Eating at The Peak Lookout, Hong Kong

Yes, OK, OK, agreed.

The Peak in Hong Kong is super touristy, with coach-loads of tourists selfie-ing away to glory.

The tourist tat gets worse with every visit – & is set to get even more so, once that giant Coca Cola can is up & running for even more selfies…

BUT, the good news is, The Peak Lookout stays as classy and elegant as ever.

We’ve eaten there a few times before – the last time in 2014 – and there is a sense of timelessness about the place, which is welcoming in a place like Hong Kong, where change is the norm.

We trundled up the Peak in a double-decker bus – as one does – made a reservation, and then wandered through the tourist hoards for a while, before succumbing to the heat, the humidity and the noise of a zillion selfies being taken, and headed for our 30th wedding anniversary lunch.

We’d requested a table outside, but the charming girl on duty asked us if we were sure, since it was so hot out.

I had pleasant memories of dining under one of the beautiful shady trees, as I had done on my last visit, but that was dinner, and this was lunch, so we moved indoors.

Lovely food, efficient attentive service, and I do so like the look and feel of the restaurant.

 

The building, a 19th century Grade II listed building, is a piece of Hong Kong’s history.

Quoting Wikipedia here:

“In 1901, the site was handed over to the government and built into a chair shelter and rest place for sedan chair carriers for both public and private sedan chairs.”

Nice.

For lunch I had oysters, which were on a special promotion & they were delish.Followed them up with mussels, which were equally delish:Hubby celebrated our anniversary with a club sandwich, which he declared excellent:We paid for our lunch, didn’t mention that it was our anniversary, nor that I blog and review.

How good is the coffee at The Coffee Academics?

Excellent.

Truly.

As a total coffeeholic, I’d already Googled “best coffee shops in Hong Kong” prior to our trip there last week, and found The Coffee Academics.

Then, on arrival, one of the first things I was told by my equally coffeholic-y hostess, was that The Coffee Academics was just down the road from her flat.

And so after a lovely run along the beach in Repulse Bay, I had a flat white caffeine fix.

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Great coffee, lovely presentation.

The next day, I had a post-lunch caffeine fix in their Lang Kwai Fung outlet & it was equally good, and equally elegantly presented.

The décor of the coffee shop was uber-cool:


So, yes, a fan.
Totally.

I paid for my coffees, and no-one knew that I blog or review.

How is the Holiday Inn Express, Hong Kong?

Last week on a lovely escape to Hong Kong for a few days, we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Soho.

We chose the hotel on the basis of:

a) affordability

b) location

and, yes,

c)  free wifi

and on all those 3 counts it couldn’t be faulted.

It is a smartly run, efficient hotel.  No frills, no fanciness, but spotless rooms and bathrooms, good shuttle service.

And a great location.

And fast wifi.

I asked for a room as high up in the tower as possible, and our views from the 29th floor were pretty impressive :

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The room and the bathroom were both small, it must be said, but spotlessly clean and with everything you need for a stay (except extra space…but this is Hong Kong, remember).

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Choice of firm or soft pillows…

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Liked the touch of providing an adaptor.

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Long live no smoking hotels…

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A buffet breakfast was included in the room rate, but the food wasn’t up to much and the buffet was ridiculously crowded –  the hotel was packed to bursting with Mainlanders, Tawianese and Israelis all 3 nights we stayed.

Sharing tables with strangers who pile their plates to danger levels with a weird mixture of food, just because it’s there and “free”, is not my way to start a day.  (It was the baked beans on top of lettuce, I think, at the table next to me one morning that marked a buffet lowpoint…)  I managed to time it so that I never had to queue, but there were often long lines.

So, to be honest, chuck those free breakfast coupons and head out to a neighbouring coffee shop, unless you especially like buffet food.

The staff at the hotel were without exception kind, polite, and very helpful, drawing us maps of where we wanted to go, and in my case writing out in Chinese for me the address I wanted in Kowloon.

Front office staff all spoke good English.

