Jul 19, 2012|
With big international brands gobbling up our street-level storefronts, local shops and businesses have had to turn their gaze upwards to our skyscrapers—and down into their basements—in order to find decent, affordable retail space. We round up a few of the coolest places to shop, eat and play, just a mere elevator ride away.
At this peaceful idyll overlooking the city, dim sum comes deliciously dressed up. Take, for example, the dumplings made with prized kurobuta pork, or the har gao that come with a tender crab encased inside in addition to the typical tender shrimp. Opt to eat in the more formal dining room, which is bright and airy with large windows that show off the view, or in an adjacent hip, artsy lounge-cum-library, kitted out with a high table and chairs as well as sofas that are perfect for kicking back as you chow down. It also got recognition, if no stars, in the 2012 Michelin Guide for its food. But who needs stars when you’ve got yummy dishes and a beautiful view for dessert?
28/F, Hotel Icon, 17 Science Museum Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui East, 3400-1318, www.hotel-icon.com.
Most Hongkongers try to avoid Nathan Road like the plague. Constant assaults by touts and tailors? No thanks. But if you don’t frequent that main drag, you just might miss out on a meal at Loong Yuen. Tucked down into the basement of the Holiday Inn, this Cantonese restaurant doesn’t feel one bit like a dungeon. Designed to look and feel like a traditional Chinese courtyard, enjoy the atmosphere while tucking into dishes such as Taiwanese-style smoked duck breast, deep-fried crispy chicken and sautéed prawns in chili and garlic with scrambled egg whites. They also do dim sum the right way, according to its fans, so brave the Tsim Sha Tsui crowds to check out this underground gem.
B1/F, Holiday Inn Golden Mile, 50 Nathan Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui, 2315-1006.
Situated in the basement of the Hong Kong Arts Centre, Agnès B. Cinema is famous for showing arthouse films that can’t be found anywhere else in Hong Kong. For cinephiles with an appetite for classic oldies, shorts, documentaries and other lesser-known or lesser-seen films, this cozy 193-seater is a haven of moving images. It is also one of the screening venues during each year’s International Film Festival.
Upper B/F, 2 Harbour Rd., Wan Chai, 2582-0200. For program and ticketing information, visit www.hkac.org.hk.
Taking up a staggering six floors in the petite mall, Broadway The One is a hotspot for moviegoers living in the Tsim Sha Tsui area. The biggest feature of the cinema is its unique vibrating seats that—don’t get weird ideas—move in accordance with the movie’s bass level. Since the houses are spread out vertically across the six floors, knowing which floor you’re heading to can save you some time. From now till Sep 3, there are also special offers available for select midnight screenings.
6/F-11/F, The ONE, 100 Nathan Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui, 2388-0002, www.cinema.com.hk.
This low-key nighttime haunt is probably the world’s first (and certainly Hong Kong’s only) indoor basement pétanque bar. You know, that ubiquitous metal ball-throwing game you see men playing everywhere in the South of France. Venture down the staircase into an unexpectedly cavernous subterranean realm that’s as bright as a fine summer’s day in Provence, with chanson and French electro lounge pop blaring from the speakers. There are three sand-topped lanes and two smaller trainer lanes. Balls are there for rental, but you can also buy your own, as well as chic sporty accessories. Yes, they take their game seriously, but if you’re not big on the balls, also on offer are other Francophone board games. And, s’il vous plaît, don’t be snobby and ask for fancy cocktails and dry martinis—this is pétanque and it’s all about pastis and draught beers.
18 Woo Hop St., Shek Tong Tsui, 2872-0102, www.lesboules.hk.
Ignore the building’s love hotel-esque appearance when you enter—you’re here to play. Bypass other levels of the King’s Hotel, where there are mahjong, pool and snooker enclaves, and head to the fourth floor. There, you’ll step out of the elevator and into the Royal Game Club, a roomy bar with arched windows that houses electronic dart machines and foosball tables. Behind the bar is a stash of quality board games, from Uno and Monopoly to chess, Chinese checkers and Jenga. Request a hookah, order up some drinks and snacks and check out the outdoor terrace—let the games begin.
4/F, King’s Hotel, 303 Jaffe Rd., Wan Chai, 3580-1518, www.kccity.com.hk/royalgame.
