Four up-and-coming districts to visit before they’re overrun.
These four Hong Kong districts started off as factory towns, or arose from other humble beginnings, but they’re worth exploring right now—as artists, restaurateurs and creatives turn them into hotbeds of cutting edge cuisine and design. Check out these upstarts before they become mainstream.
Wong Chuk Hang
On the whole, Wong Chuk Hang’s industrial buildings are chockablock with wholesale food distributors, Chinese furniture-making workshops and other businesses that aren’t exactly easily browse-able. Slowly but surely, though, the area is undergoing a renaissance: art galleries love the lower rents and high ceilings of these loft-like spaces; two private kitchens opened up here for the same reasons: cost and space.
EAT > CulinArt
Located in the most unexpected of places, on the 22nd floor of the Kwai Bo Industrial Building (right next door to a wholesale fruit distributor), this beautifully designed private kitchen is a foodie’s paradise. The highly acclaimed and charismatic chef Stanley Wong cooks up tasty, creative dishes for groups of friends, corporate dinners or celebratory get-togethers, putting together customized menus to fit particular tastes and dietary needs. Private cooking classes are also available. Dinners start at HK$800 per person; advance bookings are required.
Unit B, 22/F, Kwai Bo Industrial Building, 40 Wong Chuk Hang Rd., Wong Chuk Hang, 6799-9925, www.culinart.com.hk
ART > 3812 Contemporary Art Projects
Tucked away in a run-down factory building (where else?), this art space is a sanctuary for sophisticated connoisseurs of culture and curious visitors alike. The spacious gallery allows for more elaborate, large-scale exhibitions, like the recent one by Beijing-based artist Lin Guocheng, who depicts natural scenes inspired by Chinese folklore in a unique, black-and-white style.
10/F, 12 Wong Chuk Rd., Wong Chuk Hang, 2153-3812.
SHOP > Mirth
A colorful and eclectic array of carefully curated homeware items fills this cute store, located in a space formerly occupied by a stool factory. On display is everything from accessories and stationery to toys and shoes, as well as furniture and artwork.
M/F, BT Centre, 23 Wong Chuk Hang Rd., Wong Chuk Hang, 2553-9811, www.mirthhome.com
Ngau Tau Kok
Judging Ngau Tau Kok and its neighbor Kwun Tong by their looks alone would be a shame. Beneath the intimidating cargo lifts, enormous trucks and bland factory buildings, these industrial sites cultivate an amazing selection of cultural activities. We may already be in the thick of summer, but in Ngau Tau Kok, where workshops, a live music scene and an actual farm are blossoming, it feels more like spring.
DO > Alri Workshop
Planning to lay down HK$1,000 on a mass-produced leather wallet or bag? Instead, consider paying a visit to Alri (pronounced elle-ree) Workshop which offers the tools and supplies to make a unique leather bag yourself. Under the tutelage of owner Alvin, you can also make a coin purse, iPhone case, wallet, camera bag or camera straps—he can even help you craft it in the style of a brand-name item. Expect to spend at least four to five hours (and anywhere from HK$450 to 1,000) on your project—leather-work is time-intensive! Book a time slot on their website first.
Flat D, 4/F, Wing Hing Lee Industrial Building, 32 Hung To Rd., Kwun Tong, 3791-2217, www.alriworkshop.com
PARTY > Strategic Sounds
Given its mostly industrial tenants, you’d think Kwun Tong would be dead at night. But nestled high up in a row of generic factory buildings is Strategic Sounds, which hosts shows with walk-up ticketing (HK$100-150) most weekends. The live music venue showcases mostly experimental and digital artists who attract niche followings, with Japanese noise music master KK Null a recent performer. The fact that it’s a small space without a formal stage leads to intimate performances. Owner Andrew Leung maintains the venue while juggling a day job, motivated by his aim to enrich the local music scene.
Shop E, 10/F, High Win Factory Building, 47 Hoi Yuen Rd., Kwun Tong, 9313-8371, www.facebook.com/stgsounds
CHILL > Coffee Lover
These folks take a cup of joe super seriously. Beginners can opt to enroll in a latte art class or a barista course, but for those already well-versed in the coffee arts who need to outfit their kitchens, Coffee Lover carries professional coffee-makers and grinders. These passionate Java experts even roast their own blend made up of a careful selection of beans from five different countries. Don’t walk away without trying a mug of the Villa Donna coffee, too.
Flat B, 3/F, Wai Yip Industrial Building, 171 Wai Yip St., Kwun Tong, 3488-0278, www.wingyipcoffee.com
EAT > Dim Delicious
This restaurant cooks up dim sum of hotel quality at reasonable prices in a rarely frequented part of town. In the hands of a talented chef—who allegedly has celeb-worthy credentials but prefers to keep a low profile—traditional dim sum items are re-fashioned into contemporary creations. Featuring truffles and more. No single dish showcases Dim Delicious’ innovation more than their signature baked almond juice bun ($14 for two pieces). The chef selected a specific almond from Hebei province in China after sampling almonds grown all over the world. Dim Delicious is open daily from 10:30am to 3:30pm, so don’t head over too late in the day or you’ll miss out.
