Mr. Manners: Hong Kong Is Always A Good Idea
If you would be ever so kind to indulge me, allow me to suggest ideas for a free and easy weekend. We swooshed through the first month of the year, and we are already talking about the summer and Easter breaks. Be it in the country or overseas, I am often asked where to head off to when you want a quick weekend respite.
My first trip to Hong Kong was for my seventh grade graduation. Mom and Dad gifted my sister Nong and I with a trip to the colony. I travelled with my sister Angela and her husband Elmo. This was in 1977. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency on Nathan Road, in Tsim Sha Tsui. The hotel no longer exists there, but historically, it was the first international Hyatt when it opened in 1969. It closed 36 years later.
I was fascinated with Lane Crawford on the Hong Kong side at Queen's Road Central, and bought a pair of Florsheim Imperials. We would take the ferry back and forth from Kowloon to Central, and pass by the Mandarin Oriental. Indeed, it was a very different Hong Kong. The Peninsula lobby was grander than the stories I heard. And the green Rolls Royce was like out of a fairy tale.
Over the past 40 years, I have been travelling back and forth Hong Kong for work and foodie breaks. Marco Polo was always a good place to start, and a quick ride from Kai Tak, Kowloon was always the choice to stay. In the mid 1990s, the Conrad Hotel at the Pacific Place became a favorite spot. But as time moved on, new hotels opened. The Four Seasons and the IFC mall were spanking new, and had redefined the luxury standards of an already expansive hotel market.
The Upper House in Pacific Place introduced travelers to the boutique hotel ambiance in prime real estate. I discovered the fun weekends of partying at Lan Kwai Fong, and because of my corpulence, finding tailors.
Hong Kong has a lot for everyone. But it has become quite expensive to shop. I look to Hong Kong to get a fix on enjoying a few good meals, and discovering a place we may have taken for granted.
Where to Stay
Hotel choices are abundant, and there is a hotel for every budget. Over the past few years, we have been staying at the Four Seasons at IFC or at the Upper House. Both have access to a mall, and really, nothing is actually far. The interconnected bridgeways make them accessible. If you need to head to Sheung Wan for the latest hipster joints and restos, just cab or Uber it. And take a leisurely walk down the hill to Central.
New hotels are popping up. The Murray, managed by the Wharf Holdings’ Niccolo Group (Marco Polo Hotels), is now on soft opening. The original colonial office building, designed by Norman Foster, was built in the 1960s as government offices. Wharf purchased the property and went to see Norman Foster Architects to gentrify the building. Its original architect, Philip Duncan, was tasked to bring the structure to a new era.
The Pottinger on Pottinger Street is a 68-room property where the beginnings of the Central district during the colonial period historically lie. It’s a perfect spot right off Queen's Road, and steps up to Sheung Wan and the Landmark!
Where to Eat (A Lot!)
Honestly, Maxim's Palace off City Hall is a 500-seater place that doesn’t disappoint. It is not fancy, but it tends to be overwhelming. A grand location, this bastion of yum cha has over 100 items on the menu. It’s a very good first stop if you take the first flight in the morning. Reservations are useless—just go early and plan for a nice long lunch.
For a particular weekend and when you’re staying at the Four Seasons, you must eat at Lung King Heen. I strongly suggest that you reserve. The place just gets packed. Honestly, most top tables in HK do require reservations. This Michelin-starred Cantonese table is always a favorite. But do make sure you watch your wallet as it can be pricey.
Another choice would be the Mandarin Oriental’s Man Wah which remains a classic. I always like getting a fix of hot and sour soup at Golden Leaf at the Conrad in Central. I just remember all the fond memories of Margie and I staying there in my halcyon years! It may be a Cantonese overload, but it’s HK, so eat well.
The Chairman on Kau U Fong in Central is what Ferran Adria considers the future of Chinese cuisine. A constant rater, this two-storey space is always booked. A favorite, the steamed crab in rice wine and flat noodles, must not be missed. The roast goose at Yung Kee and Yat Lok are also a must!
For more modern type of dining, Mott 32 at the basement of the Standard Charter Building revitalizes the yum cha with fusion of Western ingredients. The apple wood roasted 42 days Peking Duck (must be ordered in advance) is the highlight of any visit.
Duddell’s at the Shanghai Tang Mansion on Duddell St. is still on the chi chi scene since it opened a few years back. The incessant chatter in the room plays host to Cantonese favorites and cocktail. Check out their terrace and their brunch.
The new Dim Sum Library in Pacific Place is also a great choice!
A recent favorite is Gough’s on Gough, on Gough Street. Designed by antique collector-turned-furniture designer Timothy Oulton, this is our present favorite for the British vibe. Food is second to the wowing interiors in this temple to Britannia, but good nonetheless. Sit, drink, and enjoy the view. Do stop at the interiors shop beside the restaurant, it’s amazing; I am a fan!
Where to Go for Guy Things
While most of the travelling companions decide to raid the malls for fashion or what have you, I go to the barber. I enjoy my moments at the old school The Mandarin Barber; this is an institution as much as its home, the Mandarin Oriental. The forerunner of the concept barbershops we see in the metro today, there is a Shanghai art deco vibe to the art of having a good cut and shave.
I also like going to the tailor. One of my favorites is Pacific Custom Tailor, now at Nathan Road. Brett has been taking care of me since their Pacific Place location, and through fit to fat, and then again!
Another classic introduced to me is A Man Hing Cheong at the Mandarin Oriental. Classic Saville row styling. A dress shirt made with any tailor in HK is a feast for the eyes with all the details. Visiting Manila is another institution, WW Chan. Remember, the tailor is like a barber, it’s very, very personal. I am sure you have your own favorites.
Well, there you have it. These are just a few spots to keep the weekend going. Try getting out of what you need to do on a Friday, and save enough to eat well. Remember, living well—quietly and mindfully—is always the best revenge.
Oh, lest I forget, afternoon tea at the Peninsula Hong Kong will always be the highlight of a civilized jaunt to the former colony. I must recommend it. Please pass the scones. Have a great week, live in wanderlust.