Taste of West Kowloon
By Charlotte Flach
West Kowloon wasn’t always the buzzing social and cultural hub district it is today. Starting life as a quiet stretch of natural coastline, dotted with the fishing boats of the Tanka people, it now pays testament to Hong Kong’s chameleon-like nature of transformation and reinvention.
Historical buildings, and a vast array of dining experiences, are just a few of the treasures ready to be unboxed. Most notable is the fine range of food on offer. From Michelin-starred restaurants to family-run eateries, the district is famed as a foodie haven, with both home cooks and chefs from some of the city’s best restaurants visiting West Kowloon to buy their cooking utensils and ingredients.
To help discover this neighbourhood, the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) has introduced five themed walking tours, which cover architecture, craftsmanship, international arts, urban art and cuisine. The tours introduce little-known corners of the district- such as a condiment store promoting western dishes fused with traditional fermented tofu- focusing on sights that are often overlooked. To help impress your clients, here are some recommendations from the HKTB’s Local Flavours tour, which showcases the best restaurants and shops West Kowloon has to offer.
Fancy a bit of traditional Cantonese home cooking? West Kowloon’s established family-run restaurants have a few tricks up their sleeves.
Serving up a hefty portion of nostalgia is Mido Cafe. Even if you’ve never heard of it, you’ll definitely recognise it. Opened in the 1950s, it has been used as the backdrop for many films and television shows including Moonlight Express and Streetfighters. Its mosaic tiles, neon sign and window booths have stayed the same since its opening. Tell clients to try the baked spare rib rice with tomato sauce.
Or there’s Mak Man Kee Noodle Shop, which has been dishing up this favourite Chinese staple for over 60 years. Clients shouldn’t be fooled by its humble exterior - its handmade wonton noodles have been recognised under the Michelin Bib Gourmand.
For dessert, travellers can savour a black sesame roll or white sugar cake from the simply-named Mrs Fong Dessert. These traditional handmade Cantonese sweets and snacks are increasingly harder to find. As it has no seating and is very popular with locals, tell clients to expect to queue.
Modern and fine dining restaurants are also abundant for those craving a finessed experience.
One of the hippest new restaurants in Hong Kong is FAM. It boasts fusion Cantonese dishes against a playful backdrop of art and music, creating an immersive experience. Located in the West Kowloon Cultural District, the restaurant offers views stretching across Victoria Harbour towards Hong Kong Island.
The Butterfly Room, located in Rosewood Hong Kong, shouldn’t be missed. The all-day lounge is known for its sumptuous afternoon tea and drinks. It features three butterfly-themed artworks by Damian Hirst from his ‘Zodiac’ series, so guests can enjoy the art alongside their meal.
Renowned as one of the world’s finest Chinese restaurants, Yan Toh Heen specialises in elevated Cantonese cuisine. Its menu of handcrafted dim sum dishes are presented to complement the stunning interior design of the restaurant, inspired by a jade jewellery box. Be sure to recommend clients ask for a window table, as around 8pm the city’s skyline dances with its nightly ‘A Symphony of Lights’ performance.
No meal is complete without a really great cocktail to wash it down. Luckily, West Kowloon also has some unforgettable bars.
Clients should drink in the scenery at Ozone, named for its accolade as Hong Kong’s highest bar. The twinkling lights of the city at night, enjoyed from the rooftop bar, pair well with a tipple from its seasonal menu or signature cocktail, Hong Kong Skyline.
Yung’s Bistro, at K11 MUSEA shopping centre, has a show-stopping 2,000 square-foot terrace which boasts 180-degree views over Victoria Harbour. Whether it's a visit for post-dinner drinks, or to take full advantage of the bistro’s happy hour, clients should make a pit stop here.
Rubbing elbows with top chefs is a dream for most food and restaurant lovers, and there’s plenty of them to go around here.
For spices and condiments, Kwong Fat Spices is a top recommendation for clients. The brand has been in operation for over a century, retaining its old school packaging and designs. Stocking chilli oils and various types of peppers, it also boasts the invention of Hong Kong-style curry pastes.
Founded over 100 years ago in 1905, Liu Ma Kee represents a proper old school Chinese family business. The shop has been in the same location for decades, and all its handmade condiments are produced using a traditional stone mill to grind soybeans. Advise clients to pick up a bottle of the signature wet bean curd or fermented tofu for an authentic taste of old Hong Kong, as well as a closely guarded family recipe. They should also ask for the carbonara recipe invented by the owners for a younger clientele!
Located on Shanghai Street in Yau Ma Tei, is an unassuming little shop. However, this is the flagship store for Chan Chi Kee knives, which supplies restaurants around the globe. Its handmade knives are used by big name clients, including heavyweights such as the Shangri-La Hotel and Hong Kong Disneyland. Full of reasonably-priced kitchenware, the shop is very utilitarian but stocks everything a star cook needs including its full range of famous knives.