A Design Lover’s Field Guide to Hong Kong
A feast for the eyes (and the taste buds).
Published Jun 4, 2019 7:00 AM
When you only have days (or hours) to explore a new city, Domino’s Field Guide is a need-to-know edit of the coolest bars, hotels, restaurants, galleries, and boutiques in the top design cities. Next up: Hong Kong.
Walk the streets of Hong Kong on a quiet, sunny morning, and you might never want to leave.
As one of the world’s most densely populated cities, you’d expect it to be chaotic, dirty, loud, and gray. Hong Kong is anything but. Yes, the air is humid and oppressive, but the city is magical when the sun’s rays are peeking through pink brick buildings and the streets are freshly clean from a nighttime downpour. It’s the time of day when the locals are buzzing with activity—laying out fresh fish in the market, hopping on the perfectly organized tram, waiting for their coffee and croissant at a quaint espresso bar.
To the uninitiated, Hong Kong could be best described as a melting pot of world-class metropolises. It has the density of New York City, but the wilderness of Rio de Janeiro. It has the Cantonese flavor akin to neighboring Chinese cities, but it has all the charm and influence of London and Paris. Hong Kong is, after all, vastly populated by expats. More simply put, it’s like a mini New York perched on a tropical cliffside jungle where Wes Anderson moments await at every corner.
With Hong Kong, it was love at first sight for me. Or, more accurately, love at first bite. A sourdough egg tart to be precise, a local delicacy. It was introduced to me by Gloria Chung, a local travel and food expert who guided me through a walking food tour of the city. “The food is the best part of Hong Kong,” Chung tells me. “We have all the food you can imagine and beyond. The restaurant scene is thriving.”
Thanks to Marriott Bonvoy, the brand’s loyalty program which organized a full culinary itinerary through Hong Kong—from holes in the wall to two Michelin-starred restaurants—I had multiple more food flings throughout my journey: Cantonese pineapple buns, soft smoked tea eggs, traditional chili wontons—and a slew of dim sum dishes for which the names escape me. With an itinerary that also included VIP seats at the Rugby Sevens and a Gwen Stefani concert, and I was a very happy camper throughout my stay.
But the best part of Hong Kong wasn’t just the food (or access to world-class events): Every colorful staircase led to a cliffside labyrinth of quaint leafy streets peppered with European-inspired design shops. Each restaurant we walked into looked better than the last: Arches, terracotta tiles, cane panels, and bright floral patterns ruled supreme—a delightful mix of East meets West. A cocktail bar called Dragonfly (eons ahead of its time) had even decided to single-handedly revive the Tiffany lamp by hanging a few dozen on the ceiling.
The streets themselves were bursting with color: every building made of stacked bricks in shades of pink, mint green, sorbet yellow, and French blue. “Hong Kong has a futuristic skyline and is an endless concrete jungle,” muses Chung. “It can be quite overwhelming, but it’s also quite impressive. You can find colorful architecture from different eras—colonial, Chinese, Bauhaus—as well as contemporary skyscrapers and public housing estates.” Ahead, the travel expert shares her favorite places in this jungle in the sky.
