For food lovers, Hong Kong is a place like no other. This skyscraper city boasts the highest ratio of restaurants to eaters in the world (there's one for every 300 people); a place where the time-honoured food traditions of Old China meet the modern glitz of the corporate age. As Australian expat chef Shane Osborn of restaurant Arcane says, Hong Kong has it covered from tiny hole-in-the-wall shops specialising in a single dish, to the extravagant, no-expense-spared Asian outposts of the world's most famous chefs. From the reliable excitement of Central to the hipster haven of Sheung Wan; from the rapidly gentrifying Wan Chai and Tai Hang and the up-and-coming Kennedy Town, Hong Kong is full to overflowing with foodie buzz. All you need is an appetite and an elasticised waistband.
Lush: Arcane's outdoor dining area. Photo: Supplied
Polished but personality-filled, Arcane is the two-year-old restaurant from Shane Osborn, who made his Michelin-starred name at London's Pied á Terre and decided on his move to Asia to strip back the trappings that can make dining at the pointy end such a drag. "It's fine dining without all the fuss," he says. These days, his signature Euro flair can be found in Hong Kong's business district in a dining room designed as a lush English tropical garden – no, that's not a tautology – where his typically refined menu features a Japanese fruit tomato served with goats' curd, leek, onion seeds and marfuga olive oil.
18 On Lan Street, Central, arcane.hk
This no-frills joint, says Shane Osborn, is typical of the unassuming nature of many of Hong Kong's finest food shops that have been run for generations by the same family. "Sublime roast goose," he says. Roll up for the excellent roasted bird with its shattery-crisp skin – but don't expect any ceremony (service in a word, is brusque) and expect to fight the queues (it has a Michelin star – say no more).
34-38 Stanley Street, Central
French toast with truffle, balsamic and aged cheese at Frantzen's Kitchen. Photo: Supplied
It had to happen. Nordic cuisine reaches Hong Kong at Frantzén's Kitchen, where Swedish chef Bjorn Frantzén brings his cold-climate asceticism and gives it the occasional Asian twist. "It's top of the hitlist at the moment, a real chefs' hangout," says Osborn. Roll up for a seat in this compact space for all the gastronomic whiz-bangery of the current holder of two Michelin stars for his Stockholm restaurant. Expect dishes such as apple and lingonberry macarons, and poached oysters layered with sea buckthorn, seaweed and goats' cheese.
11 Upper Station Street, Sheung Wan, frantzenskitchen.com
Pigeon pithivier at Belon. Photo: Supplied
Hong Kong's niche-exploiting Black Sheep Restaurant Group certainly is keeping busy with a 12-strong portfolio (also see Maison Libanaise, below) but keeps hitting it out of the park with sterling efforts such as Belon. This neo-bistro, seemingly transplanted from Paris to Hong Kong's trendy SoHo district, shines a bright light thanks to the talent in the kitchen, former Pied á Terre, Per Se and Epicure at Le Bristol chef Daniel Calvert. At Belon, expect a typically slick fit-out of marble and leather and a menu that reads like a love letter to la belle France, including morel mushrooms with garlic sausage, fire-roasted leeks with mussels and Noilly Prat, and pigeon pithivier with fig and amaretto.
41 Elgin Street, Soho, belonsoho.com
Roasted cauliflower with harissa, zhoug, lemon and dry lime at Maison Libanaise. Photo: Supplied
Just a jump off the Mid-Levels escalator, this other newcomer to the Black Sheep stable delves deep into the food of the Levantine. Australian chef James Harrison learned his trade working under the unrivalled expertise of Greg Malouf, and now finds himself in charge of a three-tiered space. Entry level is the casual ground-floor Le Comptoir, where kebabs and salads rule the day, while Le Salon on the first floor offers a mezze menu of cold and hot dishes. The jewel in the Maison Libanaise crown is La Buvette, a rooftop oasis where sharing menus of almond falafel, pan-fried haloumi and roast lamb shoulder turn dinner into a feast.
