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Hong Kong Island’s Hidden Gems!

Hong Kong is a melting pot of traditional culture, British influence, and urban cool.

Located in the South China Sea, adjacent to the Pearl River Delta, this Special Administrative Region boasts 262 outlying islands; the main islands of Hong Kong & Lantau; the New Territories; and Kowloon.

While surrounded by Hong Kong Island’s, skyscrapers, traffic, and pedestrians, it’s easy to imagine the population density of over 16,000 residents per square kilometre. Of the approximately 7.5 million total population, twenty per cent live on the island.

In this cosmopolitan hub, bright lights and billboards dominate the skyline.  Finding our way through the flashing neon, we’re on a search for Hong Kong Island’s hidden gems. Care to join us?

Hong Kong Island.

 

#eat

They say the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach, and Hong Kong Island has one of the best food scenes globally to get that heart racing.

 

Mott 32

Hidden in the Standard Chartered Bank building, Mott 32’s discrete, yet elegant, entrance only slightly prepares you for what’s underground.

Joyce Wang has taken the cavernous seven thousand square feet space and transformed it into intimate dining areas without compromising the open, airy interior. Mott 32 has been recognised with interior design awards, specifically the stunning paintbrush room.

Watch the chefs at work steaming and barbecuing or find a relaxed spot in the bar for exquisite cocktails and dim sum.

Primarily Cantonese, with a taste of Beijing and Sichuan cuisine, the menu at Mott 32 is a contemporary take on traditional recipes handed down through generations.

Hong Kong Island.

Xiao Long Bao (Shanghainese Soup Dumplings) are given a new lease of life filled with hot and sour soup, prawns and South Australian scallops. A delicious version of this Chinese staple.

Hong Kong Island.

Cheung Fun (steamed rice roll) filled with prawn, vegetables, and crispy rice paper is a divine mix of flavours and textures. The wonderful contrast of soft, steamed outer with inner umami crunch.

Hong Kong Island.

If you’re like us, you can’t go past the Crispy Roasted  Pork Belly. This dish is a sentimental reminder of my years in Guangzhou. Served traditionally with mustard (you’ll need to ask for sugar but they’re happy to oblige), it’s the rendering of the belly that will make your eyes pop.

Mott 32 is an absolute must for foodies as well as cocktail, design and architecture lovers.

Hong Kong Island.

Equally impressive are Mott 32 in Vancouver, Las Vegas and Bangkok. Look out for news on the opening of Mott 32 in Singapore too.  Check their website for details.

Subtle Mott 32 signage can be found at street level before entering the Standard Chartered Bank’s main reception area. Turn left, you’ll be greeted and escorted into the impressive design-centric belly of the building below.

Mott 32. Lower ground level. Standard Chartered Bank Building. 4 – 4a Des Voeux Road. Central.

 

Chilli Fagara

This little gem on Old Bailey Street isn’t exactly hidden but you may not realise how great it is until you enter. The elegant room and welcoming ambience are perfect for tucking into some exceptional Sìchuānese Cuisine.

Hong Kong Island.

Má (numbing) and là (spicy/ hot/ burning) distinctly identify Sìchuānese cuisine. Not everything is hot, spicy and numbing, though. There are many dishes (crushed cucumber in garlic & peanut oil for one) that don’t contain any numbing Sìchuān peppercorns or chilli heat.

Hong Kong Island.

I confess I love the crushed cucumber but what I crave from Sìchuānese cuisine is má là and the chefs at Chilli Fagara are specialists. Like conductors, they begin with soft gentle flavours and build to a dramatic climax.

Hong Kong Island.

Open since 2005, Chili Fagara outgrew the old Graham street location expanding on Old Bailey to accommodate their loyal clientele. The adjacency to Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage & Arts is perfect for a cocktail at Dragonfly before following up with sensational Sìchuānese staples.

Chili Fagara. Ground Floor. 7 Old Bailey Street. Soho. Central.

 

Tipsy Restaurant & Bar

On the first floor at Little Tai Hang, the elevator opens into what feels like your very own private neighbourhood restaurant & bar.

A small terrace allows those who haven’t kicked the habit to pull out their vape or a pack of old fashioned ciggies.

