The Indie Side of Hong Kong Island
The folks at Hong Kong-based Tink Labs describe themselves as a bunch of marketing people who are also travel obsessives. Their first product, Handy, is a smartphone rental service with built-in city guides. CEO Terence Kwok, a HK native, plays our built-in guide to the city. (Pretty handy, don't you think?)
HONG KONG – I've lived in Hong Kong most of my life, spending only a short stint in the United States for study. Although I travel a lot for work, I always look forward to coming home. I've found that despite being labeled as a city firmly focused on "out with the old, in with the new," certain areas of Hong Kong still retain their old-world charm. These small cultural pockets — neighborhoods of boutiques, artisanal bakeries, and independent coffee shops — are helping to enrich Hong Kong's bourgeoning cultural scene.
Over the past few years, this area has developed into a friendly community neighborhood. I love the eateries that line the near-empty back streets, and one of my favorite coffee shops, Unar Coffee, can be found here. This tiny, European-style coffeehouse brews a great cup of coffee, served from a hole in the wall. I come for my latte fix at lunchtime to escape the office. There's not really any seating, so everyone stands around to chat.
Further down the road is Lab Made, my go-to for surviving the hot Hong Kong summers. "Ice cream scientists" serve liquid nitrogen-frozen ice cream, which is as fun to watch being made as it is to eat. The flavors change daily, and it's a Tink Labs team favorite.
Although Chinese bakeries are everywhere in Hong Kong, finding a decent French patisserie is nearly impossible. Le Gout fills the void when I've had one too many custard buns, and I'm particularly addicted to their butter cookies. They're usually so busy that I can only really snag something on the weekend.
Star Street Precinct
Star Street oozes cool, and it's a great place to hang on weekends. There's a handful of boutique stores, pleasant cafes, and restaurants. On St. Francis Street there's WDSG, a retro store offering Americana-themed furniture and clothing. Up on the corner is Monocle, one of the few brick-and-mortar stores of the famous London-based magazine. I come here to peruse their new stock and pick up my monthly Monocle.
Down the end of quiet Sun Street is Amical, a new addition to Hong Kong's coffee scene, and a welcome retreat from the bustle of Wan Chai life. Their little outdoor terrace is perfect for weekends, where all I need is a coffee and a newspaper. Just up the road is the newly opened Ted's Lookout, which (now) has my favorite collection of dark rums in the city. Their fish tacos are probably the best in the city, too.
Po Hing Fong
One up-and-coming area is Po Hing Fong, which consists of a couple of quiet, tree-lined streets populated by a handful of antique stores, galleries, and cafes. On weekends I like to unwind at Teakha. This little teahouse on Tai Ping Shan Street serves amazing teas, pastries, and cakes, with a focus on promoting a sustainable lifestyle. The atmosphere is quiet, and cozy outdoor tables give me a chance to read the FT Weekend whilst enjoying a Thai iced tea and a honeycomb scone.
Down the road are two stalwarts of the area: Po's Atelier, an artisanal bakery, and Cafe Deadend, where you can sit and eat Po's Atelier goods. Between these three cafes I could stay for the entire day!
Sometimes I like to peruse the wares at nearby bohemian boutique Zhan (Shop 1, Po Hing Court, 10-18 Po Hing Fong; +852 2559 3001) which sells carefully selected vintage clothing, jewelry, and homewares. I'm a big fan of vintage watches, and I've managed to find a few for my collection here, as well as an old Hong Kong tourism poster that now hangs in my apartment.
From there it's easy to get to Po Yan Street where the Lomography store is. If you're a Lomo addict like myself, you'll love the awesome gallery of Lomo pictures and their huge range of equipment. Even if you don't want to buy anything, it's still worth a look, as it has great shots of Hong Kong.
One of the top additions to the neighborhood is Chachawan, a no-reservations restaurant on Hollywood Road that serves the best Isan cuisine I've tasted outside of Thailand. The focus here is on grilled meats and salads, and since I'm a sucker for spicy food, Chachawan ticks all the right boxes. I can usually be found here on a Friday night with friends and some icy bottles of beer, tucking into green papaya salad and salt-crusted sea bass. It gets seriously busy, but is a must-try for an authentic Thai experience.