Perhaps more than any other city in the world, Hong Kong is defined by its natural landscape. The glittering metropolis that blossomed at the brim of the Kowloon Peninsula and on the islands scattered around Victoria Harbour still retains its fishing village origins alongside soaring skyscrapers, crammed streets and even enclaves reminiscent of tropical resorts – all with that stunning waterway as its heartbeat.
Harbourside dining might elevate you to a luxurious eyrie with jaw-dropping panoramas and celebrity chef banquets, or reveal a hidden beach where you'll discover local dishes and serene vistas with sand between your toes. It changes by the hour, too, with skylines and mountain peaks by day, and light shows at night. Whether you gaze north across to Kowloon, south to Hong Kong Island or out to the ocean and its tiniest island outposts, this city always looks as beautiful as it tastes.
At the heart of the city
BLT Steak (Tsim Sha Tsui)
For eight years, Paris and New York City have cohabited amiably and tastily under one roof on a Kowloon waterfront patio at BLT Steak, the American steakhouse brainchild of French super-chef Laurent Tourondel. Now a comprehensive revamp brings an upgraded menu and extra outdoor seating, as well as a new Chicago-originated executive chef, A.J. Guido, to manage this outpost of Tourondel's global empire. Overall it's less macho, more warm and rustic; seafood and lighter contemporary dishes expand the classic steakhouse menu, while a timber-dominated interior from Australian in-house designer Anita Lopez complements views across to Hong Kong Island with the Star Ferry gliding in and out of the frame.
Lung King Heen (Central)
The clue's in the name; Lung King Heen means 'view of the dragon,' and the harbour vistas from this seafood and dim sum palace on the fourth floor of the Four Seasons hotel are as showstopping as executive chef Chan Yan Tak's behemoth of a menu. The restaurant has maintained its three Michelin stars since 2009 (when it became the world's first Cantonese restaurant to gain that rating) thanks to Hong Kong native Chan's poetic ways with his home flavours, expressed at their most exquisite in more than 15 soups and broths and a lavish weekend dim sum banquet that's moved critics to superlatives such as 'revelatory,' and 'stellar.'
Lung King Heen at the Four Seasons Hotel, Hong Kong. Photo: Supplied
The 270-degree views from Watermark's vantage point on the Star Ferry pier are so close to the harbour you can see the faces of the ferry passengers as they flock in and out. They're quite possibly wearing expressions of envy, as you might be tucking into extravagances such as Boston lobster, whole Tourteau crab or prime rib eye, washed down with fine wines and spirits. When the weather's conducive, a table on the open-air deck brings you even closer to Victoria Harbour's non-stop action.
Watermark has impressive views over Star Ferry pier. Photo: Supplied
In a skyscraper city where most central restaurants hover high aloft, Isola's lower perch on the third floor of the harbourside IFC elevates the mod-Italian just enough to provide both proximity and panorama, with unbroken views across to Kowloon. Thin-crust pizzas and seafood pastas are the chief heroes of the showpiece open kitchen, and a sleek lounge bar, Isobar, one floor up, has long and low lounges for cocktails and the nightly harbour light show.
Isola, Hong Kong. Photo: Supplied
One Harbour Road (Wan Chai)
Grand, graceful and decked out like a 1930s Shanghai mansion, this split-level stunner has a tinkling fountain and trees within to complement the swathe of harbour beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows. Veteran Cantonese master Li Shu-Tim weaves just enough haute into his homestyle dishes to please well-heeled residents in the host Grand Hyatt hotel, as well as local regulars. Dim sum by day or dinner after dark with the twinkling city lights as your celestial backdrop pleases the eye and palate in equal measure.
On the south side of Hong Kong Island, this 2km stretch of sandy beach boasts Hong Kong's longest beachside complex- and it's almost entirely devoted to eating and drinking. The alfresco restaurants on The Pulse's seafront promenade run the gamut from Caribbean grill Limewood to Japanese sushi bar Shoku, contemporary dai pai dong Meen & Rice, neighbourhood cafe Classified, and Cali-style beach bar Hotshot. For the comforts of air con plus massive windows for your wow-factor, there's The Ocean and its upscale Japanese cuisine, while TRi brings Bali to the beach. For aperitifs, don't miss Cabana, a decadent 10,000 square feet rooftop playground complete with private cabins, daybeds and Japanese baths overlooking the water.
