The migration process has begun. Actually, migration is constant as it’s all about change, and there’s no stopping change in Hong Kong. For example, for years, the place to meet during HKIR week was the Champagne Bar at the Grand Hyatt.
Most international visitors stayed there, it was convenient, Pamela was the resident singer, Eastern European beauties were the, well, resident Eastern European beauties who became friends to many over the Wolf of Wall Street Years at Suite 1616 of the adjoining Convention Plaza Apartments, and the iconic bar played host to the Who’s Who of racing- Dettori, Kinane, Beadman, “The Babe”, Haysey, Oliver, The Boss Man, Fallon, Neil Paine. Neil Paine? Painey, below, seen relaxing after a recent long lunch from hell, telling the great Olivier Peslier that he was Australia’s greatest jockey because he rode at Kembla- and a surprised Peslier replying, “Mais Oui? I zeez not know zeez. I am honoured, Monsieur Kembla” is a personal favourite.
The Champagne Bar is still there- and finally refurbished- but it no longer is the magnet it once was. It’s still alright to meet up for a quick drink, but there’s nothing much going on to keep you there. The European ladies have also migrated. Everyone has migrated and Suite 1616 closed its doors a decade ago.
During HKIR last year, we dropped in to hook up with our mates from WA- David, Ritchie and the stunning Lena- and nearly ran out immediately upon seeing almost the entire racing fraternity from Melbourne holding court- the old boys club of racing with not one female within sniffing distance. Except for Lena- and the hungry pack of hyenas were around her like that Duran Duran song. We briefly met some new faces, and though he might be a knockabout bloke, Mike Symons, Chairman of the Melbourne Racing Club, below, didn’t exactly seem like being Mr Excitement. But in a crowded bar comprising the usual suspects of Oz racing except for its Saviour and social conscience, and unconscious, even James Brown would have had a hard time screaming, “I Feel Good!”
For a welcome change of scene- and if you haven’t been there already- try the Blue Bar at the Four Seasons.
There’s a far better vibe happening here where the there’s a very good mix/ratio of the sexes, which makes Happy Hour more Happy- and last more than an hour. Other venues that might make you happy are the following:
GROUP ONE RESTAURANTS
The China Club
13-14/F, Old Bank of China Building, Bank Street, Central
T: +852 2521 8888
Worth having dinner or lunch here even once just to say you’ve been to- ta duuuuum- The China Club. There are many eateries in Hong Kong serving better Cantonese cuisine, but not in such a setting- a harkback to the city’s pukka colonial days.
25/F Prince’s Building, 10 Chater Road, Central
T: +852 2537 1388
Plenty of air kisses flying around here, and the brainchild of longtime Hong Kong socialite and Grande Dame of the Beautiful People Bonnie Gokson, below, Sevva is way over the top in the Pretentious Stakes, and is shunned by some and adored by others.
High tea can be a pleasant way to spend the afternoon rubbing Krystle and Alexis Carrington-type shoulder pads with the city’s rich and restless whereas during dinner, admire and appreciate the design and the company you’re with and turn a blind eye to those competing for foppish, fatuous, fabulousness. The service is pretty appalling and the fusion cuisine can be fabulously confusing, but, hey, la de da, la de da.
Penthouse by Harlan Goldstein
30/F, Soundview Plaza 2 – Midtown, 1-29 Tang Lung Street, Causeway Bay
T: +852 2970 0828
The latest jewel in the crown of former manager of the Aberdeen Marina Club, and today, the Wolfgang Puck of Hong Kong, American Harlan Goldstein, equal parts celebrity chef, showman and polarising figure, The Penthouse- it’s one-time panoramic view is being lost to taller buildings coming up right in front of it- is all rustic New York chic serving American Italian-inspired cuisine- and extremely good cuisine it is with the Lobster Pasta and Blue Fin Tuna Tartare being particular favourites along with the simple fresh oven-baked bread with Pesto Sauce.
If you were to dine in one of Harlan Goldstein’s three restaurants here, we recommend this one. Jamie Oliver has a restaurant below Penthouse, which appears to be struggling whereas Gordon Ramsay’s foray into Hong Kong- Bread Street Kitchen and Bar- has, say some, turned out to be the ranting chef’s own Hell’s Kitchen. We don’t know as we’ve never been there. Who wants to go to hell?
Bread Street kitchen and bar
Level M, LKF Hotel,33 Wyndham Street, Lan Kwai Fong, Central
T: +852 2230 1800
BRASSERIE ON THE EIGHTH
8/F, Conrad Hong Kong, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty
T: +852 2521 3838
Serves the best Sunday Brunch in the entire world. Nothing more to add.
Lower Level, Asia Society Hong Kong Center, 9 Justice Drive, Admiralty
T: +852 2537 9888
Traditional home-made Italian cuisine in a 19th Century heritage building with a spectacular cinematic interior. It’s like being on a movie set- and dining in another time and space. It’s good to get out of your head once in a while au naturelle.
G/F, 33 Elgin Street, SOHO, Central
T: +852 2244 3998
Fabulous spicy Manchurian cuisine, which is very similar to Szechuan cuisine- but better- and created by the same team behind the once very popular Bistro Manchu. This restaurant took a beating when its staff, including the chef, left after a Barney Rubble with the strange dragon lady of an owner. The old Gang of Four then secretly bought Bistro Manchu off her, and are back serving some of our favourite dishes- the Cumin Lamb on a Sizzling Platter, the Shredded Spicy Chicken, the pan fried vegetarian dumplings and, basically, anything that the extremely helpful and frank manager- Tom- will recommend.
Zac Purton’s Perfect Quartet
29/F, Penthouse, 1 Peking Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
T: +852 3427 2288
1/F, The Peninsula Hong Kong, 19-21 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
T: +852 2696 6769
Basement, Standard Chartered Bank Building, 4-4A Des Voeux Road Central, Central
T: +852 2885 8688
25/F Prince’s Building, 10 Chater Road, Central
T: +852 2537 1388
G09-G14, G/F Block A, PMQ, 35 Aberdeen Street. Central, Hong Kong
T: +852 2915 2822
Want something truly creative and funky that says “Hong Kong” with irreverence and some naughty bits? If so, visit the g.o.d shop at PMQ- the old Police Married Headquarters, and now, a new hub for local designers to showcase their work along with shops and restaurants with alfresco dining included. Though not fans of the design of PMQ- cold, confusing and, ironically, badly designed- there are a few- very few- restaurants worth a visit. Our g.o.d friends are the only reason we go there. And never ever leave g.o.d’s shop empty handed.
By the way, before buying any of their products emblazoned with the words DELAY NO MORE, check with friends in Hong Kong what these three words mean when uttered in Cantonese as in “diu lay lo mo”. Let’s just say that these three words are often hurled at jockeys when short-priced favourites get rolled.