10 Shelley Street, Soho, maisonlibanaise.com.hk
Grilled octopus at Spanish restaurant 22 Ships. Photo: Supplied
Another restaurant from the global stable of Michelin-dripping Brit, Jason Atherton, 22 Ships transplants a Barcelona tapas bar to the streets of Wan Chai. With Aussie expat Aaron Gillespie in charge of the pans, it flits around all the requisite menu headings with flair, from the small (pan con tomate, the Catalan specialty served here with crisp jamon) to the large (seafood paella, and suckling pig with pineapple and piquillo peppers).
22 Ship Street, Wan Chai, 22ships.hk
Sai Ying Pun
Potato Head in Hong Kong. Photo: Supplied
Kaum at Potato Head
The Bali-based party joint arrived with great fanfare into up-and-coming neighbourhood Sai Ying Pun last year and immediately raised the Hong Kong heat. Like its Indonesian alma mater, Potato Head offers a combination of coffee shop, retail space, "audiophile listening room" and, the focus of our current attentions, the restaurant Kaum (the name translates to "tribe" in Bahasa). Like the Seminyak original, Kaum mark II offers a wildly pan-Indonesian menu based in recipes collected throughout the vast archipelago. The menu runs the gamut from the immediately recognisable – a fiery gado gado, and a textbook nasi goreng – to regional curios such as the Acehnese-style prawn curry, and what's quite possibly the only babi guling (Balinese-style roasted suckling pig) on the whole of Hong Kong island.
100 Third Street, Sai Ying Pun, ptthead.com
Omakase at Okra. Photo: Supplied
This sushi restaurant takes its upmarket mission seriously – guests are asked not to wear perfume, lest it interfere with the flavour of the sushi. With only 12 seats along a narrow counter behind which the chef works his knife-skills magic, Okra is no walk-in affair, but book ahead for an omakase menu of gut-busting proportions, including three to four cold dishes, 10 to 12 pieces of sushi, and three to five hot dishes – and don't forget to take a dip in the excellent sake menu.
110 Queen's Road W, Sai Ying Pun, okra.bar
Pork neck taco at Chino. Photo: Supplied
It's Mexico by way of Japan at this hipster hangout where street art-covered walls meet a soundtrack of '90s hip hop and casual rules the day. Loud, laidback and largely Mexican, the menu gets a twist with ingredients and techniques from Japan, including the go-to dish of red miso-seasoned scallop and uni tostada anointed with salsa and nori, and a chipotle dashi and tortilla soup. They play things more straight up as well - ox tongue tacos spiced up with pickled jalapenos and potent arbol chilli salsa, for example, or tacos stuffed with avocado, black bean and traditional Oaxaca cheese. Just add shots of mezcal and party on.
1B-1C New Praya, Kennedy Town, chinohk.com
Shek Tong Tsui
Janice Wong's 2am:dessert bar spin-off. Photo: Supplied
Cobo House by 2am:dessertbar
The rather unwieldy name comes at the behest of Janice Wong, the young Singaporean twice crowned Asia's best pastry chef by Restaurant magazine, convener of the World's Best Restaurants List. It's reason enough to be excited about the Hong Kong outpost of her original Singapore dessert bar – although there's even more reason for excitement, considering the Cobo House venture involves the first outing of her Euro-Asian fusion savoury menu as well as her signature groundbreaking desserts.
8-12 South Lane, Shek Tong Tsui, cobohouse.com
Wong's signature cassis plum dessert. Photo: Supplied
Don't miss the Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival for world class wine tastings, food pairings and harbourside entertainment from 26-29 October 2017 on Hong Kong's Central Harbourfront.
For more information visit: discoverhongkong.com/au
Cathay Pacific is a five-star airline, renowned for its outstanding service and modern fleet. Their philosophy of a Life Well Travelled is at the heart of everything they do; from its award-winning lounges to inspired inflight dining, the airline consistently enhances their product and services to deliver an unparalleled travel experience.
Out of Australia, Cathay Pacific has over 70 flights a week to Hong Kong from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Cairns. All flights provide excellent connections to over 170 destinations worldwide via their hub in Hong Kong. All Australian flights offer three classes of travel – Business Class, Premium Economy Class and Economy Class.
For more information or to book, visit: cathaypacific.com.au
This article brought to you by the Hong Kong Tourism Board