At the bar, high tables are large enough to dine at or grab bar snacks, and the restaurant has produced a menu with old favourites reimagined.

Hong Kong Island.

The oysters at Tipsy must be mentioned. Flown in from Ireland, they’re meaty and sing with the clean fresh taste of the sea. A special deal at the time of publishing has four of these beauties and two glasses of Chardy for just HKD $178.

Hong Kong Island.

The beef cubes with garlic crisps are delectable. Served on a small charcoal grill, they’re succulent and tender. The Waldorf salad surprises and the octopus with pomegranate is a delight.

Open from midday with a 3-course lunch deal, Tipsy is a solid choice for an honest and delicious meal in Tai Hang.

Tipsy Restaurant & Bar. 1st Floor. 98 Tung Lo Wan Road. Tai Hang. Enter off Lin Fa Kung Street West at Little Tai Hang side entrance.

 

#drink

With eight bars in Asia’s 50 Best Bars, Hong Kong certainly knows how to offer libations. From cocktails to craft brews, here are just a token few to add to your list.

 

The Old Man

Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea won him a Pulitzer Prize in 1953. The Old Man, a tribute to Hemingway, took out the top position on Asia’s 50 Best Bars list for 2019. Both awards are equally deserving.

The Old Man is both a speakeasy and a science lab. It’s here that the crafting of cocktails reaches new heights.

Hong Kong Island.

“For Whom The Bell Tolls” (another Hemingway classic nominated for a Pulitzer) is a flavour explosion. On the sour side, but perfectly balanced with cocoa nibs sous-vide Batavia arrack (see what I’m talking about), sour strawberry, avocado burst, and, get this, rotovap burnt butter rum.

If you’re like me, you may have thought rotovap was a brand you’d never heard of. Well, it’s actually a rotary evaporator, a kind of distilling process and you can watch it happening in real life at the end of the bar.

Hong Kong Island.

Rather than share all the cocktails on the “best of” list, it would be far better to head there yourself. Let me just say that a “To Have and Have Not” is The Old Man’s take on a rum and coke and someone in your party must order it. That’s it, that’s all I’m saying.

Hong Kong Island.

Master of the “one true sentence”, Hemingway responded to George Plympton when asked about the function of his art,

“From things that have happened and from things as they exist and from all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive, and you make it alive, and if you make it well enough, you give it immortality.”

This perfectly encapsulates The Old Man in everything they do.

The Old Man. Lower G/F. 37-39 Aberdeen Street. Soho. Central. Tucked discretely in a tiny alley, across the road from the Happy Prince.

 

Dr Fern’s Gin Parlour

This unexpected haven in the basement of Landmark Atrium opens a secret door into another world. Surrounded by botanicals, fresh and in bottles, this Apothecary-bar has all the “mother’s ruin” you’ll need to fend off any ailment.

Hong Kong Island.

The doctor is in the house to prescribe your medication from 250 gins in the joint. A juniper base paired with freshly foraged ingredients extends to citrus, spice, savoury, sweet and fruit flavours. There’s a gin here for everyone.

An appointment isn’t necessary if you drop by early but for mental or physical issues requiring immediate treatment, it’s best to make an appointment.

Hong Kong Island.

Here’s a tip: Dr Fern’s is very close to Mott 32. Make an appointment with the doctor and loosen up before an incredible meal in the amazing space at Mott 32.

Dr Fern’s Gin Parlour. Shop B31A. First Basement Floor. Landmark Atrium. 15 Queen’s Road. Central. Follow the signs to the MTR & it’s on your right.

 

Ophelia

When Ashley Sutton takes on space to create a bar, you know it’s going to be unique. Ophelia doesn’t disappoint.

Hong Kong Island.

The peacock feather motif is in no way subtle, completely enveloping you from the entrance to anywhere you choose to sit. Plush textiles, voluptuous entertainers, low lighting, and intoxicating libations all contribute to the shedding of everyday life and the entrance to a fantasy world.

Ophelia. Shop F39A & F41A. 1st Floor. Lee Tung Avenue. 200 Queen’s Road East. Wan Chai.

