Jun 14, 2012|
They might have started off as factory towns, or come from other humble beginnings, but these five districts in different corners of the city are worth exploring right now—because artists, restaurateurs and creatives are moving in and consequently stirring up change. Here are the stories of these areas' transformations, and how to check out the upstarts there before they become mainstream.
High up in factory buildings are hidden gems, from dim sum restaurants with a twist to an urban farm. By Yannie Chan and Rosanna Chu.
Judging Ngau Tau Kok and its neighbor Kwun Tong by their looks alone would be a shame. Beneath the intimidating cargo lifts, enormous trucks and bland factory buildings, these industrial sites cultivate an amazing selection of cultural activities—so many that one weekend will not suffice to explore them all. The diversity of things to do, ranging from crafty DIY-ing to indoor war games, belies street after street of identical-looking, rundown buildings. We may already be in the thick of summer, but in Ngau Tau Kok, where workshops, the live music scene and an actual farm are blossoming, it feels more like spring.
In an effort to promote traditional Chinese handicrafts, local artist Kady Fung founded this workshop in 2011. During Sealing Stone’s courses, you can learn seal engraving or make portrait stamps, resin jewelry and accessories with wire. If Fung’s regular schedule doesn’t jive with yours, customers can also book a special daytime class for a minimum of two people.
Room 32, 11/F, Sing Win Industrial Building, 15-17 Shing Yip St., Kwun Tong, 2345-9282, www.sealingstone.com.hk.
This place is a verdant oasis in a desert of gray concrete. Founded by passionate Hongkongers experienced in many disciplines—from design, beekeeping and farming to art and photography—HK Farm is a 4,000-square-foot rooftop farm that aims to grow local produce, as well as to promote its consumption. It cultivates organic food and also offers a number of opportunities to interested visitors—like mini-tours, a farmer’s market and urban beekeeping instruction—on weekends from noon to 5pm. The 2 Years Ahead space, located one floor below the rooftop farm, is a studio and retail area for sustainable projects and products.
Rooftop, Easy Industrial Building, 140 Wai Yip St., Ngau Tau Kok, 6447-5740, www.hkfarm.org and www.2yearsahead.org.
A bit of a departure from the artsy, indie vibe of some of these other enclaves, City Hunter is a massive indoor war games arena that’s open 24 hours a day, every day, including public holidays. For all you hard-core gamers out there, a four-hour time slot is only $120-190 with an additional gear rental cost of $80 per person. Bring long pants, sports shoes and a minimum of six people. All staff members speak Cantonese, Mandarin and English.
4/F, Mai Gar Industrial Building, 146 Wai Yip St., Kwun Tong, 3105-0666, www.cityhunter.com.hk.
Planning to sink $1,000 into a mass-produced leather wallet or bag? Instead, consider paying Alri (pronounced elle-ree) Workshop a visit, a place that offers the tools and supplies to make a unique leather bag yourself. Under the tutelage of owner Alvin, you can also make a coin purse, iPhone case, wallet, camera bag or camera straps—he can even help you if you want to craft it in the style of a brand-name item. Expect to spend at least four to five hours (and anywhere from $450 to $1,000) on your projects—leather-work is time-intensive! Book a time slot on their website first.
Flat D, 4/F, Wing Hing Lee Industrial Building, 32 Hung To Rd., Kwun Tong, 3791-2217, www.alriworkshop.com.
Given its mostly industrial tenants, you’d think Kwun Tong would be dead at night. But nestled high up in a row of generic factory buildings is Strategic Sounds, which hosts shows with walk-in ticketing ($100-150) most weekends. The live music venue showcases mostly experimental and digital artists who attract niche followings, with Japanese noise music master KK Null performing on July 8. The fact that it’s a small space with no formal stage leads to intimate performances. Owner Andrew Leung maintains the venue while juggling a day job, motivated by his aim to enrich the local music scene.
Shop E, 10/F, High Win Factory Building, 47 Hoi Yuen Rd., Kwun Tong, 9313-8371, www.facebook.com/stgsounds.
These folks take a cup of joe super seriously. Beginners can opt to enroll in a latte art class or a barista course, but for those already well-versed in the coffee arts who need to outfit their kitchens, Coffee Lover carries professional coffee-makers and grinders. These passionate Java experts even roast their own blend made up of a careful selection of beans from five different countries. Never mind your caffeine high—don’t walk away without trying a mug of the Villa Donna coffee, too.
