Best new restaurants and hidden gems in Hong Kong, from Australian coffee and gelato to concept cafes and niche bakeries

2,700 restaurants opened, accelerated growth, Messina

From home-made Norwegian meatballs to an Aussie-style brunch and everything in between, Hong Kong delivers multicultural cuisine to enthusiastic diners. With travel restrictions firmly in place, many are seeking out new international restaurants for a reminder of what it’s like being abroad.

The good news is that there are many newly opened cafes and restaurants ready to be discovered by Hong Kong’s keen diners.

Notable dining districts – such as Wan Chai, Kennedy Town and Tsim Sha Tsui – are full of good food offerings and Hongkongers’ love of eating out is at a high: from the start of the pandemic in January 2020 to May of this year, around 2,700 restaurants opened, according to data from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.

Some chain restaurants have expanded with accelerated growth over the past two years, according to market research, particularly Japanese franchises such as Sukiya and Sushiro.

2,700 restaurants opened, accelerated growth, Messina

Messina’s gelato. Photo: Black Sheep Restaurants

This year also saw the highly anticipated opening of a number of speciality cafes, such as Messina. This Australian gelato shop in Soho has had people queuing since it opened in October to try its ice creams, including milk tea, chocolate fondant, and coconut and lychee).

One dining area that has recently popped off is Tseung Kwan O, specifically the Greenwich Village Mall, which officially opened in November and has 21 restaurants and lifestyle stalls. From French to Italian, Spanish to Mediterranean, and bars to cafes and bakeries, you name it, it’s there.

Being away from the hustle of Kowloon or Central also means you get a sense of peace and quiet. Decorated in blue, white and gold and with an outside terrace, Mediterranean seafood and grill house The Hunter on the waterfront has the relaxed atmosphere of a southern European restaurant.

Executive chef Faycal el Moujahid says the focus of The Hunter is to bring the best of Mediterranean cuisine to Hong Kong, serving high-quality steaks and seafood.

Beef is imported from southern California and dry-aged in house for 21 days. A one-kilogram rib-eye on the bone will set diners back HK$938. Seafood is sourced from the south of France and Greece and brought in twice a week. Group general manager Imran Khaleel says the restaurant easily sells more than 20 seafood platters (HK$798) each day, and even more at the weekend.

2,700 restaurants opened, accelerated growth, Messina

Rib-eye on the bone from The Hunter in Tseung Kwan O. Photo: Jonathan Wong

Khaleel says many families and groups are now coming to Tseung Kwan O as an escape from Hong Kong Island.

Every area needs a place that sells good coffee. Rise Kitchen in Tseung Kwan O, which offers home-baked pastries, tea and cafe lunch-style food, fits the bill.

The cafe was founded by Hong Kong-born Icy Wong, the creator of Rise Group, which runs courses in pastry and cake making. Rise Kitchen serves a variety of croissants and sweet baked goods, as well as dishes such as eggs Benedict, softshell lobster rolls, and an all-day English breakfast.

2,700 restaurants opened, accelerated growth, Messina

Lobster roll with orange cheese and fries from Rise Kitchen in Tseung Kwan O. Photo: Jonathan Wong

Around the corner from Rise Kitchen is the popular GoNuts. The all-day restaurant is a joint venture between HeySoNuts, a popular dessert cafe in Kowloon, and Once You Go Craft, a speciality beer bar in Tai Kok Tsui.

Co-founder Darren Leung says when they moved into the 1,500 sq ft (139 square metre) space, they wanted to “do something bigger”. The outcome? A lively, down-to- earth bar with an orange, industrial design inspired by the 1990s black comedy Trainspotting.

You can find coffee being served in the morning and Western lunch during the day, and can top off the evening with craft beer and bar bites. The bar’s Sichuan-style spicy fried chicken (HK$98) is paired with house IPA beer. The chicken is crispy and spicy, with Sichuan mala pepper.

2,700 restaurants opened, accelerated growth, Messina

Purple sweet potato moffles with cream and vanilla ice cream at GoNuts in Tseung Kwan O. Photo: Jonathan Wong

The craft beer menu rotates every few months and the drinks are sourced from a local brewery. If you’re not sure what to pick, Leung says they have a beer for everyone and the staff are more than happy to help you select a drink to pair with your food.

They even have an espresso-infused stout that goes with their tiramisu soufflé pancakes (HK$104). Try their purple sweet potato moffle – a crispy waffle with a chewy mochi centre (HK$68).

In Wan Chai’s trendy Moon Street, APT Coffee, which launched in 2019, uses Seven Seeds coffee beans from a roasting house in Melbourne.

2,700 restaurants opened, accelerated growth, Messina

The interior of Cosha in Central. Photo: Edmond So

Good coffee and a trendy, Instagram-worthy environment are key factors for any successful new cafe. Two that opened this year that epitomise this concept are Cosha and Hjem.

Cosha on Elgin Street, SoHo, is an Australian-concept brunch cafe. The menu features a lot of avocado, a must-have on an Australian cafe menu. There are two types of coffee on offer: one that is more nutty and the other fruity.

High-quality produce and photo-worthy plating are the key features of Australian cafe food, says co-founder Chantal Tse. “Hong Kong breakfast food is mainly deep-fried,” says Tse, who with her business partner, Glossimar So, wanted to bring healthy, Australian-style food to Hong Kong.

2,700 restaurants opened, accelerated growth, Messina

‘Croissant French’ (left) and ‘Crispy Gee’ (right) at Cosha in Central. Photo: Edmond So

Cosha is frequented by both Western and Chinese customers, who often come for catch-ups or to take photos for social media. The interior is styled in white, marble, green and bronze. Tse says they wanted to bring a feeling of Bali to the cafe.

The owners hit local markets every night to pick up produce, which includes a lot of kale and rocket. Over summer they sold acai bowls, which were an instant crowd pleaser. The dish “Crispy Gee” (home-made fried chicken with egg, avocado on rye toast) is one of the most popular. The chicken is paired with a home-made spicy mayonnaise (HK$128). Another crowd favourite is their smashed avocado toast with house-made beetroot and hummus dip (HK$95).

A short walk from Cosha, on Hollywood Road, is Hjem, Norwegian for “home”. Co-owner Elin Fu, from the Common Abode group, wanted to bring a taste of the Norwegian food she grew up with to Hong Kong.

2,700 restaurants opened, accelerated growth, Messina

From left: meatballs, Arctic prawns, and cinnamon bun at Hjem. Photo: Edmond So

Fu says the “menu embodies the Nordic healthy gastronomic identity, with fresh produce that places attention on principles of slow and conscious living”.

Hjem’s handmade pork and beef meatballs (HK$118) may look like meatballs you can find at Ikea, but the flavour is on its own level.

Cinnamon buns (HK$68), arctic prawns (HK$128) and honey golden nut lattes (HK$50) are other stand-outs. The dinner menu includes Cinnamon Bun Espresso Martini – a spicy take on the classic martini (HK$98).

2,700 restaurants opened, accelerated growth, Messina

The interior of Hjem. Photo: Edmond So

Fu wanted Hjem to be a place where people could come and relax, and detach from the busy city outside. With Scandinavian wood and earthy styling, Hjem is a good place to unwind.

Common Abode recently launched a hip-hop concept bar and lounge, Candour. Every drink on the cocktail menu has been inspired by a music track. The food menu features a range of dishes from mapo tofu tater tots (HK$88) to pineapple bun chicken burgers (HK$148).

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