Where to Stay
St. Regis: New and grand, the St. Regis is quite possibly the most anticipated hotel opening of the year. The area of Wan Chai is also interesting to explore. 26 Harbour Road, Wan Chai
Tuve: This is probably the first boutique hotel in Hong Kong. It’s located in a very local neighborhood called Tin Hau. It’s close to Causeway Bay, the shopping area, but it’s also near Victoria Park and local restaurants. The hotel itself is very minimal: I love how the design plays with textures, material, and shadows. 16 Tsing Fung Street, Causeway Bay
Upper House: Undeniably the most stylish hotel in Hong Kong. It serves a very good breakfast, too, so it’s worth visiting even if you’re not a guest. I go there for the Dutch pancakes all the time. Pacific Place, 88 Queensway
The Fleming: This is an independent hotel with a quirky vibe. I grew up knowing the Fleming as the old hotel in Wan Chai, but it was revamped a couple of years ago and became the new hot spot. The theme, the details, and the colors remind me of Hong Kong’s most famous mode of transport: the Star Ferry, running between Tsim Sha Tsui and Central. 41 Fleming Road, Wan Chai
Eaton Hotel: This is another successful hotel revamp that’s turned into a very design-driven spot, but it also tries to incorporate local elements and gather the community. I like the food court, which has local and gourmet vendors. Its bar, Terrible Baby, is also a must-try. 380 Nathan Road, Jordan
Where to Eat
Bakehouse: This is the best bakery in Hong Kong. I love the sourdough bread, croissants, and pretzels. But if there is one reason to visit, it’s the sourdough egg tart. It’s a beautiful marriage between the Hong Kong–style egg tart and a sourdough croissant. Owner and head baker, Gregoire Michaud, concocted this magical creation. 14 Tai Wong Street East, Wan Chai
Draftland: I love this new bar with drinks on tap. You can try up to three cocktails before deciding which one to have. It gets rid of all the unnecessary garnishes typically found in a cocktail and the result is minimal, approachable, and not too sweet. It’s perfect for people who don’t like cocktails! 63 Wyndham Street, Central
John Anthony: This is an absolutely gorgeous restaurant with some playful and delicious Cantonese food. I love the sweet dried beef and all the dim sum choices! 1 Sunning Road, Causeway Bay
Ser Wong Fun: Located in Central, this is a Cantonese restaurant run by the second-generation Pauline Ng. The name means “snake king fun,” because it is a specialty restaurant for snake soup. But don’t get intimidated, because it serves more than snake and has all the traditional Cantonese dishes. I love the lemon chicken, fried egg with prawns, and homemade Chinese sausages in a clay pot with rice. 30 Cochrane Street, Central
Ho Wa Cha Chaan Teng: This Cantonese diner is located in Wan Chai and it has been in Hong Kong for more than 70 years. The signature dishes are the fried egg with corned beef sandwich, the Hong Kong–style French toast, and milk tea. It is essential to have at least one meal in Cha Chaan Teng while you are in Hong Kong. It doesn’t get more traditional than this! 226 Johnston Road and 7 Mallory Street, Wan Chai
Where to Shop
In Wan Chai:
Kapok: The first and best lifestyle shop in Hong Kong. It just moved to a bigger space on Sun Street. 3 Sun Street, Wan Chai
Maison XXII: This floral and lifestyle shop stems from France and imports beautiful products. 15 St. Francis Street, Wan Chai
Monocle Shop: You may already know this concept shop [a spin-off from the magazine of the same name], but it’s a must-stop. 1 St. Francis Yard, Wan Chai
On Tai Ping Shan Street (also called POHO because it’s near Po Hing Fong):
Parfumerie Trésor: The staff is really knowledgeable at this one-of-a-kind perfume shop. 18 Upper Station Street, Sheung Wan
InBetween: A super-tiny store that sells knickknacks from local and international designers. 6B Tai Ping Shan Street, Sheung Wan
Squarestreet: This shop sells Void watches, a local brand with a Scandinavian touch. 15 Square Street, Sheung Wan
Mount Zero: One of the best bookshops in Hong Kong by far. 6 Tai Ping Shan Street, Sheung Wan
Do Not Miss:
A Beautiful Store: It really does have beautiful things! 194 Prince Edward Road West, Mong Kok
Hak Dei Concept Store: Located in Shek Kip Mei, this shop collects all local products made in Hong Kong. I didn’t know we produced so many beautiful things until I visited the store. 35 Aberdeen Street, Central
In a Nutshell
A perfect day in Hong Kong starts with a nice croissant from Bakehouse. From there, you can easily walk to Star Street in Wan Chai, which is filled with beautiful independent boutiques. Check out the current exhibition at Odd One Out gallery, a space dedicated to illustrations, graphic arts, and printmaking. Then head to John Anthony or Old Bailey for a hearty dim sum lunch, and finish it off with coffee at Amber Coffee Roaster or Halfway Coffee.
In the afternoon, walk along the escalator to Sheung Wan to stroll along Tai Ping Shan Street, a buzzy area filled with tiny shops and tea parlors. Check out Tung Yao Ceramics. Then finish the day with dinner at Ser Wong Fun or Amber in the Mandarin Oriental Landmark. Have a nightcap at Dragonfly, a lively bar with a collection of Tiffany lamps hanging from the ceiling.
Editor’s note: This trip was provided courtesy of Marriott Bonvoy. All opinions are the editors’ own.