Escape from the scorching summer heat by taking a dip (or 10) in one of the city’s luxurious hotel pools. You’ll be escaping the blistering temperatures completely at MiraSpa’s infinity pool, which is tucked away underground but doesn’t feel claustrophobic in the least. With LED lights rimming the ceiling and the bottom of the pool, diving in will feel like a dream. For some post-workout or post-treatment relaxation, there are loungers and a lounge bar, where you can snack and chill to your heart’s content. By night, the pool is converted into a neon-lit party venue with smooth sounds to go with the sleek décor. Pool access comes with a spa treatment.
B/F, The Mira, 118 Nathan Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui, 2315-5111, www.themirahotel.com.
If you’d prefer to unwind under sunny skies with the option to cool off at a moment’s notice, Langham Place’s 20-meter pool is outdoors and located on the roof, surrounded by a deck and cabanas to provide some shade. You’ll be (literally) floating 42 stories above ground level. Swim some laps to the rhythm of their underwater audio system, step into a Jacuzzi or sit pretty in a lounge chair while enjoying your favorite cocktail, along with the spectacular views you can only get from on high. Get access to the pool (and hot tub, sauna and gym) by booking an hour-long treatment at the award-winning Chuan Spa.
Rooftop, Langham Place, 555 Shanghai St., Mong Kok, 3552-3388, hongkong.langhamplacehotels.com.
Head down to the basement of the Broadway in Wan Chai and pay a visit to Let’spa, an eight-room underground nook with two foot massage zones—one with private TVs and one hushed, dimmed space for serious relaxing. Let’spa has tons of deals that make spa sessions here relatively reasonable. For instance, it’s currently offering an Oxygen Botanicals facial at $640 (regular price $1,280), plus a complimentary 30-minute body massage (regular price $340). It also has combo packages, such as the two-and-a-half-hour Smart Traveler deal, which includes a 60-minute foot massage, facial and body massage and costs $1,320 (regular price $1,680). Let’s face it, this is probably the least sketchy basement in the area.
B/F, The Broadway, 54-62 Lockhart Rd., Wan Chai, 2866-9221, www.letspa.hk.
Located on the 20th floor of L Place, Ten Feet Tall is the brainchild of Dragon-i founder Gilbert Yeung. With a primary focus on quality foot massages in luxurious surroundings (think iPod docks, private rooms and flat-screen TVs), this 8,000-square-foot space gives off an airy holiday vibe with its white and bleached wood furnishings. The treatment menu is pretty straightforward, which in addition to foot massage ($268, with a current special offer of $198 for 50 minutes), features a range of body massages such as pressure point ($360), aromatic oil ($388) and lymphatic ($488). Mani-pedis are also on offer, as are neck and shoulder or hand and arm massages.
20/F-21/F, L Place, 139 Queen’s Rd. Central, 2971-1010, www.tenfeettall.com.hk.
OK, so J-Sound isn’t the biggest or the most glamorous karaoke club in town, but this sky-high Japanese establishment’s got an unbeatable selection of English and foreign language songs—all printed carefully onto thick bricks of phonebook-style tomes—that will have you singing your heart out and begging for the mic all night. If monotonous post-millennium Cantopop is more your thing, then do yourself a favor and book into a nearby Neway instead. J-Sound is for the serious belters who don’t need a buffet service, private toilets or an XBox with their rooms. Having said that, the modestly sized space does have a full-service bar, a common lounge and rooms that accommodate up to 16 soulful singers.
25/F, Circle Tower, 28 Tang Lung St., Causeway Bay, 2838-0005, www.jsound25.com.
It’s dark and grungy in this basement pub and karaoke lounge, but the jovial chatter and lively music give the place a cheeriness that draws the crowds in. This modest and literally underground dive on a very busy Tsim Sha Tsui street is full of life come nighttime, with friends throwing darts in a corner and others shouting/singing words off a hanging flatscreen TV in another. Drinks are readily available from the bar at the back, and everyone’s doing their own thing with their own clique while happily sharing a common space. For a minimum fee of $2,000, you and your friends can also book out one of the two private rooms set to the side for your own intimate karaoke experience. But stay in the main area if you like to show off your singing—and also befriend a stranger or two.
B/F, 17-19 Prat Avenue, Tsim Sha Tsui, 2311-9044.
