From March 21-24, Hong Kong — with its seemingly already CGI-enhanced skyline — becomes the gathering ground for the Eastern Hemisphere’s entertainment industry when Filmart opens its doors to an estimated record number of visitors and exhibitors. Between the cross-cultural hobnobbing sessions, here’s a sampling of the best new spots in the world’s Most Vertical City.
WHERE TO EAT
The elegant Cafe Gray Deluxe (49/F, Upper House, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, cafegrayhk.com) marks celeb chef Gray Kunz’s Michelin-starred return to Hong Kong. The restaurant’s expansive harbor views from the 49th floor of the new Upper House hotel deliver a knockout punch. Gwyneth Paltrow, who filmed Steven Soderbergh’s thriller Contagion in Hong Kong, had the unpretentious turkey club sandwich with fries, but we recommend you let Kunz impress you with something a little more rarefied like his soul-satisfying rendition of lobster thermidor.
8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo (Shop 202, Alexandra House, 18 Charter Road, Central, otto-e-mezzo.com), its name inspired by Fellini, heralds the renaissance of chef Umberto Bombana and a new height for Italian fine cuisine in Hong Kong. The chef, formerly at Toscana in the old Hong Kong Ritz-Carlton, was recently rewarded with two Michelin stars for his efforts. The beige, gold and cream design is as soothing as the white truffle- and cream-heavy fare. Don’t miss the lobster and mozzarella salad.
Since it was awarded a single star in 2009, making it the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world, the hole-in-the-wall dim sum joint Tim Ho Wan (Shop No. 8, Tsoi Yuen Mansion Phase 2, 2-20 Kwong Wah St., Mongkok) has boasted a one- to three-hour wait. So it came as a thrill when a second branch (9-11 Fuk Wing St., Sham Shui Po) opened in the Sham Shui Po district last year. Many argue it’s the best dim sum in southern China. Meal for two: less than $10.
The cashed-up expat crowd is flocking to Lily & Bloom (5/F & 6/F, LKF Tower, 33 Wyndham St., Central, lily-bloom.com). The brasserie-style restaurant and raw bar (Bloom), connected to a Prohibition era-themed cocktail bar (Lily), is done up in sexy dark-wood-paneled interiors. Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle) and Daniel Wu (the upcoming Inseparable, with Kevin Spacey) are regulars.
WHERE TO STAY
Recent entrant Hullett House (rooms from $650, 2A Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, hulletthouse.com) in Kowloon has reimagined the 1884 Marine Police headquarters as a funhouse of chinoiserie kitsch featuring 10 unique suites, each adorned with wildly divergent concepts but all featuring resplendent bedding and generously sized baths.
In pedestrian-swarmed Hong Kong, nothing is more elusive than a sense of repose. So kudos to The Upper House (rooms from $540, upperhouse.com) for its soothing Japanese aesthetic, hidden at the top of a 49-story tower in the center of Hong Kong Island. The hotel, which has welcomed Hugh Grant and Keanu Reeves, has 117 rooms featuring such materials as lacquered-paper paneling and limed-oak floors.
Sure to be the top draw for years to come, the Ritz-Carlton (rooms from $770, 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon, ritzcarlton.com) will return to Hong Kong in late March, when it opens at the tip of the new International Commerce Centre tower in West Kowloon. Set to be the “tallest hotel in the world,” occupying Floors 102-118 of the skyscraper, the hotel will supply some of the best urban-skyline views on the planet.
WHERE TO PLAY
It’s often said that the expat experience in Hong Kong is like the second coming of college life for multinational professionals. Fanning the nightlife flames of late is a citywide classic-cocktail revival. Leading the charge is LILY (of the aforementioned Lily & Bloom), where bartenders don early-1900s three-piece barkeep uniforms and the finely crafted Zacapa Old-Fashioned will leave you wistful for the finer things of days gone by.
Down the hill, behind an unmarked door on a deserted alleyway, you might have the good fortune of finding the stylish new speakeasy 001 (Shop G1, Welley Building, 97 Wellington St., Central). Its house Old-Fashioned will have you second-guessing your superlative statements about Lily’s version. The tart homemade maraschino cherries are a nice touch, as is the 1950s snacks menu, including deviled eggs.
Descend four flights of red-velvet stairs off Wyndham Street, the most lively party strip in town, and you’ll enter the Francophilic realm of Le Boudoir (B/F, 65 Wyndham St., Central), a lavish imagining of the bed chambers of a 19th century grand dame, where the cocktail menu consists of an innovative list of champagne-infused elixirs. A true city of extremes, Hong Kong has always been about burrowing into the urban density for hidden gems before climbing back up to look down upon it all with wonder.
HONG KONG AND HOLLYWOOD INSIDERS SHARE THEIR NOT-TO-MISS FINDS
For dining, Contagion actress Josie Ho recommends Shanghai-style restaurant Man Sing (16 Wun Sha St., Tai Hang). “There’s always a line for their famous steamed pork and duck egg,” she says. During filming, the Hong Kong resident, daughter of Macau casino tycoon Stanley Ho, took Contagion producer Stacey Sher to Hee Kee Crab Expert (Shop 1-4, G/F, 379 Jaffe Road, Wan Chai) for its spicy crab; it’s also a favorite of star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. … Producer Glenn Williamson (who shot the 2009 film Push, starring Chris Evans and Dakota Fanning, there) is a fan of the black-truffle tasting menu at the two-starred Amber restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental (15 Queen’s Road, the Landmark, Central, amberhongkong.com). … Chow Yun-fat has been spotted at the relaxed LockCha Tea House (G/F, K.S. Lo Gallery, Hong Kong Park, Admiralty, lockcha.com) for a cup of one of their direct-from-farmers teas. … Rafaella De Laurentiis, who produced Jet Li’s The Forbidden Kingdom, votes the 1930s-Shanghai-style China Club (13/F, Old Bank of China Building, Bank Street, Central) as one of the prime spots for power lunching. It’s members-only, but concierges can often secure a table. … Need a suit made in just a few days for that meeting? Gwyneth Paltrow, on her website Goop, suggests William Cheng & Son (8/F, Han Hing Mansion, 38 Hank Road, Tsim Sha Tsui) for quick turnaround and perfectly fitted tailoring.