The west end in Sheung Wan remains faithful, for now, to the nickname Antique Street, while the contemporary east side in SOHO, the area in Central south of Hollywood Road, echoes the London and NYC shopping districts’ charm.
Hong Kong Island’s wellspring of entertainment and culinary delights can be dizzying for even the most experienced traveler. Gather your bearings by spending a day along Hollywood Road. The oldest paved road in the former British colony was named not after the California city of the stars, but for the holly shrubs that populated the former fishing villages. Even so, the Road is rapidly gaining its own flavor of glamour, fusing whispers from the past with rising trends of the moment.
By day, feast on dim sum after wandering through the antique shops and avant-garde galleries. By night, sip and dine at the innovative restaurants and bars vying to craft the most unique experience.
You cannot leave Hong Kong without eating dim sum. Again and again. At first, the options may seem overwhelming. Start with a primer of sweet barbecue pork buns (gohk char siu bao), steamed soup dumplings (xiao long bao), crispy spring rolls (cheun goon), pan-fried turnip cake (lohr bahk go), sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf (nor mai gai), shrimp dumplings (har gow) and egg tarts (daan taat). Take photos of your favorites to help you find them again at your next dim sum stop.
Dim Sum Square (27 Hillier St., Sheung Wan) is packed with locals and expats. The quick detour from Hollywood Road is well worth your time if you’d like a dim sum experience with training wheels: the menu is not only in Cantonese and English, but also has photos of each dish. Plus, the food is tasty, fresh, and cheap.
When you’re ready for the traditional experience, take a detour down Aberdeen to the bustling mainstay Lin Heung Tea House (160-164 Wellington, Central). The staff wheels traditional trolleys around, carrying freshly made fare in steaming bamboo baskets. Be ready to choose quickly and point. Go ahead – the mystery is part of the fun.
For twists on dim sum classics, try the foie gras steam buns and scallop xiao long bao at Man Mo Café (40 Upper Lascar Row, Sheung Wan). If you’re craving a little bit of everything, take a right on Elgin Street and head to Ding Dim 1968 (14D Elgin St., Central), whose tasting menus do all your deciding for you.
Remnants of the Road’s legacy as one of the best places to find fine Chinese antiques are quickly fading as hip eateries and bars take over. Even if you’re not a collector, the window-shopping alone is worth the walk along the Sheung Wan section, starting at Man Mo Temple (124 Hollywood Rd., Sheung Wan) and heading west. Each store window appears more like a glass case in a museum. Be wary of knock-offs and do your research before handing over the big bucks.
From Man Mo Temple you can also head down the steps on the aptly named Ladder Street to find Upper Lascar Row, also known as Cat Street. There you’ll find an old flea market filled with second-hand collectibles and cheap knick-knacks, from jade jewelry to copper pots to weathered Chinese Communist propaganda.
No trek down this historic road would be complete without an antiquing break inside Man Mo Temple. Built in 1847 to pay tribute to the God of Literature (Man Cheong) and the God of Martial Arts (Mo Tai), the colonial era temple’s bright green-tiled roof and red trim stands out against its tightly packed high-rise neighbors. Inside, smoke wafts from incense hanging from the ceiling in golden coils.
Antique and collectibles shops appear sporadically as you head east from Man Mo Temple. Check out Oi Ling Antiques (58 Hollywood Rd., Central), whose high-end collection of fine Chinese antiques are backed by expertise along with scientific authentication certificates.
If you’re looking for a way to incorporate antiques into a modern room, visit Chine Gallery (42A Hollywood Rd., Central), where you’ll find both authentic Chinese antiques as well as contemporary designs influenced by ancient Chinese craftsmanship.
For the past few decades, contemporary art galleries have been popping up along Hollywood, adding a modern twist to its already museum-like character. Head to the Liang Yi Museum (181 -199 Hollywood Rd., Sheung Wan) where guided tours encourage visitor interaction. The private museum is the largest of its kind in Hong Kong. Revolving exhibitions share the owner and business tycoon Peter Fung’s exquisite private collection of Ming and Qing Dynasty furnishings, Western jewelry, ceramics, and other treasures.
Cat Street Gallery (222 Hollywood Rd., Sheung Wan) was one of the first studios featuring contemporary international artists to emerge on Hollywood Road before the area became an arts hub. Check out the latest exhibitions from established and emerging artists, both international and local, for a cultural experience that feels edgy and ripe with energy, yet far from commercial.