What else ?

Oh yes, there is a shuttle bus that ties in with the Airport Express train, which makes life very easy.

 

I didn’t tell them I blog and write reviews, and we paid our own way.

Holiday Inn bill

 

Would I stay here again ?  Yes, definitely.

Hong Kong Ballet

On a recent trip to Hong Kong at the end of August/early September, my daughter and I (both balletomanes of note) were thrilled to be able to see a performance of “Swan Lake” by the Hong Kong Ballet.

It was the first time either of us had seen this company perform and what a pleasure it was.  We live in India, so are are completely starved of ballet, and with a classic like “Swan Lake” to boot, it was an afternoon to savour.

The dancing was excellent, and the corps de ballet could not be faulted.  Such co-ordinated precision, not a hair out of place, which made for a visual treat of the first order.

What was lovely about this performance was that it was traditional to a tee, which, when you are deprived of ballet, is exactly as it should be.  The (recorded) music washed over us, the dancing was perfect, and the matinee audience of lots of yummy mummies and little girls in frilly pink was delightful.  There were even a few little girls in tutus, and during the intervals, much twirling and pointing of pink-shod feet took place. (Guaranteed to feed the nostalgia!)

We went to the matinée on the 1st, and our cast was as below:

swan lake

Wu Fei Fei was very good as Odette and truly outstanding as Odile, absolutely fabulous.

In Act III,  Candice Adea as the Italian princess was a delight, and Kostyantyn Keshyshew (Prince Siegfried) was excellent.  Leung Chun Long, who danced in the Pas de Quatre in Act I, is a talent to be watched.

 

After the noisy anarchy of Indian audiences, the crowd was a model of good behaviour.  Quiet, on time, appreciative, phones off, no talking, no texting, no leaving before the end of the performance…

Din Tai Fung. A Hong Kong institution

We are a complicated family.

Food-wise, that is.

Husband is a carnivore who is allergic to seafood.

Daughter is vegetarian.

I am a piscatarian.

Thank God for our omnivorous son.

So finding a restaurant that suits us all is not always the proverbial piece of cake.

With this in mind, my review of Din Tai Fung in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay may well seem to be of the “on the one hand…while on the other hand…” variety.

Everyone we spoke to recommended Din Tai Fung with great enthusiasm, and as a dining experience it was fabulous.  Hardly surprising, given that the Causeway Bay branch of this famous chain gained a Michelin star a few years ago.

The original Din Tai Fung started in Taiwan, specialising in xiaolongbao (small steamed buns) and now runs to many restaurants all over the world.

Situated in a nondescript office block in busy Causeway Bay, you cannot make a reservation for this cafeteria-looking place, so you wait outside with crowds of diners. Watching what goes on in the glass-walled kitchen helps pass the time :

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The menu (with photos of the food) is brought to you, as well as an order pad, and you write down the number and quantities of the dishes you want.

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The staff who co-ordinate this waiting and ordering outside the restaurant all speak good English and explain the process and the menu to you.  Our waitress was charming, and came back to tell us that many of the greens that we 2 veggies had ordered were cooked in a meat based stock, so should she order them without sauce for us.  Yes, of course, we said, which was fine for our principles, but – the truth be told – made for pretty dull eating.

We didn’t have to wait too long, and once inside, the staff couldn’t have been nicer, and though the service is brisk and efficient, with the food coming out promptly, I never felt that we were being hurried along.

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So, the food.

The meat-eaters loved their choice, though they both said with hindsight that they would not order the drunken chicken next time :

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Drunken chicken, above, and the trademark xiaolongbao, below.  The pork ones were voted the best.

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We had vegetarian dumplings which were OK, but nothing to write home about, to be honest :

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I found them a tad too large to eat comfortably, which meant the mushroom filling fell out…or perhaps I am just a messy eater and/or inept with chopsticks.

Now for the greens…nice, especially the preserved vegetables (below) which were delicious, but overall nothing but greens was a bit samey and unexciting as our meal.  These greens are plainly meant to accompany, not serve as the main event, which is fair enough.