Flat B, 3/F, Wai Yip Industrial Building, 171 Wai Yip St., Kwun Tong, 3488-0278, www.wingyipcoffee.com.
This restaurant cooks up dim sum of hotel quality at reasonable prices in a rarely frequented part of town. In the hands of a talented chef—who allegedly has celeb-worthy credentials but prefers to keep a low profile—traditional dim sum items are re-fashioned into contemporary creations. Steamed pork dumplings are topped with black truffles ($12/piece) and the traditional rice rolls with dough inside are replaced with a crispy fried roll stuffed with seafood ($20). No single dish, however, showcases Dim Delicious’ innovation more than their signature baked almond juice bun ($14 for two pieces). The chef selected a specific almond from Hebei province in China after sampling almonds grown all over the world. Dim Delicious is open daily from 10:30am to 3:30pm, so don’t head over too late in the day or you’ll miss out.
Flat G, 2/F, Wang Kwong Industrial Building, 45 Hong To Rd., Kwun Tong, 2950-0087.
Don’t judge a book by its cover—or in this case, Wong Chuk Hang by its factories. From private kitchens to fitness spaces to high-design shops, this neighborhood is fast leaving its past behind. By Celine Mahtani and Brian Yap.
On the whole, Wong Chuk Hang’s industrial buildings are chockablock with wholesale food distributors, Chinese furniture-making workshops and other businesses that aren’t exactly easily browse-able. Slowly but surely, though, the area is undergoing a renaissance: art galleries love the lower rents and high ceilings of these loft-like spaces; two private kitchens opened up here for the same reasons: cost and space. Its airy venues for rent are also attracting gyms and shops, making this up-and-coming neighborhood the perfect place for a Saturday afternoon wander.
Located in the most unexpected of places, on the 22nd floor of the Kwai Bo Industrial Building (right next door to a wholesale fruit distributor), this beautifully designed private kitchen is a foodie’s paradise. The highly acclaimed and charismatic chef Stanley Wong cooks up tasty, creative dishes for groups of friends, corporate dinners or celebratory get-togethers, putting together customized menus to fit particular tastes and dietary needs. Private cooking classes are also available. Dinners start at $800 per person; advance booking required.
Unit B, 22/F, Kwai Bo Industrial Building, 40 Wong Chuk Hang Rd., Wong Chuk Hang, 6799-9925, www.culinart.com.hk.
After moving to Wong Chuk Hang from Stanley two years ago, this pilates, fitness and yoga studio has expanded—both in terms of literal space and class offerings. Kitted out with state-of-the-art studios, Flex also boasts a nail bar, a retail shop with fitness gear and healthy treats for sale.
1/F, Regency Centre (Phase II), 43 Wong Chuk Hang Rd., Wong Chuk Hang, 2813-2212.
From the modern aesthetics of the space to the down-to-earth, friendly attitude of the staff, this isn’t your stereotypical gym. With just four personal trainers, you’re guaranteed a personalized, tailored experience. Head out here during the weekend and sign up for a free trial—while you’re recovering, there’s also a balcony with a killer view of the mountains where you can wind down after a tiring workout.
20/F, Regency Centre (Phase II), 41-43 Wong Chuk Hang Rd., Wong Chuk Hang, 2552-9925.
Tucked away in a run-down factory building (what else is new?), this arts space is a sanctuary for sophisticated connoisseurs of culture and curious visitors alike. The spacious gallery allows for more elaborate, large-scale exhibitions, like the current one (until July 31) by Beijing-based artist Lin Guocheng, who depicts natural scenes inspired by Chinese folklore in a unique, black-and-white style.
10/F, 12 Wong Chuk Rd., Wong Chuk Hang, 2153-3812.
A colorful and eclectic array of carefully curated homeware items fills this cute store, located in a space formerly occupied by a stool factory. On display is everything from accessories and stationary to toys and shoes, as well as furniture and artwork.
M/F, BT Centre, 23 Wong Chuk Hang Rd., Wong Chuk Hang, 2553-9811, www.mirthhome.com.
Master chef Eddy Leung—whose credentials include The Peninsula, the Ritz-Carlton and the popular (now-closed) Poison Ivy—has made a private kitchen and cooking workshop out of this old factory unit. Every ingredient is chosen with the utmost care—starting from the little organic garden with romaine lettuce, Italian parsley and rosemary that he maintains on the balcony outside.
