This is how we Hong Kong: spring 2016 edition
Author: Pat Nourse
The first question, of course, is yum cha. Do you want to go spit-and-sawdust or something with a little bit more polish? Lin Heung is edging ever closer to 100 years in business, and, having gotten this far without any truck in social niceties such as reservations, napkins, comfort or delicacy, it clearly sees no reason to change tack now. Join the throng, join the ritual of rinsing your bowl and chopsticks in hot tea, and join the queue for big, meaty dumplings and a double serve of noisy fun. Then there's the other side of the steamer basket. Trade prison-grade fluorescent lighting and a soy-stained windowless room for floor-to-ceiling views of the harbour in a soigné salon dedicated to the elegance and purity of Cantonese cuisine at Lung King Heen, the world's first three-starred Chinese restaurant. Dinner is sublime, but its dim sum service is not to be missed. Redefine your understanding of classics such as siu mai and pork buns, or simply lose yourself in the luxury of baked abalone puffs and the devastating textural juxtaposition of scallop and pear in chef Chan Yan Tak's crisp signature dumplings.
All that tea-drinking calls for a good cup of coffee, and Hong Kong has your back. Fly the flag for Australia with a visit to Brew Bros (which flies in beans from Melbourne roaster Market Lane) or opt for Redback at Peel Street Espresso (avo toast optional.)
With a full belly, this might be a good time to call in at your tailor to adjust your measurements. There's no more famous local example than Sam's in Kowloon, and it's certainly the most fun. Where else can lay claim to being outfitters to Sigourney Weaver, Bruno Mars and Boris Johnson?
Speaking of incongruous finds, two of the island's most interesting European eateries take their cues directly from Parisian bistronomy, and lubricate their good times with artisanal wines of a standard seldom seen in Hong Kong. Serge et le Phoque might sit right over the road from the Wan Chai wet markets and deploy Asian flavours with aplomb, but its brilliant, deft and inventive produce-driven cuisine - grilled octopus with century egg, pickled ginger and flying fish roe, say, or razor clams with shishito pepper juice, cauliflower and buckwheat - has its roots in the jazzy invention of Le Chateaubriand and Le Dauphin. Over at Belon, meanwhile, it's the creative brilliance of James Henry, the Australian-born chef who made his name at Bones in the 11th arrondissement, that has set tongues wagging. He wraps foie gras in pickled cherry leaves and plates it with cheeks of cherry and pistachio on the one hand, while roasting the fanciest chook in town on the other, a golden, buttery bird served fragrant with herbs, replete with a clove of garlic in its beak.
For something a little edgier still, there's Okra. After nearly a decade earning accolades in Beijing, New Orleans-born, Yasuda-trained chef Max Levy has brought his unique brand of dining adventure to Hong Kong. Downstairs it's thumping tunes, a genuinely alarming mural and smoked anchovies with tofu skin and sea urchin (Crystal hot sauce optional) while upstairs at Okra Bar you'll find the more rarefied likes of dry-aged tuna with nori butter and sea grapes along with boutique sakes.
All this eating makes a person thirsty, and the smart money for drinks in Hong Kong right now is heading out to the up-and-coming neighbourhood of Tin Hau, where Little Bao chef May Chow has just opened her craft-beer-focused Chinese gastropub, Second Draft. Down a local ale and dig into the inventive likes of mapo tofu given a twist with burrata substituted for the usual bean curd to winning effect. Time to table the most important question of the night: where are we going for yum cha in the morning?
Hong Kong is nine hours' flight from Sydney, from just 25,000 American Express Membership Rewards points* through Cathay Pacific. Book your flight today.
* Conditions apply: Points amount as at 18 August 2016 and subject to change. T&Cs apply. Points are for one way flights, may vary according to airline and are calculated based on an American Express® Platinum Card on Premium Ascent. Fees, charges and taxes not included.