Hong Kong: Ho Lee Fook I Love You!
Travel - they say it broadens the mind and offers new perspectives on life. At A2D, we’ve been travel planning on behalf of our clients for the past 23 years, so you can absolutely trust our expertise. As global concierge professionals, we’re constantly out and about, scouting the best of what the world has to offer, so we can share it with our clients.
In his latest post, A2D’s CEO and Founder, Stig Egard travels to Hong Kong to sample some of the city's best restaurants and to discover some off the radar gems.
Whenever I am in Hong Kong, I stay at one of my favourite hotels in the world; the Mandarin Oriental. Located in the financial district, it is also close to visitor hot spot Victoria Peak, the best place to view Hong Kong’s spectacular skyline. There are actually two Mandarin Oriental hotels in Hong Kong, the newer and more expensive is called The Landmark, but I prefer the original hotel.
Visitors to the Mandarin Oriental are spoiled for choice when it comes to world-class bars and restaurants. My favourite place to drink is Captain’s Bar. Almost as famous as the hotel itself, Captain’s Bar is a city institution and popular with both guests and locals alike. Also, worthy of a mention for its cosy feel, good service and phenomenal view is the super chic M Bar.
The only place to avoid in the hotel is The Chinnery. Named after British painter George Chinnery with a focus on classic British cuisine, it’s described as a laid-back alternative to the hotel’s other fine dining restaurants with a club-like atmosphere. I found the staff uptight and unfriendly. Perhaps they’ve taken the whole British stiff upper lip expression a little too much to heart?
Venture up to the 25th floor of the hotel and not only will you be rewarded with the most incredible panoramic views of Hong Kong, you’ll also have the choice of not one, but two Michelin-starred restaurants. Pierre by Pierre Gagnaire is a two-Michelin starred restaurant serving outstanding French cuisine whilst Man Wha, is a Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurant. I’ve tried Man Wha on more than one occasion, but have never really found my way with it and wouldn't go back.
My favourite of the hotel’s restaurants is the Sir Terence Conran designed Mandarin Grill & Bar. It’s a perfect combination of great food, beautiful interior and charming staff. My only criticism is the price of the food. I’m happy paying for quality but charging 100 euros for a sole and vegetables is somewhat hard to justify.
After battling a particularly tough Jet lag for the first two days (the previous week I’d been in New York which is 6 hours behind and now Asia which is 6 hours ahead), my body needed time to find its natural rhythm again. On day three, I headed to the amusingly sounding Ho Lee Fook, a fantastic, no-reservations, basement restaurant in SoHo serving delicious Cantonese food. The Cantonese translation of Ho Lee Fook is “good fortune for your mouth” and it certainly was.
The following day I traveled across the harbour to Kowloon with my clients. Kowloon is the city’s more densely populated, grittier side, often jokingly referred to as the ‘dark side’ by mainland residents. Its streets bulge with neon illuminated markets serving just about everything you can imagine, plus the best Cantonese food in the world. It was the perfect place to bring my clients who were interested to learn about the local food production, sample authentic Cantonese cuisine, and meet local producers.
I ended the day’s tour with lunch at Hutong, a restaurant with locations in Hong Kong and London serving award-wining northern Chinese cuisine. Having eaten at both locations, my impression was the same, the food is okay, but always secondary to the spectacular view. My tip for anyone wanting to try Hutong in Hong Kong is to avoid it on a Sunday as it’s compulsory to order the extended lunch menu which invariably means there’s always lots of food leftover.
Later that evening, I headed to Aberdeen Street Social from Jason Atherton, the exceptionally talented and celebrated Michelin star British chef. This is his third restaurant in Hong Kong and thestandard of food is as consistently high as his others because he always employs exceptional chefs. Unfortunately, the same high standards of service are lacking from the reservation staff. The person I spoke to was so rude that I asked the concierge from the Mandarin Oriental to call on my behalf. She also received the same outrageous level of rudeness. A complaint to the restaurant manager was sadly unanswered, as was an official complaint to Jason’s London HQ. It’s a sad reflection of what happens when celebrated chefs expand their brands on a global level and only focus on the quality of the food and not the people employed to represent their brand.
Throughout my years as an international traveler, I have always meticulously pre-planned the restaurants I’m going to visit during my trips; I never spontaneously choose a restaurant in the moment. However, during this trip, I found myself walking along the street late at night feeling hungry, so I jumped into a simple looking place called Nan Tei.
On entering, I was warmly greeted by Patrick, the manager who immediately found me a spot at the bar. I looked around and saw that the clientele were all smartly dressed local Asian men and women (always a good sign when a restaurant is full of locals.) It’s a small place with one grill behind the bar measuring no more than 1 metre x 40 cm, where they literally grill all the food. It smelt incredible. I started with some chicken wings and asparagus wrapped with bacon, washed down with some sake. I couldn’t believe what I was tasting. The food was exceptional. I ordered more and was absolutely stunned by the flavours and the freshness. With a total bill of 40 euros, this was without question, the best dining experience of the entire Hong Kong trip, as well as the best discovery. (Not even Karen, my favourite concierge at the Mandarin Oriental knew about Nan Tei, which apparently has 6 outposts in Hong Kong.)
I would travel to Hong Kong just to go back to Nan Tei; I get goosebumps just thinking about it. Alongside The Nomad in New York, which is a totally different concept, it was one of my best experiences of 2018 so far.