Room 5B, Kwai Bo Industrial Building, 40 Wong Chuk Hang Rd., Wong Chuk Hang, 3104-4664.
Given all the restaurants and galleries that are cropping up, this neighborhood is turning into the Tai Hang of Western District. By Jacqueline Garwood and Daphne Leung.
Since ritzy apartment complex Island Crest opened its doors, new eateries have flooded this Western District neighborhood to meet the demand of hungry residents after hours. Meanwhile, a handful of alternative galleries have also set up shop in an attempt to evade the higher rents of Sheung Wan and Central. Sai Ying Pun itself is set on the hillside, but don’t let the inclines scare you off—you’d be missing out on the low-key wonders of this modest neighborhood. A more bohemian, slightly edgier SoHo of sorts, the area around First and Second Streets, just south of Queen’s Road West, is now home to an increasing number of independent restaurants and galleries—all spirited small businesses run by people who are extremely passionate about what they do.
Expect authentic, British-style home-cooked meals, with comfort food like chicken noodle soup and on-the-go options like chicken baguettes. Everything is homemade (except the bread) and fresh. They also deliver all over Hong Kong Island.
Shop 11, G/F, Hang Sing Mansion, 72 High St., Sai Ying Pun, 2559-2190, www.thechickenman.com.hk.
Though it just opened in April, this humble, cozy western restaurant (whose name stands for Food n' Beverage, natch) is frequently crowded with neighborhood residents. Their German-style roasted pork knuckle, grilled Scottish rib-eye steak and stewed oxtail are highly recommended.
Shop G, G/F, Tung Cheung Building, 1 Second St., Sai Ying Pun, 2559-3911.
A new bakery, Eat My Cakes is a font of mouth-watering goodies from pies and cheesecake to cookies and cupcakes (try the “Death by Chocolate”). Catering is also available.
G/F, 21 Western St., Sai Ying Pun, 3480-8842, www.eatmycakes.com.hk.
This two-year-old humble dessert shop’s scholarly décor fits its name, with wooden tables, chairs and menus modeled after notebooks. Try the tiramisu made with mascarpone cheese, the French toast bread pudding with vanilla ice cream and their take on Hong Kong-style milk tea.
G/F, 150 Third St., Sai Ying Pun, 2803-2933.
It may be popular with nearby HKU students, but adults also find this Sai Ying Pun pub a refreshing alternative to the bars in SoHo. (For one thing, its prices are cheaper!) Order a pint and some fish and chips while chatting with the two-year-old bar’s loyal customers from around the neighborhood.
G/F, 389-391 Queen's Rd. West, Sai Ying Pun, 2698-2468.
From illustration and graphic design to street art and works referencing pop culture, Above Second strives to stay ahead of the curve. A platform for innovative contemporary art, this gallery showcases an array of Hong Kong artists and international artists. We hear they throw pretty cool parties, too—so you’d best get on their mailing list.
31 Eastern St., Sai Ying Pun, 3483-7950, www.above-second.com.
With its grand opening set for the end of the month, this newcomer to the Sai Ying Pun scene aims to be a creative hub for young, local artists. Avant-garde, conceptual and up-cycled art that’s environmentally conscious are among their primary interests. Check out their inaugural exhibition, “Four Corners on Third Street,” after the gallery’s grand opening on June 28.
7 Third St., Sai Ying Pun, 2549-5777.
Eclectic stores, art galleries and even eateries have sprung up in this neighborhood's former factory buildings. By Hana R. Alberts.
The entrepreneurs who have made Chai Wan their home base echo each other in their reasons for setting up shop in this part of town. More space and lower rents were the initial impetus—but as a bonus, many say, they've found a friendly community of creative thinkers. Many of the venues profiled are open by appointment only, so they recommend calling ahead if you're planning on paying a visit. Inspired by the annual Fotanian Open Studios fair each January—in a neighborhood that's already seen a similar shift from industrial old-timers to new creative tenants—a group of Chai Wan denizens joined forces to launch a similar event in May called Chai Wan Mei. It proved successful in bringing folks out to this neck of the woods, so keep up with their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ChaiWanMei) for upcoming special events dedicated to showcasing what's happening in Chai Wan.