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So ?

As I said at the outset, it was a case of “on the one hand, but…” in as much as the whole experience was great, and the meat eaters loved their food.  But as a vegetarian, I would have to say, sorry, no.

 

DIN TAI BILL

Lanson Place Hotel, Hong Kong

A friend who is a hotelier recommended Lanson Place in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay for our 4 night family holiday, and so we followed the expert’s advice, and made a brilliant discovery into the bargain.

Not only is Causeway Bay a great part of the city in which to base yourself, but if you are looking for luxury on a human scale, then Lanson Place is the perfect choice.

The decor of the hotel is what I would call modern minimalist, and amidst all the hectic local colour and buzzy energy of Causeway Bay, the cool elegance of the hotel is refreshing.

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We were upgraded to a grand luxe room and both our room and our childrens’ room had welcome baskets and a selection of complimentary drinks in the fridge.

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The rooms are elegant, spacious, have masses of storage space, and  – one of the features of the hotel – they come equipped with well-stocked kitchenettes.

I can well imagine that a long stay business traveler would relish the chance to eat “at home” rather than head out to a restaurant every night, so with with a hob, a microwave, a fridge, and enough local restaurants offering take out services, nothing could be simpler.

Lanson Place does not have a restaurant, and the only meal served is breakfast, which is taken in a lounge-style atmosphere, guests sitting on couches or easy chairs.

Breakfast is served until 11 on weekends (which is when we arrived) so when we ambled down sometime after 10 on Monday morning – no breakfast.  That is until the charming and attentive Carson served us a massive spread, even though our party continued wandering down a full 20 minutes late. Tea, coffee, pastries, fruit, yogurt, refill of tea, refill of coffee, all kept coming, accompanied by delightfully friendly smiles.

This (below) is the lounge area where breakfast is served.  There is a wide array of English and Chinese newspapers available.

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I celebrated a terrifyingly significant birthday in Hong Kong, and the staff at Lanson Place not only gave me a gorgeous chocolate cake and a bottle of bubbly, but a card signed by every member of staff.  Now that was personalized, impressive and touched me enormously. Charming little messages and wishes from everyone in the hotel – thank you to you all.

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Back to the rooms.

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As I said, masses of storage space, a huge TV which (in our grand luxe room) cleverly revolves so it can be watched from the bedroom or the sitting area. There is only one tiny caveat (which seems mean after so much overwhelming kindness) but those glass doors on the bathrooms…slightly disconcerting.

Good efficient service.

A worthy member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World.

Would I stay in Lanson Place again?  Absolutely.

Would I recommend it to friends?  I am doing so, right here…

We paid our own way, and I did not mention the fact that I blog and write reviews.

For rates, I suggest you contact the hotel via their website.

Where to find Thai food in Hong Kong

The pretty restaurant “Rice Paper” in the ever-popular Harbour City was bustling and busy when we went for a late Saturday night dinner.

After a week of mainly Japanese food (because it was better then Chinese food for the strict vegetarian in our group) the Thai food in “Rice paper” was spicy and nicely different.  We had chosen the restaurant precisely because of its vegetarian options, and started with mango and beetroot rice rolls :

 

 

They were lovely to look at, an interesting mix of tastes, but a tad too big to eat comfortable and elegantly.  Lots of spilled beetroot and carrot.

The meat eaters had grilled pork neck as their starter and declared it delicious :

 

The vegetarian pad thai was described as good.  Good, not fabulous.

My seafood laksa was also good. Actually very good, and a huge, generous portion.

The duck curry (below) was fine, I understand.

 

And the raw beef noodle soup was also pronounced good, but not the best in the world.

 

All of us had to leave our dishes unfinshed, so generous were the portions.

Nice, friendly service.

Delicious wine.

All in all a nice dinner, but not earth-shattering.

I’d rate it 6.5/10.

 

We paid our own bill, and I did not tell them that I review restaurants.