For a bit more of the avant-garde visit Contemporary by Angela Li (248 Hollywood Rd., Sheung Wan), known for the owner’s efforts to bring Chinese artists to the global scene. The space showcases revolving exhibitions in photography, ceramics, painting, and other mix media.
To see creativity in action, spend time at PMQ (35 Aberdeen St., Central). Rooms at the former Police Married Quarters now function as galleries, cafes, bookstores, shops, and offices for over 100 young creative-preneurs. Enjoy a meal with a view from the rooftop restaurant. Wander through current pop-up shops and galleries in the courtyard and marketplace. If your timing is right, you may be able to enjoy the once-a-month night market that features musical performances and stalls filled with food and other innovative products designed at PMQ.
A short walk east from Man Mo Temple toward Central, you’ll stumble upon Classified (108 Hollywood Rd., Sheung Wan) and, if you’re lucky, snag a spot at the European-style café’s sidewalk tables. Enjoy a quick coffee and treat or linger longer and enjoy wine and cheese along with your people watching.
For a more traditional pick-me-up, head to Kung Lee Sugar Cane Juice (60 Hollywood Rd., Central) for a glass and watch the cane being squeezed before your eyes as it has been since the family shop opened in 1948.
If you’re craving caffeine, try the Hong Kong version of milk tea, another echo of British influence. Brave the lack of English menus at For Kee Restaurant (J-K, 200 Hollywood Rd., Sheung Wan). The rich, sweet mix of strong black tea and condensed milk, along with the chance to experience a traditional Hong Kong Tea café, is well worth the wait if you arrive during the lunch rush. While you’re at it, order a plate of French toast (the HK version adds a delicious dose of peanut butter) or tender, marinated pork chop over rice, said to be some of the best in town.
If you’re too hungry to keep perusing the galleries, but not ready to stop, Bibo (163 Hollywood Rd., Sheung Wan) is your scene. Enjoy artfully crafted French cuisine in the ambiance of a contemporary gallery. The elegant industrial style decor marries renowned artists with vibrant street art.
Meat aficionados prepare to take a moment of silence after your first bite of in-house dry-aged, mindfully-sourced beef at Blue Butcher Bar & Restaurant (108 Hollywood Rd., Central). Be forewarned, whatever you choose – be it the award-winning Wagyu cut, bone-in rib-eye, charred French chicken, or rack of lamb – you may be tempted to put off dim sum and return the following day for lunch or brunch. The tasty small plates – like creamy burrata cheese topped with tomatoes and basil or the smoked beat and feta salad dressed in pistachio vinaigrette – will keep vegetarians equally satisfied. Arrive early and enjoy an expertly crafted cocktail downstairs at the bar.
If you’re craving sweet and sour pork, fried rice, and kung pao chicken but also want a bit of the modern funky flair that’s taking over the Road, head to Fu Lou Shou (31 Hollywood Rd., Central). You’ll need to call ahead (+852 2336 8812) to find out the secret code to let you upstairs, but don’t be deterred. The extra step is worth that relaxing drink on the terrace of this rising Hollywood star.
When the moon rises, SOHO (South of Hollywood Road) nightlife follows suit. For a remixed version of cocktail classics, head to Quinary (56-58 Hollywood Rd., Central). Led by renowned bartender Antonio Lai, the lounge’s innovative mixologists promise a sensory experience with each sip. Try the vodka-based Earl Grey Caviar Martini, with, yes, earl grey caviar and hints of elderflower, apples, and citrus; the elegant bubbly cocktail A Touch of Rose; or the Cinema Set, caramel popcorn infused rye whiskey complemented by cola syrup and angostura bitters. Better yet, walk up to the bar and ask the bartender to get creative. You won’t be sorry.
Before or after watching the Quinary bartenders show off their lightning speed muddling and mixing, enjoy vintage spirits and creative cocktails at Lily & Bloom (33 Wyndham St., Central), located in the LKF Tower. Lily, the cocktail lounge upstairs, is inspired by prohibition era speakeasies and American supper clubs and feels like walking into a dimly lit Restoration Hardware catalogue. If you’re hungry, try Lily’s small plates or head downstairs to the brasserie restaurant Bloom.