Flat G, 2/F, Wang Kwong Industrial Building, 45 Hong To Rd., Kwun Tong, 2950-0087.
Sai Ying Pun
Sai Ying Pun itself is set on the hillside, but don’t let the inclines scare you off—you’d be missing out on the low-key wonders of this modest neighborhood. A more bohemian, slightly edgier SoHo of sorts, the area around First and Second Streets, just south of Queen’s Road West, is now home to an increasing number of independent restaurants and galleries—all spirited small businesses run by people who are extremely passionate about what they do.
EAT> The Chicken Man
Expect authentic, British-style home-cooked meals, with comfort food like chicken noodle soup and on-the-go options like chicken baguettes. Everything is homemade (except the bread) and fresh. They also deliver all over Hong Kong Island.
Shop 11, G/F, Hang Sing Mansion, 72 High St., Sai Ying Pun, 2559-2190, www.thechickenman.com.hk
SNACK > Eat My Cakes
A new bakery, Eat My Cakes is a font of mouth-watering goodies from pies and cheesecake to cookies and cupcakes (try the “Death by Chocolate”). Catering is also available.
G/F, 21 Western St., Sai Ying Pun, 3480-8842, www.eatmycakes.com.hk
DRINK > Derby West
It may be popular with nearby HKU students, but adults also find this Sai Ying Pun pub a refreshing alternative to the bars in SoHo. (For one thing, its prices are cheaper!) Order a pint and some fish and chips while chatting with the two-year-old bar’s loyal customers from around the neighborhood.
G/F, 389-391 Queen’s Rd. West, Sai Ying Pun, 2698-2468.
ART> Above Second
From illustration and graphic design to street art and works referencing pop culture, Above Second strives to stay ahead of the curve. A platform for innovative contemporary art, this gallery showcases an array of Hong Kong artists and international artists. We hear they throw pretty cool parties, too, so you’d best get on their mailing list.
31 Eastern St., Sai Ying Pun, 3483-7950, www.above-second.com
The entrepreneurs who have made Chai Wan their home echo each other in their reasons for setting up shop in this part of town. More space and lower rents were the initial impetus—but as a bonus, many say, they’ve found a friendly community of creative thinkers. Keep up with the Facebook page www.facebook.com/ChaiWanMei for upcoming special events dedicated to showcasing what’s happening in Chai Wan.
The mission of Platform China’s original outlet in Beijing was to track down, support and exhibit emerging Chinese contemporary artists—and it plans to do the same in Hong Kong. Part gallery and part salon, manager Claudia Albertini also plans to host visiting artists and encourage site-specific projects.
Unit 601, 6/F, Chai Wan Industrial City (Phase I), 60 Wing Tai Rd., Chai Wan, 9768-8093, www.platformchina.org.
This cozy café slash restaurant—already well-known among the city’s epicures for its top-quality coffee—arose out of necessity, according to owner Jehan Chu. Expect a satisfying menu of hearty salads and innovative sandwiches, plus desserts by a former Press Room Group pastry chef; consume them in the company of friends or a magazine in Chaiwanese’s sunny, open space.
Room 1307, 13/F, Chai Wan Industrial City (Phase I), 60 Wing Tai Rd., Chai Wan, 6111-4583, www.chaiwanese.com.
SHOP > Undercover and Silly Thing
These two sister shops are treasure troves for funky, trendy clothing and accessories for both men and women. Undercover sells only attire and shoes by the Japanese brand of the same name. A few doors down, past a wholesale beer and soda distributor, the walls of Silly Thing are lined with demure, understated pieces: shoes, sunglasses and leather goods. The boutique is selective, stocking brands like Chapel of Dawn, Alden and Arts & Science.
Undercover: Unit 11, G/F, Block B, Ming Pao Industrial Centre, 18 Ka Yip St., Chai Wan, 2881-8002, www.think-silly.com.
Silly Thing: Unit 8, G/F, Block B, Ming Pao Industrial Centre, 18 Ka Yip St., Chai Wan, 2898-2199, www.think-silly.com.
ART > Asia One Photo Book Center and Vertical Art Space
One of the region’s best-known art book publishers, Asia One has a two-year-old bookstore on the ground floor with Hong Kong’s widest selection of specialty photography volumes. As of May, the company also launched a brand new gallery that’s exceedingly unique in a city full of funky art spaces. Occupying 10 floors of a stairwell, the art is hung along the walls and at the landings.
G/F and 3-13/F, Asia One Tower, 8 Fung Yip St., Chai Wan, 2976-0913, www.aophotobook.com and www.aovertical.com.
EAT > Ma Cuisine
Located closest to the MTR station of all of these places, Ma Cuisine is the private kitchen arm of French gourmet food and wine purveyor Monsieur Chatte, which has a shop in Sheung Wan and another in Elements. The restaurant is a homely venue with a long wooden table, an open kitchen and a seating area for smaller groups. Reservations required.
Unit A, 3/F, Unison Industrial Building, 7 Sun Yip St., Chai Wan, 5129-7249, www.monsieurchatte.com.