Five new places to drink and dine in Hong Kong

Thai-style cured kingfish salad at David Thompson's Aaharn in Hong Kong.
Thai-style cured kingfish salad at David Thompson's Aaharn in Hong Kong. Photo: William Furniss

As night falls over Hong Kong, an electric sense of culinary purpose fills the streets.

Step out of everyone's way and, in stillness, you can observe a food ritual unfold, as thousands of Hongkongers pound the city's pavements in pursuit of tonight's dinner and drinks location.

Regularly eating in restaurants and drinking in bars is an accepted part of Hong Kong's culture. About 65 per cent of Hongkongers aged between 15 and 59 eat out four or more days a week, while a third of residents eat out every day, according to a 2018 Polytechnic University study.

Sichuan pan-seared Australian scallops, cucumber salad at John Anthony, Hong Kong.
Sichuan pan-seared Australian scallops, cucumber salad at John Anthony, Hong Kong. Photo: Supplied

This makes Hong Kong a competitive gourmet paradise, boasting about 14,000 restaurants offering an exotic fusion of Eastern and Western flavours.

Although the food and drink scene of this autonomous territory never stands still, it's the power of constant change that makes Hong Kong such a dynamic food and drink destination.

Here are five new places to eat and drink in Hong Kong.

The picnic basket at Piqniq in Hong Kong.
The picnic basket at Piqniq in Hong Kong. Photo: Supplied

Aaharn

This Thai restaurant, owned by Australian chef David Thompson, is the restaurateur's first venture since closing Nahm in Bangkok last year.

Thompson says he chose Hong Kong for his next restaurant location because its competitive market was an attractive challenge he couldn't resist.

"I've always loved the ravish nature of Hong Kong," Thompson says. "I've opened restaurants all around the world but this opportunity was just great."

Advertisement

Aaharn is located on the top floor of the historic Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts, built on the site of old Central Police Station. The restaurant has spacious interiors, and outdoor seating offering a view over the centre's courtyard and a bar.

Thompson's great tradition of serving "real Thai food" continues here, with an uncompromising menu – "a summation of some of the best Thai dishes I've come across".

"I try and convey what I understand good Thai food to be and try and be as faithful as possible to give customers the best I can. That's my modus operandi."

At John Anthony, Hong Kong, the ceilings are draped with fabric coloured with plant-based dyes.
At John Anthony, Hong Kong, the ceilings are draped with fabric coloured with plant-based dyes. Photo: Jonathan Leijonhufvud

Aaharn offers two seven-course tasting menus – non-vegetarian and vegetarian – that will change regularly but always feature curries, relishes, stir-fries and soups. There's also an a la carte menu with sharing plates.

Start with a shrimp paste relish, served with chopped prawns and wild ginger, simmered in coconut cream. Be sure to sample one of Thompson's famed curries such as the Massaman curry of green jackfruit, with grilled shallots and peanuts. The dessert of choice is the balanced and delectable steamed pumpkin custard with golden strands.

Draft Land

Sipping pre-made cocktails may sound stock-standard but at Draft Land, Hong Kong's first "cocktails-on-tap" bar, the concept is innovative.

The eye-catching entrance to Piqniq, Hong Kong.
The eye-catching entrance to Piqniq, Hong Kong. Photo: Supplied

This Taiwanese bar brand, now based in Central, wants to eliminate long wait times for drinks by providing seasonal, garnish-free draft cocktails. The bar promises that once you order, you can expect your $HKD90 ($16) cocktail to be poured from one of 24 taps within 10 seconds.

The bar also sells two beers and two mocktails.

The entire drinks menu, hanging on the wall behind the bar, details the strength and ingredients of each concoction. But if you're having difficulty choosing, bartenders will offer you a taste.

The ceiling at Hong Kong's Dragonfly is covered in turquoise Tiffany-style stained-glass lights.
The ceiling at Hong Kong's Dragonfly is covered in turquoise Tiffany-style stained-glass lights. Photo: Yasmin Noone

Try the refreshing Oolong Tea Collins cocktail that has low alcohol content. For a boozier drink, order the English milk punch made with brandy, rum, cinnamon, apple sugar and lime.

Picniq

This rooftop bar, atop Central's new arts, retail and dining space, H Queen's, fuses the essence of France with Asian style.

The owners call it Hong Kong's first rooftop "guinguette" (a drinking establishment that also acts as restaurant and dance venue), modelled on Paris' historic outdoor bars. The idea is that you can gaze at the view extending from Victoria Harbour to The Peak and have an al fresco "piqniq" day or night.

The menus extend the French theme. The entire wine list is French. Most of the beers are international too. Aperol spritz is on tap and there's a selection of traditional European aperitifs and digestifs.

The cheese and charcuterie platters are authentic and delicious. If you're after a lighter meal, look for nicoise salad or leek quiche. Five desserts are on offer, the pick of which is a chocolate tart with a crisp, buttery base.

Dragonfly

Dragonfly is a green drinking den, awash with European 19th-century romance and opulence. A blue and green Tiffany-style stained-glass dragonfly centrepiece spreads over the bar, and mosaic dragonfly tables are lit with dragonfly lamps.

The bar aims for sustainability. It uses bamboo, glass and potato starch straws that feel like plastic but are 69 per cent biodegradable and take one year to decompose.

To go green, sample the low-alcohol "designated driver" cocktail – made with hydroponic lime basil, apricot-infused brandy, Lillet Blanc and prosecco. The bar contributes $HKD5 (about 90¢) from every sale to planting a tree in Asia.

If your taste leans towards something sweeter, try Mucha's Muse, featuring gin, lavender and strawberry shrub, strawberry honey, pomelo and lemon juice. Or have a Madam Marie: a twist on the traditional Bloody Mary, created with horseradish-infused vodka and clamato juice, presented with an oyster.

Tapas are also served here, ranging from beef sliders with guacamole to popcorn chicken and black truffle polenta fries.

John Anthony

Sustainability is woven throughout every aspect of this new Causeway Bay restaurant.

Most of the beautiful interiors have been upcycled, including the terracotta floor tiles reclaimed from old Chinese houses. The walls are decorated with eco-paints, and the ceilings draped with fabric coloured with plant-based dyes.. Menus are printed on handmade recycled paper. The wines come from environmentally responsible vineyards. Even the takeaway containers are made from recyclable or fully biodegradable materials.

As for the food, expect a sophisticated and modern take on Cantonese cooking with charcoal grill-roasted meats and handmade dim sum. Flavours carry the influence of the Spice Route, while all ingredients are high quality and ethically sourced.

Highlights include cold, slow-cooked Australian wagyu beef cheek, sandwiched with watermelon slices, lifted by chilli sauce, razor clams served with white vinegar with pickled peppercorns, and braised fish maw and napa cabbage immersed in a fish broth.

DETAILS

Aaharn, aaharn.hk

Draft Land, facebook.com/draftlandhk

Picniq, lecomptoir.hk/piqniq

Dragonfly, diningconcepts.com/restaurants/Dragonfly

John Anthony, johnanthony.hk