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I came up with that one. Retrotastic or what?!?!? If you didn’t get it you are too young, too old or just not damn well educated at cool school!
I have a complete section for food here as quite frankly it was a big part of our trip in one way or another.
Our first meal in Hong Kong and we were a bit uncertain of what to go for, but I can never eat enough steamed dumplings so we headed for a simple dumpling shop which was the right choice. We were surprised how cheap it was being slap bang in the middle of Hong Kong island too. Dumplings are even more difficult to eat with plastic chop sticks we found. Some spear-age did occur!
Wang Fu, 98 Wellington Street, Central
Cha Chan Teng (tea cafes)
I’d read about Cha Chan Teng cafes and wanted to try one for the experience and also because they sounded great for us on a budget. They are basically cafes (translates to something along lines of tea cafe) which sell Hong Kong comfort food.
This food is a fascinating mix of east meats west. Not in a fancy fusion stylee but in a student/bachelor quick meal at home style.
Things like macaroni in soup, egg and ham – lots of chunky white bread.
Mark went for one of the set menus which looks grim but tasted really good – great value too.
I had something called Principal Toast – I only picked this as I’d read about it in a review. I’d have had no idea what it was otherwise and probably wouldn’t have been brave enough to ask. It was kind of like a cheese on toast with (fake) black truffle paste. Doesn’t look like much, but it was so good.
Capital Cafe, 6 Heard Street, Wan Chai
The Flying Pan
Our first ‘morning after’ in almost 4 months took us to this place, up in the steep slopes but it was so worth it – utterly amazing feeling of homely food.
I had eggs florentine. My personal favourite hangover food. Great mix of things to build you back up – especially the spinach. It was first rate, to get all english about it, and gratefully received with a nice pot of tea. Guess what Mark went for?
The Frying Pan, Old Bailey Street, Soho, Central
Michelin Starred Dim Sum disappointment
So, this was supposed to be a right treat. I’d read about this place a couple of years ago and always had it in mind if I went to Hong Kong. Tim Ho Wan is the worlds cheapest Michelin Star restaurant. It is a dim sum (the best invention ever!) restaurant setup by a chef formerly of incredibly fancy establishments and has managed to get itself a michelin star and therefore an incredible reputation. I knew that you had to queue. I knew that you quite likely would have to come back at an allotted time. But we had time and when it turned out, like so much else, to be just a short walk from where we were staying, I thought we were definitely onto a winner. So on the friday (I thought a weekend would be busier) we arrived at the place at about 11am. I’d meant for us to get up earlier, but we’d slept in. You can spot the place quickly by the large crowd hanging around outside. We joined this crowd, hanging around, trying to work out what was going on/what to do. Eventually someone told us a lady comes out sporadically and you have to get a ticket from her. We waited for a good half an hour until we got a ticket from her. We had no idea when our number would come up, but we new this could be a couple of hours. A lady in the queue said she had gone away for an hour, so we decided to do that. We sat and had a cup of something warm and filled in our order. You pre-choose I guess to speed the whole thing up when you went in. We didn’t know what half of it was but couldn’t believe the prices so decided to be quite experimental. Then we pottered around the area a bit, bought socks (oh yeah – we’re crazy us) and after about an hour and a quarter we came back. It didn’t bode well that the woman who said she’d gone away for an hour, was still there. We tried to work out what was going on. There was a number on the door, presumably to indicate what number they were at, but that didn’t seem to match up with what they were saying – plus it was a scribble on a door surrounded by tons of people – not easy to read. Eventually we worked out that we were about 20 tickets away (baring in mind each ticket could be a party of 4 or 6), so we went away for another 45 minutes or so. We were at a bit of a loss of exactly what to do and were starving by this point. Plus it was really cold out and our faces were getting number and number. We got back and were really starting to feel so tired and cold, if we hadn’t given it so long and weren’t expecting it to be so worth it, we’d have given up. It seemed like we were still so far away, but I guess a fair few people had given up as suddenly the numbers got closer to us. It was such a mind f*&k getting closer but still just waiting, and freezing, and aching. Then at last. We were in – it had taken 3 hours (plus the half hour we’d spent to get the ticket in the first place). We were ushered in and squashed into a tiny little table shoved up against everyone else’s tiny little table. That’s ok. That’s the Hong Kong way. But it was a bit uncomfortable…. and cold. I kept my coat on. Then the food started to come. The first thing we got was the pork buns. I later noticed that they gave everyone these first if they’d ordered them. These are a kind of dumpling with bbq pork in the centre. Not really my bag but I wanted to try them and although the centre was just not my taste, the bun was amazing and I recognised that this was seriously good cookings.
