As soon as you land in Hong Kong, you get the feeling: this place is really exciting. We’ve spent days wandering around Hong Kong in overwhelmed awe. And that goes for the food, too. Working out where to eat in Hong Kong is not easy. There are endless options: obviously there’s incredible Cantonese food (both super local and traditional, as well as extremely high-end), but there’s also plenty of upscale European cuisine. Basically, be ready to spend most of your time in Hong Kong eating. Also, be prepared to dine in hotels, malls, and skyscrapers (and sometimes all three at once) because whole swaths of Hong Kong have only those buildings.
A quick geography lesson: Hong Kong is a collection of islands, as well as a peninsula jutting off mainland China. You’ll most likely be spending most of your time on Hong Kong Island (where Central, Wan Chai, and many hotels aimed at Westerners are) and in Kowloon (where a lot of locals live). You’ll end up crossing back and forth a bit by ferry and train no matter which side you stay on, but be sure to explore both.
We could easily spend years in Hong Kong and still not feel like we’ve gotten a handle on all the food the city has to offer. But we’ll certainly keep trying.
When you’re in the mood for highly specific chicken parts, Yardbird is the move. But actually, this yakitori spot works for almost any casual eating occasion - as long as you’re not in a rush. They don’t take reservations here, and even after being open for years, it’s still insanely popular, so there will be a wait. But once you’re in the door, you can have all the chicken hearts, livers, and gizzards you like (and more common cuts too).
Hong Kong has no shortage of high-end French restaurants, but Belon is a more casual option, like the everyday bistros all over Paris. They still take themselves pretty seriously, but not in ways we’re going to complain about - ingredients are the best they can find, and the bread is baked in house. The menu sounds like a list of classics (roast chicken, foie gras), but the local influence is in there as well - that roast chicken comes out whole (head and feet attached) to share, just like in Cantonese restaurants. Make sure you order it.
Wonton noodles are a Hong Kong classic: small bowls of broth with a mound of egg noodles and prawn wontons. And the best place to find them is Mak’s Noodle. We’re partial to the Wellington St location in Central (the family business has a few outlets both in Hong Kong and Singapore), where you can happily slurp through a bowl (or two) with both tourists and locals.
Tsui Wah Restaurant
Another Hong Kong classic is milk tea, super strong tea with evaporated or condensed milk. And at some point in your trip, you should get to Tsui Wah for a cup. There are locations all over Hong Kong where you can pair that milk tea with a toasted bun also smothered in condensed milk. Many of the outlets are open 24 hours, so you could do this for breakfast, afternoon tea, on your way home from a night out - really, whenever you want.
Tim Ho Wan
Tim Ho Wan has become famous for their baked BBQ pork buns and for being one of the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurants in the world, so it attracts a mind-boggling number of tourists. And while the original shop in Kowloon is good, there are now a bunch of locations around the city where you can take a number and wait in a huge crowd of people for some very, very good baked BBQ pork buns. There’s also now one in the train station at IFC (International Finance Center), so if you time things right, you can grab some buns just before you head to the airport.
L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon
There are L’Atelier de Joel Robuchons all over the world, including Paris, but don’t count this place out just because it’s the fanciest chain restaurant ever. The food is a modern take on traditional French and the counter-style set up is fun and casual. There are a bunch of different ways to eat here, from a reasonably-priced set lunch menu to a very unreasonably-priced “discovery menu” that’s worth the splurge for its out-there version of French food.
Ronin is a seafood-focused spot from the same people behind Yardbird, and it’s similarly Japanese-inspired. The food is izakaya-style, and you can choose to do a set menu or order a la carte. The place is tiny, so unless you don’t mind waiting (or risking not getting in - there’s limited walk-in availability), definitely make a reservation. Also, if you’re into Japanese whiskey, they have 100 different types here.
If you’re looking for classic dim sum, Maxim’s Palace in Central is where you want to be. There are views of Victoria Harbour, chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and trolleys piled high with dumplings. Waits are kind of inevitable, and the whole thing is pretty touristy, but this place is a classic for a reason.
22 Ships is pretty much always busy. This tapas bar doesn’t take reservations and also doesn’t have many seats, so expect a wait for their fairly classic Spanish food. While you wait, walk down the street to their sister bar Ham & Sherry for a glass of wine and all kinds of Spanish charcuterie sliced right in front of you. If you’re anything like us, you might not actually end up making it back to 22 Ships.
Peking Garden is from the same people as Maxim’s and has been serving their namesake ducks since the ’70s. Don’t be put off by the crowd of suits - the traditional-leaning food here is super popular with locals too. Obviously you need to be ordering Peking duck, but the onion cakes shouldn’t be skipped either.
Molecular gastronomy might not be what the cool kids are doing anymore, but they’re all in on the idea at Bo Innovation. And we were never cool kids anyway. Bringing soils and foams and various spheres of things to traditional Chinese flavors and techniques, Bo Innovation is a small spot that serves 15-course menus at night and a shorter set menu at lunch. When you’ve overdosed on dumplings and are looking for a fancier experience, this should be on your list.
Lung King Heen
For a super high-end take on Cantonese, Lung King Heen at the Four Seasons does it best. There’s a view, plenty of white tablecloths, and a menu the size of a novel. There’s dim sum on the weekends for lunch too.