 

Second Draft

Second Draft would sit just as comfortably above in #eat as it does here in #drink. A collaboration between May Chow (2017 Asia’s Best Female Chef) and brewers, Young Master Ales, Second Draft is a casual east meets west Gastropub.

Brew tasting paddles offer a chance to decide on which beer you’d prefer. Chinese inspired cocktails hit the mark and a respectable wine list ensure everyone is happy in the drinks department.

Hong Kong Island.

The menu has to be mentioned. Mapo burrata is such a favourite there’d be a riot if it was dropped from the menu.

With an interior crossed between a local pub and a Chinese factory, the atmosphere is urban and casual. This is another appreciated addition to the Tai Hang area.

Second Draft. G/F 98 Tung Lo Wan Road. Tai Hang. On the corner at Lin Fa Kung Street West.

 

#explore

So you’ve ticked off the funicular ride to take in Victoria Peak’s view, tackled Dragon’s Back hiking trail, and had the time of your life at Ocean Park.  Now, you may like to explore these hidden (and not so hidden) gems.

 

Lamma Island

Not exactly Hong Kong Island but you do need to take the ferry from Central Pier 4. Lamma Island is south of Hong Kong Island and frequented by local Hong Kongese, mainland visitors and western expats.

This island’s fishing villages are a wonderful escape from frenetic Hong Kong on weekdays, the weekend, or for an evening of seafood indulgence.

Hong Kong Island.

Take the ferry to Yung Shue Wan for an easy walk on the family trail across the island to Sok Kwu Wan.

Visit tiny Tin Hau Temple.

Shop for dried fish, XO Sauce and seaweed.

Hong Kong Island.

Delight in scrumptious live seafood cooked to order at Rainbow restaurant. There are quite a few restaurants in this village but in our opinion, Rainbow is the pick.

Hong Kong Island.

You can return on the public ferry to Hong Kong Island Central ferry pier or advise Rainbow Restaurant and they’ll drop you back. When making a reservation, you have the option to be collected from either the Central star ferry terminal or Kowloon side.

Yung Shue Wan and Sok Kwu Wan ferries leave from Central Ferry Pier 4, Victoria Harbour, Central.

 

Van Gogh Live

Ok, so Van Gogh Live isn’t on Hong Kong Island either and due to its limited viewing window, it wasn’t meant to be included in this guide. However, once we’d experienced this extraordinary exhibition, we knew you needed the info so you could too.

Hong Kong Island.

Without giving anything away, Van Gogh Alive Hong Kong displays the artist’s work in such a way that you are totally immersed. Van Gogh’s life story is told with compassion. It’s hard to imagine a person who wouldn’t be affected emotionally by this complex and fascinating exhibition.

Hong Kong Island.

On until, July 7th, 2019.

Monday to Thursday: 10:30 – 21:00 Friday to Sunday and Public Holidays: 10:30 – 22:00

1st Floor. FTLife Tower. 18 Sheung Yuet Rd. Kowloon Bay.

Getting to Van Gogh Alive is a little tricky.

Take the MTR to Kowloon Bay station. Follow Exit A into the shopping mall and veer left after Zara. Walk straight ahead through the outside courtyard to the walkway overpass. Turn left on the other side of the road until you reach Sheung Yet Road and turn right. Cross the first intersection and signs to Van Gogh Alive will direct you to the entrance. It’s about a 10-minute walk from Kowloon Bay Station.

 

Kennedy Town

At the western end of Hong Kong Island, the uber cool district of K-Town is often overlooked. Bordering Hong Kong University, Pok Fu Lam, and Mount Davis Fort, K-Town has a rich fishing history, with eclectic bars & restaurants.

Take a look at this article for a guide to K-Town. Although published a while ago, the information is up to date and if you make it to Little Creatures, be sure to say Hi to our friend Boris. He’s brewing some of the local batches there and would never lead you astray. 😉

Kennedy Town MTR Station. Island line.

 

Tai Hang

Right next to Causeway Bay, Tai Hang was once a slum. As with much of the most sought after real estate in the world, it isn’t any longer.

The beauty of Tai Hang at this point in time is, while embracing a contemporary personality, it hasn’t lost its local neighbourhood charm.

Hong Kong Island.

