My favourite place at the moment is Home Eat to Live (Shop G01-101, Nexxus Building, 77 Des Voeux Road Central, tel: 2777 4777). I go there almost every afternoon. I’m not a vegetarian but I like that these guys focus on quality and the level of creativity in the food is high. I usually order the Mexican grizzly – it’s a house-made flatbread stuffed with beans, tomato salsa, spinach, etc. And I adore their lemonade, it’s the best I’ve had; it has a little hint of salt and, most importantly, no added sugar. Their desserts are fantastic as well. The décor is simple, rustic and very cosy.
One of my favourite hidden gems is Motu Kiwi (41-43 Graham Street, Central, tel: 3706 8074). I love the atmosphere – simple decor, very funky. I married a Kiwi so this place has a special meaning to me; the chef Vini strictly uses New Zealand produce. I admire his way of holding onto his heritage, showcasing the best of a beautiful country like Kiwi-land. Their manuka-smoked lamb ribs with mango chutney and coconut rice is the bomb. Don’t miss the tuatua sliders – they are also awesome, and Vini’s pink guava and grapefruit cheesecake is hands down the best in the world!
I fell in love with Mak Man Kee Noodle Shop (51 Parkes Street, Jordan, tel: 2736 5561) many years ago when I first tried their wonton noodles. The flavours are so clean and intense and the noodles’ texture and quality is perfect. The wonton skin is really thin and not gluey, with a very generous amount of stuffing – crunchy prawns and flavourful minced pork. The authenticity reminds me of a real traditional trattoria in Italy; the flavours never get old and never disappoint. I love that the staff act like they’re almost doing you a favour to serve you. Anywhere else in the world you would be upset about the service but not here, it’s just quintessential!
My favourite casual/fine dining restaurant is Operetta (Shop 112, 1/F Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, tel: 2115 8080). I tried some of Fabio the chef’s dishes and was really impressed. The concept is an honest approach to fusion Japanese/Italian, I found that all the dishes have the grace of Japanese culture combined with the richness and passion of Italian culture. A real winner was the lamb pastilla – basically braised shredded lamb served with eggplant purée and sprout salad, real comfort food. Another excellent dish was the tagliolini with crab, so delicate and packed with flavour at the same time; I loved the crunchiness of the fennel and the saltiness of the capers. Operetta has just opened; I am sure it will be a big hit with Hong Kong.
I don’t drink much coffee since I quit smoking, but I think Winstons Coffee (Fu Kwok Building, 213 Queen’s Road West, Sai Ying Pun, tel: 2559 5078) has the city’s best. You can drink your coffee at the counter and this isn’t just another “in fashion” place with overpriced filtered coffee, in-house roasted beans, single origin, organic jargon. Winstons is a very happy place with great décor, friendly staff and, most importantly, they don’t waste their time in decorating little faces on their cappuccinos; they’re fast and friendly like a coffee shop should be.
Since I opened NOM and got married, I don’t tend to go out any more, but if I had guests in town and had to show them around, I’d take them to Ping Pong Gintonería (Nam Cheong Lau, 135 Second Street, Sai Ying Pun, tel: 9835 5061). It’s freaking cool and you can actually have a conversation there.
Lei Yue Mun is my favourite secret place, although I guess it’s not so secret. I’ve always loved going there, picking your own seafood and asking the owner of the restaurant to cook it for you – the experience is just priceless and has a special, magical atmosphere, especially on a Sunday night. When I have a guest in town asking for something local and special, I always take them there.