Before you board, do a flyby of the food court. Michelin-starred restaurant Duddell’s has an outpost in the departures hall, where it dishes up casual Cantonese fare, from dim sum to noodle soups and roasted Chinese meats, which are prepared fresh each day. The steamed spare ribs in black bean sauce are loaded with such rich, fermented flavours, you’ll forget where you are. Take the flavours of Hong Kong home with you by picking up a souvenir of Duddell’s signature XO sauce. Available by the jar, the Duddell’s version is wonderfully aromatic, made from a mix of scallops, prawns and Chinese dry-cured Jinhua ham, with chillies, shallots and garlic. So good, you’d think it’s where the ‘Fragrant Harbour’ got its name.

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