Wander Tai Hang in the morning and you’ll see the line for Bing Kee Dai Pai Dong stretching around the corner. Dai Pai Dong (street food stall) licences haven’t been issued since the 60s and Bing Kee is one of the originals.

Hong Kong Island.

Temples and parks create relaxing nooks for meditation. Fruit & veg stalls line the streets. BBQs and steamers are raging before the sun comes up.

Hong Kong Island.

In the evenings, wander to the bar street parallel with Tung Lo Wan Road, visit the bars and restaurants already mentioned, or explore and give us a heads up on what we’re yet to sample.

Tai Hang is reached from Tin Hau MTR Station on the Island Line.

 

#stay

 

Little Tai Hang

When you travel, what type of accommodation do you prefer? At paraphernalia.co we’re always on the lookout for innovation with some familiar touches. Little Tai Hang delivers on both.

 

Hong Kong Island.

The Bed. Not just the bed but the all-important pillows. They’re perfect. The mattress, so comfortable, you may find it difficult to leave it. A word to the wise, try not to return to your room through the day, you may find yourself climbing back in.

Hong Kong Island.

Reception is a no-fuss transaction executed by welcoming staff. A quaint lobby has an expression of graphic and fashion design, while art installed in the outdoor reception will take you by surprise and hold your attention for longer than you’d expect.

Hong Kong Island.

Little Tai Hang’s 24-hour gym helps prevent accumulating Hong Kong kilos and there’s a self-operated laundry in case you need to do a little more than rinse your smalls.

Studios, one bedroom and 2 bedroom apartments offer garden or harbour views, and single nights to long stays are catered for.

Hong Kong Island.

Little Tai Hang is our current favourite Hong Kong locale to rest our weary heads, we hope it becomes yours too.

Little Tai Hang. 98 Tung Lo Wan Road. Tai Hang.

 

Booking.com.

You’ll find Little Tai Hang and other accommodation to suit your budget in the booking.com search window below.

Please note, paraphernalia.co is a Booking.com affiliate. This means by booking through us you’ll still receive the same booking.com competitive rates while we receive a tiny commission to keep paraphernalia.co going.

We appreciate your support.



Booking.com

 

Getting there & getting around

Hong Kong is an international hub so finding a flight from wherever you are won’t be difficult.

On arrival, be sure to pick up an Octopus Card.

Hong Kong has some of the best public transport in the world and your Octopus Card is your ticket to it. Easily topped up at any MTR station, 711, Watsons or Mannings store, you won’t regret investing in an Octopus card.

The Airport Express stops at Tsing Yi, Kowloon or Hong Kong Island and takes about 25 minutes to complete the trip. From your station, either hop on the MTR (Hong Kong’s underground), use buses, the tram, ferries or grab a taxi to where you need to go.

Hong Kong Island.

A note when grabbing a cab, try not to cross the harbour through either tunnel, it will cost you extra and traffic can be punishing. Also, keep in mind, any baggage stowed in the boot (trunk for US readers) is charged at HK$ 5 per item.

Hong Kong is also an easy walking city. Plenty of overpasses allow crossing busy, traffic-filled streets and “the escalator” transports you from Central to the Mid-levels, an 800-metre distance with 135-metre elevation taking 20 minutes. From 6 am until 10 am, the escalator travels down the hill, from 10 am to midnight it goes up.

 

When to go

If it were up to us, we’d say all year round but if you don’t like the heat and humidity, then avoid July to September. Typhoons are most common during this period too.

Winter can be quite cool, sometimes dropping into single digit temperatures so Spring and Autumn are recommended.

Afternoon showers occur through spring in April and May while Autumn is mostly dry.

Unless Rugby and crowds are a passion, avoid April when Hong Kong Rugby Sevens takes over the town.

 

Finally…

Hong Kong Island has a multitude of Hidden Gems, far more than the few favourites listed here. While you’re wandering the streets, be sure to look down that alley, walk up or down those stairs and it’s likely a Hidden Gem will be waiting for you.

The map below pinpoints where we’ve been (except for Van Gogh Alive) so you can interact to find contact details etc.

Continually discovering Hong Kong Island’s Hidden Gems: it’s a thing we love….

 

Pin it for later.

Hong Kong Island.

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