Then everything else started to turn up. Thing was, there wasn’t enough room on the table to fit it all. We hadn’t ordered masses – we hadn’t known how big everything would be and we hadn’t known how small the tables would be – that must be fairly common. We had some dumplings, some stickyrice wrapped in banana leaves, which was rather big and almost impossible to open on the small and by now, crowded table. We had one of the deserts turn up with the main dim sum and as we didn’t really know what we were ordering, I ate this with mixed with some of the savoury stuff which was a bit gross. We discounted the chicken feet straight away – Mark’s choice as he figured if we were ever going to enjoy chicken feet it would be at a michelin star restaurant. I knew better. He learned better.
They were pleasant but brisk as is the Hong Kong way, but the lady who runs the show did get rather peturbed by the girls on the table next to us, who clearly live in Hong Kong, who were asking for soy and chilly sauce on the side. It caused a right kerfuffle when she heard them ask for more of aforementioned sauces – I think that this may have ended up with the cost of sauces being added to their bill. Poor girls looked rather sheepishly confused. I mean – isn’t a certain kind of service part of having a michelin star too? I’d rather pay a bit more and get some free sauce if I ask, quite frankly.
So was it worth. Well the simple answer is no. The food was nice, some of it excellent, but the experience was so exhausting and trying that you didn’t really care by the time you go in there. I’d lost my appetite, I was tired and cold and then I had to deal with an awkward eating experience where there wasn’t the room for anything. I don’t care about such things normally, but I do after a 3 hour wait. A few simple things would have helped ease the situation – an electronic number hooked up outside so everyone could be sure what was going on – I mean this is Hong Kong – so super efficient most of the time – it didn’t make sense. And just not trying to cram everyone in to such a small space. I know they’re moving soon – hope that will help.
I would have been devastated if I’d been there for just a long weekend and wasted all those hours on it. I know it’s first world problems again and it serves me right for going against my usual suspicion of things being too good to be true, but I thought a long wait was how you suffered to make the wait for tasty food worth it and to be fair I’d not seen one bad review that said it wasn’t worth it. I don’t want to diss the restaurant but it just didn’t feel worth it for us.
I think it might be a few months before Mark really forgives me for this. But imagine if it had been mind blowing and we’d have not tried.
AND at least he got to tell his Michelin tyres joke over and over again – my local kebab van does great food – it’s got 4 Michelin tyres!!
Tim Ho Wan, Dundas Street, Mongkok
I had it in my head that we should try to get some English grub, as with Hong Kong having the British heritage and lots of ex-pats, it was surely the best place in Asia to get some. I did a quite bit of research and the Yorkshire Pudding came up as a decent bet and yes I fell for the name most of all I think. I probably wouldn’t have bothered to make a great effort to get there had it been awkward but when it turned out to be in an area I wanted to go back and explore further, we decided that it would be perfect for sunday. The place looked the part but was bit miffed the restaurant was closed, it being sunday lunchtime so we had to sit in the bar full of high stools (the nemisis of the short, fat arsed English girl). Luckily we clinched a booth at the back and drooled over the special roast of the day which was both roast beef and rack of lamb. ARE YOU KIDDING? I truly thought I’d died and gone to heaven (doesn’t take much these days). When it turned up it looked magnificent – a meat fest, if you will. And the meat was indeed lovely. I’ve not had lamb thicker than .3cm since New Zealand and I’d only had it all about 3 times in last 9 months and it’s my fave. Buuuuuut… the yorkshires tasted a bit like brioche, the gravy tasted kind of tomatoey and the lamb, though lush, had some kind of moroccan spices going on. Add to that, roasted veg including peppers (a pet hate of mine) and a lack greenery and it wasn’t quite right. It was nice but wasn’t the taste of home we were hoping for. I know, I know. First world problems or what?