Get away from the Wyndham madness and enjoy a great, intimate nightcap at cocktail lounge Le Boudoir. This secret chamber of Belle-Époque elegance (and decadence)—which requires descending four flights of stairs—has a fine selection of innovative cocktails, many of which feature absinthe. Among the highlights are the Lucky Star, a blend of absinthe, white sugar and rum served on the rocks, and the Boudoir Collins, which mixes gin, elderflower, lemon and mint. As you lie back on the velvet sofas and soak up the French bohemian ambience, green fairies just may appear.
B/F, 65 Wyndham St., Central, 2530-3870.
Mamoz, sitting on the top two levels of Cubus in Causeway Bay, is one of our top choices for nice views and drinks. This summer, the bar has introduced a new cocktail. The refreshing Fancy Cider, a mixer of pear cider, elderflower, peach liqueur and orange bitters, will make you forget all about the Hong Kong humidity. The award-winning Tear Rock, a gin-based cocktail with passionfruit, lemon basil, apple, mint and elderflower, is also an absolute must-try.
27/F-28/F, Cubus, 1 Hoi Ping Rd., Causeway Bay, 2890-3182, www.mamoz.hk.
For many of us, designer goods are a rare and guilty pleasure, but La Place might just take all that guilt and throw it out the window. Tucked away amongst busy Stanley Street’s restaurants and offices, right around the corner from party-central D’Aguilar Street, La Place is a mini retail haven filled with secondhand and vintage fashion and accessories from all the major brands—at very attractive discount prices. Dig through the racks for a killer cocktail dress by Parisian fashion house Leonard, or a sharp slim-fit jacket from Louis Vuitton. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to score some Jimmy Choos or Manolo Blahniks for under $1,000 a pair. This shop also has a more upscale counterpart on the 25th floor of the Stanley 11 building across the street—but we think you’ll be just fine in this comprehensive basement lair.
B/F, Abdoolally House, 20 Stanley St., Central, 2111-4130.
Looking for accessories to pair with an outfit, or just a few knickknacks for the home? Look up, way up, to the 12th floor of Lyndhurst Tower, and The 9th Muse could be your answer. This open-plan boutique stocks scarves, earrings, handbags and shiny, dangly bracelets and necklaces from designers both local and far-flung. You’ll also be able to get artisanal stationery, mugs and even cushions and couches at this immaculately laid-out one-stop shop. From the cute and quirky (like the funky rings by Bijules) to the edgy and cool (like the shades by Le Specs), The 9th Muse’s products will keep you pressing their elevator’s “up” button time and time again.
12/F, One Lyndhurst Tower, 1 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, 2537-7598. Visit their online shop at www.the9thmuse.com.
Located on steep Old Bailey Street, which is evident enough from the gallery’s name, New Gallery on Old Bailey (affectionately known as “NGOOB” to some) is a short hike up from Wyndham. Focusing mostly on contemporary Chinese art, the gallery has both a quaint little area on the ground floor and a basement lair—just ask the gallery attendant to open the door for you (ooh, mysterious). With a penchant for surrealism and modern abstraction, its latest exhibit was a group show of abstract art by Spanish artists Lusia Sanchez, Maria Dolorez Sanchez and Maria Del Mar Monty. Simply stepping into the subterranean arts space is enough to take you away from the general Central hubbub—if just for a few minutes.
B/F and G/F, 17 Old Bailey St., Central, 2234-9889, www.newgalleryonoldbailey.com.
Opened in November 2011 by critic and curator Robin Peckham, Saamlung has caused one stir after another within the arts community. The gallery sets out to fill the gap between the Gagosians and the White Cubes of the city (big, international names), and the Osages and Para/sites (local galleries content to remain local). With a decided slant towards the conceptual, their shows have featured artists from both home and abroad like Charles LaBelle, Joao Vasco Paiva, Naddim Abbas and the “King of Kowloon” Tsang Tsou-choi. Perched on the 26th floor, it’s a cultural oasis and an unexpected find in an otherwise boring and generic Central mall-slash-office-complex. The sleek white space is so high up that it’s easy to catch a glimpse of Sheung Wan and the roofs of the surrounding buildings from its windows.
26/F, Two Chinachem Plaza, 68 Connaught Rd. Central, 5181-5156, www.saamlung.com.