Monday, 18 January 2021

7 secret bars and restaurants in Hong Kong only locals know about

While many of us have been to Hong Kong – with some even visiting the city a few times a year – there is always something new to discover in this vibrant metropolis. This is especially apparent in the city’s dining scene. With a trendy new spot opening up seemingly every other week, it’s impossible to get bored with the myriad of food options. However, if you want to avoid the tourist hordes, you’ll need an insider’s scoop into the city’s best tables. This guide will introduce you to some of Hong Kong’s best kept secrets – from hole-in-the-wall restaurants to mysterious speakeasies.

Although the recent travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong has been temporarily put on hold, we remain hopeful that similar travel arrangements will soon open up between both cities. In the meantime, here are seven places to put on your travel wishlist.

Rollin is a new concept that combines food and fashion. Photo credit: Rollin

1. Rollin Roll Bar

Who says food and fashion can’t go hand in hand? Rollin is a Korean food and lifestyle brand that recently launched their first outlet in the basement of LANDMARK’s new urban wear retail concept Belowground. Snack on delicious rice rolls that come in an assortment of flavours such as Korean fishcake and tofu or Truffle Beef Rice, each individually served in brightly-hued sneaker boxes. In addition to its K-rolls, Rollin also carries a line of streetwear ranging from T-shirts to caps and hoodies – with future plans to collaborate with different creative artists.

Foxglove VIP Cabin room
The VIP lounge in Foxglove takes design notes from First Class train cars. Photo credit: Foxglove

2. Foxglove

Disguised as an umbrella boutique, this dapper space brings to mind scenes from Kingsman, the 2014 action spy comedy film starring Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson. As you walk through Fox Shop, a narrow boutique with brass-edged wall cabinets displaying silver-handled umbrellas, you have to touch a particular umbrella handle in order to open the doors to the bar. Once inside, you’ll be greeting by a glamorous and cavernous interior inspired by first-class aeroplanes and vintage cars. In the main lounge, the cream walls and silver-grey marble counters are complemented by the deep blue of the plush leather seating.

To enter the VIP lounge, you have to place your hand on a traditional floral painting at the end of one corridor until it glows, which then signals the bartender to open the door. The private lounge, which is designed to mimic the interiors of a First Class train cabin, features a vivid crimson palette, hardwood floors and custom-made lamps. Foxglove is not all looks and no substance, however. They offer a sumptuous selection of modern Cantonese fare alongside a contemporary cocktail menu.

hong kong taste
The interiors of Hong Kong Taste are dressed up with murals of yesteryear Hong Kong. Photo credit: Hong Kong Taste

3. Hong Kong Taste

Created by a group of Hongkongers passionate about their city’s culture, this small but mighty eatery pays homage to the ubiquitous cha chaan teng (tea restaurants) found across Hong Kong but with a contemporary twist. Russian airbrush artist Boldyrev Vladimir has covered the walls of the restaurant with nostalgic scenes of old Hong Kong, giving you a peek into the city’s heady atmosphere of yore. The food is also authentic Hong Kong-style comfort food, with signature items including Beijing Scallion Fried Angus Beef Rice, Cheese and Black Truffle Seafood Baked Rice and the moreish Cheese Curry Farmer Bun. 

The Diplomat
The Diplomat is the brainchild of award-winning mixologist John Nugent. Photo credit: The Diplomat

4. The Diplomat

Tucked away on the lower-ground floor of trendy shopping mall H Code, this speakeasy-style cocktail bar is surrounded by art spaces and galleries, which probably explains its design-focused theme. Featuring a liberal use of brass, leather and timber, the bar-within-a-bar features a cosy gastropub at the front that is open to the general public and a back bar that has its own entrance, a separate drinks menu and a DJ booth for private music events.

With award-winning mixologist John Nugent (formerly of Lily & Bloom) heading the bar, expect unique riffs on classic cocktails such as the Boulevardier, which uses a rye-bourbon blend and has a rich, oaky flavour, or the Gibson, which uses a Japanese pickled shallot instead of the usual pickled onion for a more nuanced flavour profile. The front bar also offers a decent selection of gourmet pub grub, ranging from truffle fries to the more substantial Cubano or Reuben sandwiches.

CoThanh specialises in authentic Vietnamese noodle soups. Photo credit: CoThanh

5. CoThanh

Combine two vacations in one at this authentic Saigon-style eatery located in the heart of Central on Hong Kong island. Dressed up to look like a typical pho eatery in Ho Chi Minh City, this compact dining space features recipes from Nguyen Thi Thanh, better known as The Lunch Lady, whose scratch-made Vietnamese noodle soups drew praise from Anthony Bourdain during an episode of No Reservations: Vietnam in 2009. Over 70 per cent of the ingredients used here are imported directly from Vietnam to ensure the correct taste, aroma and texture is preserved. Pull up a seat on one of the plastic chairs lined outside the eatery and slurp your way through their selection of noodle soups. Herbivores aren’t left out either – the restaurant has recently launched the Omni Pork Banh Cuon, which features minced Omni Pork served atop steamed rice noodle sheets, wood ear mushrooms, fried shallots and a vegan dipping sauce.

The Wilshire Hong Kong
A pool table takes pride of place at The Wilshire. Photo credit: The Wilshire

6. The Wilshire

Only accessible to those in the know, this secret cocktail bar is hidden within the Mexican restaurant, 11 Westside. With dark, moody lighting conducive for intimate conversations and a pool table in the middle of the space, it’s easy to see why The Wilshire touts itself as a neighbourhood bar. Previously operating with a menu-free concept, The Wilshire now offers a limited menu of contemporary and classic cocktails that rotates frequently depending on which ingredients are in season. Beverage manager Jonathan Ching says, “We focus on high quality, fresh ingredients, but also the philosophy of keeping things simple, but doing simple right.”

7. Congteakafe

Hidden along a nondescript side alley just off of Third Street in Sai Ying Pun, this homespun eatery is beloved by locals for its delicious and affordable all-day breakfast sets, served either Western- or Hong Kong-style. Take your pick from the extensive menu, which features everything from pork chop and scrambled egg on toast to peanut butter and chocolate pancakes. If the weather permits, take a seat outdoors where you can idle over your cup of frothy milk tea or try a glass of iced Ovaltine, which is a childhood drink that is still sentimental for many Hongkongers.

Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.

The information is accurate as of press time. For updated information, please refer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website.

To learn more about Singapore Airlines flights, visit

SEE ALSO: An insider’s guide to Hong Kong’s artsiest neighbourhood

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