Where can I find dimsum in Hong Kong ?

It was our first day in Hong Kong after many, many years, and our childrens’ first time there.

We were tired, having flown overnight.

But the first thing we did was to make the pilgrimage to the Apple store, hoping to buy the new iPhone 5.  (We didn’t, by the way.  Our names never came up in the lottery…)

And so, being hungry and jet-lagged, we opted for a dim sum lunch on a Sunday in Central, as a way of easing ourselves into Hong Kong.  We chose the Lei Garden (a) because it is in the same centre as the Apple store –  the impressive IFC.  And (b) because it was packed with local families.

The first thing that struck me was the extremely poor English of most of the staff, the surly manager included.  I had remembered better levels of spoken English from my previous visits there, but the staff at the Lei Garden had difficulty understanding anything we said, so there was a lot of pointing.

The service was deliciously offhand and borderline rude, just as I had remembered from old time Hong Kong.  To be fair, though, that was one of the few rude places we visited, and the rest of the week was a breeze, with excellent service everywhere.  (Though still pretty poor English skills)

Lots of things we wanted were unavailable, but we managed a pretty impressive and delicious spread all the same :

 

 

The spicy preserved vegetables (below) were fabulous :

Truly delicious steamed shrimp dumplings :

The big problem we encountered at our first meal, and one that would dog us throughout the trip, was the lack of vegetarian food for our daughter.  There was very little for her to eat, and the deep-fried vegetarian rolls with mushrooms (below) were deemed OK, but nothing more than that :

 

We decided not to be too adventurous :

 

So, conclusion ?

Good food.

Poor service.

I think it’s the kind of restaurant meant for Chinese and not for we non-Cantonese speaking gweilos.

 

 

 

We paid our bill, and I certainly didn’t tell them that I write reviews.  We could hardly order lunch, as it was, so chatting about blogs was out of the question !

 

Where can I find good Japanese food in Hong Kong ? Oh, and it must be vegetarian, by the way

Ours is not an easy family to feed.

– Husband is allergic to any form of seafood.

– Daughter dearest is vegetarian.

– I don’t eat meat.

Thank goodness for our son who eats everything.

Equally thank goodness for Tokio Joe in the buzzing  Lan Kwai Fong district of Central.

With a fabulous range of sushi and sashimi, including vegetarian sushi (praise The Lord) 3 out of the 4 of us were happy, and hubby had excellent meat both times we ate there.

We were introduced to Tokio Joe’s by our Hong Kong based friend, Malini, who took us there for dinner, mid-week, and it was jam-packed.  Then we went back for a weekend lunch and it was practically deserted.

Odd, but there you are.

Both times the food was excellent, and the service helpful and efficient.

Dinner first.

Delicious edamame beans to nibble, whilst deciding on the food :

 

The charming ritual of choosing a sake cup :

Our daughter had the vegetarian sushi, and pronounced it excellent. (She later had the same thing a second time, declaring it equally delicious) :

 

Malini and I had sushi and sashimi, and they were both utterly divine :

 

And hubby’s meat was declared excellent :

 

It may well seem unadventurous to repeat a restaurant in Hong Kong in less than 3 days, but our biggest problem all week was finding vegetarian food.  Having found good vegetarian food, back we went.

As I said, the place was pretty empty on a Saturday lunchtime, but perhaps it is more of an office, weekday hang-out.

The same delicious edamame whilst we decided what to eat :

The same nice ritual of choosing one’s sake cup :

 

And, if the truth be known, the same a la carte veg sushi option for our daughter :

 

Delicious genmaicha :

My sashimi was perfect.

Nothing else to add.

Just perfect :

The beef goma teriyaki was great, I am reliably informed :

But the award for the best value/presentation went to the regular lunch box :

We got fruit & lychee flavoured jelly this time :

Highly recommended, especially if you are vegetarian.  Hong Kong ain’t easy for you, I assure you, so places like this are to be treasured.

We paid our own bills, both times, and I did not tell them I review restaurants.