Maybe you’ve overdosed on barbecue pork buns and wonton noodles and it’s time for something different. You wouldn’t be making a bad move with 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana, which, despite that nonsensical name has some of the best classic Italian in Hong Kong. It’s pretty upscale and also inside a mall - so this spot isn’t for everyone - but they also seem to put truffles on everything, so they’re doing something right.
Épure is one of those French restaurants where you’re pretty sure everyone who works there can read your mind, because they know what you want before you even do. Despite being in the truly frightening Harbour City mall on the Kowloon side, once you actually get inside Épure you’ll forget you had to battle your way past stores from every luxury label known to man. Unsurprisingly, this place is pricey and not for everyone. But if you’re looking to throw down on a meal that’s going to be perfect from start to finish, this is the place to do it. Go for one of the tasting menus, which put a modern spin on classic French food.
The Chairman is the Hong Kong version of farm-to-table. This low-key Cantonese spot uses meat from the New Territories (the part of Hong Kong between Kowloon and Mainland China), has its own farm, and doesn’t serve controversial delicacies like shark’s fin and bird’s nests (yes, that’s a very real thing). But all this warm and fuzzy stuff wouldn’t mean much if the food wasn’t good which, luckily, it is. It’s the sort of place you can drop into on a night when you have nothing planned and leave very happy.
Kin’s Kitchen is traditional Cantonese food that’s neither fine dining nor casual. Basically, it’s like what your Cantonese grandmother would cook, if you had one. There’s a mix of super traditional (their smoked soy sauce chicken is legendary) and less so (steamed minced pork with squid ink and egg), but it never ends up feeling stuffy or boring. This one is a bit under the radar, but worth checking out.
Sheung Wan is a great part of town to wander around through the windy streets, but after all that walking you’re going to need a reward. Teakha is an appealing option with a huge menu of teas, a small brunch menu, and pastry treats like matcha snow chiffon cake.
Despite the name, you’re not coming to Lin Heung for the tea (although you’ll probably ending up drinking it) - you’re here for the dim sum. Lin Heung is as old-school as things get. Don’t plan on just sitting at your table waiting for the trolley to come around to you - this is a dim sum death match, where you’ll be elbowing seniors out of the way to grab what you want and take it back to your table. This may not be the best dim sum in the city, but it is one of the best experiences.
When a restaurant’s name translates to “good fortune for your mouth,” you know they’re probably on to something. Ho Lee Fook is a modern take on the old-school tea houses of Hong Kong with dumplings, roast meats, and all the bubble tea cocktails you could want.
There might be a city in the world without a coffee shop run by Australians, but Hong Kong isn’t it. Fineprint is run by a couple of Aussies and serves flat whites, bagels, and sweet things during the day and tapas-like small things at night.
Yat Lok in Central is another old-school Hong Kong institution. They’ve been roasting all kinds of meat here for almost fifty years, but you’re here for one type only: the roast goose. Specifically, the roast goose leg on vermicelli. It’s a richer version of duck that’s available all over town, but this is the hands-down local favorite.
If a night out in Hong Kong gets messy, it should end with a whole bunch of crab. And you’ll want to get it at Under Bridge Spicy Crab. Locals are all about this shop in Wan Chai and its secret spicy sauce, and because they’re open late (until 3am daily), it’s perfect for rolling in with a crew when the bars close.
A small izakaya in Sai Ying Pun, Okra is pretty casual, which can be a nice change of pace from the chaotic tea houses and formal fine dining. The menu is familiar but interesting, and there’s also a really great sake list.
Duddell’s is most definitely a scene - it’s on top of the Shanghai Tang flagship store, has a couple of different rooms, and is highly photogenic - but it also has some pretty excellent food. It’s high-end, but the dim sum is great quality, and if the weather’s good, the outdoor terrace is a perfect spot to spend an afternoon.
If you want to pretend you actually live in Hong Kong, Second Draft is a good place to do it. This gastropub has a total neighborhood feel with a big bar in the center, and plenty of beer on tap. You won’t find fish and chips or pies here though - the food often involves clever twists on Hong Kong dishes.
Given all the skyscrapers in Hong Kong, there are a lot of impressive views to be had. One of the best can be found at Ozone, at the top of the Ritz-Carlton on the 118th floor of the ICC (International Commerce Center) in Kowloon. This is the highest bar in the world. Possibly because of that, it can feel a bit pretentious and drinks are expensive. But grabbing a pre-dinner drink up here is an essential Hong Kong experience.
Captain’s Bar is in the Mandarin Oriental and has a dress code after 5pm, which is kind of all you need to know. It wouldn’t have felt out of place in the old British days, and is still the bar of choice for the after-work drinks crowd. That said, it’s worth stopping in for a drink to soak up the atmosphere. Beers are served in silver mugs (if you’re a regular, you’ll get a special one with your name etched on it) and the martinis are legendary.
photo credit: Cafe Gray Bar of The Upper House
Café Gray Bar
Unless you’re much luckier than us, you’re probably not staying at The Upper House - arguably the coolest hotel in town. But that doesn’t mean you can’t pretend you are by having multiple drinks by the windows at Cafe Gray Bar, with its panoramic views of Hong Kong and Kowloon.