A good friend who has travelled almost as much as I have has a saying I’ll vouch for: “There are one-day cities and weekend cities, and then there’s Hong Kong.” No matter how long you spend in Hong Kong, you’ll always find something new. Whether you’re looking for a good meal, a good view or a night on the town, these new hot spots are sure to thrill.
LOOK UP, LOOK WAY UP
For more than a decade, this abandoned while colonial building loomed as an intriguing mystery above the busiest intersection in Kowloon. Like a sleeping beauty, it sat empty and vine-covered atop a hill overgrown with soaring trees, surrounded by forbidding fences, all just a block east of the bustling Star Ferry docks. Now the mystery is solved. What had been the headquarters of the Hong Kong Marine Police from the 1880s to 1996 came back to life as the Victorian centrepiece of a new mall, hotel and exhibition centre. Wedding parties seem to be waiting in line day and night to have photos taken with the elegant backdrop, including the forest of century-old trees the builders managed to protect in the rebuilding. A honeycomb of stores built on the hillside underneath the restored building have become the prestige address for many of the city’s top designers.
The gorgeously colonnaded headquarters building, also known as Hullett House (which also contains a luxury inn and restaurant), doesn’t actually date from 1881, but rather 1884. Because four is an inauspicious number in Chinese numerology, the owners rounded it off to a more prosperous sounding 1881.
International Commerce Centre
At 118 storeys, this tower at the edge of the harbour in West Kowloon is by far Hong Kong’s tallest, ranking as the third-highest commercial high-rise in the world after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and Shanghai’s World Financial Centre. It’s in the heart of an area where buildings were once restricted in height to accommodate flights en route to Hong Kong’s former airport, but is now becoming a high-rise shopping and financial district. The ICC’s observation deck ( sky100.com.hk) and restaurants officially opened late last year, revealing a remarkable panorama of Victoria Harbour and the Central side of Hong Kong to the public. The top 15 storeys of the tower include a lavish Ritz Carlton hotel.
EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY
There’s no more dramatic place to drink in the view of Hong Kong’s night skyline than the rooftop of the iconic Princes Building in Central Hong Kong. The tables at Sevva (pronounced “savour” by the staff) are on the precipitous edge on the 25th floor, and offer a full view of the nightly sound and light show. 6-14 Chater Rd. at Ice House Street, 852 2537-1388, sevvahk.com.
Ever had the entire staff let out a cheer when you enter a restaurant? It happens at Busy Suzie in a converted harbour lighthouse that is designed to feel like a kitchen in an ancient Chinese fishing village. The day’s catch is cooked over open fires using rowboat oars as spatulas. Orders are chirped by the staff to the chefs in a sing song that gets picked up and elaborated on by the servers and even the diners. The paddle grilling is known as robatayaki and the menu also includes sushi and teppanyaki and a vast selection of innovative Japanese-style appetizers, such as roe-covered soft shell crab rolls or slices of marinated fish served in an oyster shell called “pearl calm.” The place is so theatrical that the menu includes credits for the costumes and shoes, but, yes, the food is still the main event. 2A Canton Rd., 852-2369-0077; busysuzie.com
Xiao Nan Guo Premier
Even though Hong Kong is still a Chinese special economic zone and not technically part of China, this new restaurant aspires to be as authentic as any in the Middle Kingdom, both in terms of decor and menu. Guests enter across a traditional Chinese zigzag bridge to the main dining area where seating provides panoramic city views with floor-to-ceiling windows. Specialties are fish and crab steamed and fried Shanghai-style, with a choice of pungent seasonings. For a busy, bustling place, the service is extremely personal. One Peking Rd. in Kowloon 852-2369-8899
Cépage restaurant, which opened last year and has already won a Michelin star, has added an option for dining on the edge. This new rooftop bar in Central Hong Kong has panoramic views of the Admiralty and Wanchai districts. The bar menu includes canapés such as panko-breadcrumb-crusted pigeon leg stuffed with foie gras, with black truffle mayonnaise. You can also opt to order from chef Thomas Mayr’s main menu. The house signature dish is a wonderfully simple but satisfying celeriac and Japanese organic egg yolk ravioli with truffle jus and Japanese mixed mushrooms. 23 Wing Fung St.; 852-2861-3130. facebook.com/cepage.hk
Paging Mr. Bond, Mr. James Bond. Straight out of 1970s club life comes this billiards club-meets-ballroom dreamed up by flamboyant, Canadian-educated restaurateur Gilbert Yeung. The dark clubby feel begins with a bronze-mirrored staircase leading to a seemingly endless bar. A room with pool tables converts in the evening into a dance floor and the action spills onto an outdoor terrace. The bar menu includes several house Champagnes and cocktails and an extensive wine list. Canapés are complimentary from 5 to 8 nightly. Central at 1/F, LKF Tower, 33 Wyndham St., 852-2801-5009; tazmaniaballroom.com.