Caribbean grill, Limewood. Photo: Supplied
Shek O, a friendly little coastal village on the south side of Hong Kong Island, is dwarfed by its expansive beach stretching out to a watery playground for surfers, paddle boarders and kayakers. The resort atmosphere and bright coloured sun umbrellas suit Cococabana's Mediterranean cuisine, where a seat on the oceanfront terrace with piri piri prawns and a long cool cocktail completes your holiday feeling. After dinner, follow the reggae beat to find nearby Ben's Back Bar, where local surfers and villagers chill.
A culinary idyll was born when celebrity chef Margaret Xu Yuan recently relocated her award-winning farm-to-table restaurant Kitchen Yin Yang from the CBD to a beachhouse in seaside Tsuen Wan. With just one private table for eight, Chef Xu catches her own fish, grows her own produce and selects the day's best market fare for the acclaimed Cantonese dishes in her pretty retreat with soul-soothing water views.
Seafood tasting plate at Yin Yang Coastal. Photo: Supplied
On the rural and restful Sai Kung Peninsula in the New Territories, Sai Kung village serves up some of the city's finest seafood from a 1,000-metre strip of seafront stalls and restaurants on the promenade. These include Sai Kung Sing Kee, the city's sole Michelin-starred seafood restaurant, where abalone prepared in a myriad of styles wins all the praise. Want your catch even fresher? At the nearby pier you can order direct from fishermen down in their boats, and they'll send up your choices on a pole.
Just a 30-minute ferry ride from Central Pier, Lamma Island is where city-weary Hong Kongers come to breathe and hike, then gravitate to rustic fishing village Sok Kwu Wan for a meal to match the fresher air. The 30-year-old institution Rainbow Seafood Restaurant has a new name, but still dominates a cluster of gloriously ramshackle-looking eateries on stilts over the water around the Ferry Pier, and yields the excellent catch you'd expect in a working fishing port. It also boasts its own private ferry from Central, making a very long lunch an enticing option for city workers.
The Rainbow seafood restaurant on Lamma Island, Hong Kong.
On the other side of Lamma in Yung Shue Wan, aromatic Indian and Sri Lankan dishes come with a side order of 200-degree views from a patio right above the water. Sunsets over neighbouring Lantau Island pair perfectly with fish tikka masala or the perennial Indian favourite butter chicken, prepared impeccably here.
On quiet Lantau Island, the peaceful sandy crescent of Pui O Beach is another chilled-out antidote to skyscrapers and bustle. Surfers and campers come to nourish their souls and then their bellies in the surf shack surroundings of Mavericks, with its open-air seating, share plates, craft beers and striking works from local artists underlining the menu's soulful, earthy philosophy - ingredients are mainly organic and homegrown and the bread's house made.
Colourful, memorabilia-filled and a popular pre or post-ferry watering hole for hikers, cyclists and commuters, this landmark beside the pier in Lamma's main entry point, Mui Wo, is unashamedly Western with pies, burgers and pizzas dominating the menu. That's the way the locals like it and they've been flocking to the Bear for almost 20 years for reliable pub grub and beachside bonhomie, plus the odd game of darts - all beside the water.
Ma Wan Island
Tiny Ma Wan is only 1.5 kilometers long and 1.3 kilometers wide, so you can stroll from end to end before relaxing in a seat on the wooden deck at beachfront oasis Café Roma. This European mainstay from esteemed chef Jaakko Sorsa - who also helms FINDS, Hong Kong's only Nordic restaurant - specializes in pastas, steaks, salads and crispy pizza all day long. Waves lapping nearby and a phenomenal view of the 2.16-kilometre engineering marvel Tsing Ma Bridge add to Roma's immense charms.
For more ideas on dining in Hong Kong please visit: www.discoverhongkong.com/au
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This article brought to you by the Hong Kong Tourism Board.