My new favourite thing (have you noticed I have a lot of favourite things). I had wanted to try these, knowing it was a Hong Kong speciality, but didn’t really know what they were. It was only after eating one (and loving it) that I looked it up and learned there is no pineapple involved. Probably why I liked it – I don’t like pineapple. The pineapple bit refers to the criss cross pattern scored in the top of the bun. The bun itself is a bit sweet, bit like a tea cake and has a special crusty, buttery crust. Another joy to our Mongkok residence was that the next street up was the Kam Wah cafe – famous for it’s buns. There were news clippings up on the walls and the guy assumed that’s why we were there. We weren’t – we’d stumbled in in search of a hot drink and a sit down. But we had to try them. I don’t think Mark was that bothered, but I loved it and made sure I came back. You get a chunk of a lemony butter with it too.
This is also another great little place generally – I think it could probably be classed as a Cha Chan Teng cafe.
It’s all very cosy but I wouldn’t go for a Cha Chan Teng style place if you value your ‘space’ too much anyhow.
Kam Wah cafe, 47 Bute Street, Mongkok/Prince Edward
I mentioned this earlier in the blog but I didn’t really go into the food. First of all Vietnamese food is probably my favourite. I was never sick of it in Vietnam and just love it. I’d noticed this place when we’d eaten in the dumpling place opposite and when Maki said that’s where lunch was planned I was jump up and down excited. It was very funny with their rather blunt, oh ok, rude manner in dealing with us but who cares as the food was utterly divine. I had a couple of favourites – shrimp paste on sugar cane and . We also got to try a little (or a lot in Mark’s case) of everyone’s leftovers and everything – the pho, the beef salad, the chicken satay – all incredible. It really does have to go down as one of my fave restaurants of all time – simply because I love Vietnamese food and their food was really, really, REALLY good.
Nga Trang, Wellington Street, Central
Pig and goose
Mark loves his pork(!) so we made sure he got suckling pig at Wah Fung. I think this is a fantastic tourist restaurant as it’s a little bit more people friendly than others – though of course brisk and efficient. The goose had finished that day which was a shame as I wanted to try it as something so synonymous with Hong Kong but never got around to it.
Wah Fung, 112-114 Wellington Street, Central
We’d seen cream puff shops in Vietnam but didn’t really know what they were. Well what are they? It’s basically a choux pastry ball full of some kind of cream or custard. Turns out they are yummy. We visited the cream puff shop that was somewhere around Stanley/Wellington Streets a couple of times.
Weird and wonderful:
Marks & Spencer
Too much of a treat from home to resist, we twice bought picnics for our room at M&S Stores. Roast beef sarnie, crisps, cheese straws, cocktail sausages, sweets – all those familiar and much missed goodies.
I don’t really need to explain this – how. fantastic. is. that?
These were in the vending machine at Macau airport:
That’s how I take my nerds!
Hello Kitty food store
I don’t even know what the product is but I am that sad that I got excited anyway.
Tea & hot water
I picked up some jasmine tea from the 7 11, simply because it was all they had and it was cheap. I’m now gutted that I forgot to stock up on this tea. I’m used to jasmine tea being very mild but this stuff is quite full on which is lush.
The other tea that I had a lot, is the lemon tea you always get in the cheaper cafes. It’s basically the most stewed normal tea you get with lemon slices left in – packs a punch and Mark thought was vile but I loved it. It wasn’t sweet – that was the key for me. It definitely put hairs on your chest.
Quite a lot, we got a glass of hot water free when we first went into restaurants or cafes. This is something I’ve never had before. It makes sense to be honest, as it was cold out, so it was just the ticket I think. But the concept freaked Mark out!!
Stomachs & the like
Having been travelling for a while I have developed a way stronger stomach than before. I have learned to eat and not question when needs be and I’m very familiar with inner tubing appearing at the supermarket but I did find I couldn’t quite get past the amount of stomach you find in Kowloon. Never failed to make me a little queasy.
Carrot juice with milk
This just seems very wrong
Birds nest soup
I was tempted to try this as it’s such a delicacy but as it, I believe, involves swallow spit (2 usually opposing words), couldn’t quite bring myself to.