The mission of Platform China's original outlet in Beijing was to track down, support and exhibit emerging Chinese contemporary artists—and it plans to do the same in Hong Kong. The inaugural exhibition, which runs through July, features a single, large piece by Chinese artist Jia Aili. Part gallery and part salon, manager Claudia Albertini also plans to host visiting artists and encourage site-specific projects.
Unit 601, 6/F, Chai Wan Industrial City (Phase I), 60 Wing Tai Rd., Chai Wan, 9768-8093, www.platformchina.org.
This cozy café slash restaurant—already well-known among the city's epicures for its top-quality coffee—arose out of necessity, according to owner Jehan Chu. Expect a satisfying menu of hearty salads and innovative sandwiches, plus desserts by a former Press Room Group pastry chef; consume them in the company of friends or a magazine in Chaiwanese's sunny, open space.
Room 1307, 13/F, Chai Wan Industrial City (Phase I), 60 Wing Tai Rd., Chai Wan, 6111-4583, www.chaiwanese.com.
With outposts in Mong Kok and Causeway Bay, X Games—which sells equipment for board sports of all stripes, from snow to surf to skate—was forced out of Central two years ago because of high rents. But in this more spacious location, there's enough room to fit tons of hard-core merchandise plus a small half-pipe in one corner. X Games also has skateboards that customers can use for free to fool around on
the half-pipe; the ramp is particularly busy with boarders on Saturdays and Sundays.
Flat 1201-2, 12/F, Chai Wan Industrial City (Phase I), 60 Wing Tai Rd., Chai Wan, 2890-2321, www.xgamehk.com.
Newcomers to the area, Benoit Barras, along with his brother G and another business partner, opted to open their custom motorcycle workshop in Chai Wan for the same reasons as the other entrepreneurs: to have more space, but also to be a part of a creative community. Angry Lane also sells a carefully curated range of chic biker slash hipster products, from high-end helmets and sunglasses to denim to hand-made leather accessories.
Unit 5, 8/F, Cornell Centre, 50 Wing Tai Rd., Chai Wan, www.angrylane.com.
A store for serious mountain biking enthusiasts, head here to pick out your next ride or to fix up your old one. Much of Chronic's business is wholesale, selling to other bike stores in the city, so make sure and call to see if it's open before you cycle over for a visit. Be warned, the shop is closed on Sundays.
Unit 608, 6/F, Chai Wan Industrial City (Phase II), 60 Wing Tai Rd., Chai Wan, 3564-8980.
These two sister shops are treasure troves for funky, trendy clothing and accessories for both men and women. Undercover sells only attire and shoes by the Japanese brand of the same name. A few doors down, past a wholesale beer and soda distributor, the walls of Silly Thing are lined with demure, understated pieces: shoes, sunglasses and leather goods. The boutique is selective, stocking brands like Chapel of Dawn, Alden and Arts & Science.
Undercover: Unit 11, G/F, Block B, Ming Pao Industrial Centre, 18 Ka Yip St., Chai Wan, 2881-8002, www.think-silly.com.
Silly Thing: Unit 8, G/F, Block B, Ming Pao Industrial Centre,
18 Ka Yip St., Chai Wan, 2898-2199, www.think-silly.com.
In two separate beautiful spaces,10 Chancery Lane has the facilities and the resources to showcase large-scale works by contemporary artists from both Hong Kong and abroad. The gallery is generally open on weekends, but call first just to make sure.
Unit 502-504 and Unit 603-5, 5/F and 6/F, Chai Wan Industrial City (Phase I), 60 Wing Tai Rd., Chai Wan, 2810-0065, www.10chancerylanegallery.com.
One of the region's most well-known art book publishers, Asia One has a two-year-old bookstore on the ground floor with Hong Kong's widest selection of specialty photography volumes. As of May, the company also launched a brand new gallery that's exceedingly unique in a city full of funky arts spaces. Occupying 10 floors of a stairwell, the art is hung along the walls and at the landings.
G/F and 3-13/F, Asia One Tower, 8 Fung Yip St., Chai Wan, 2976-0913, www.aophotobook.com and www.aovertical.com.
Newly opened in April, this decade-old, Tokyo-established shop is a dealer in first printings and rare editions of photography, art and literature. Viewing is by appointment only, but owner Josh Carey says he'd be happy to show off some of Bondi's special stock to interested visitors, too.
Unit 1302, 13/F, Chai Wan Industrial City (Phase I), 60 Wing Tai Rd., Chai Wan, 9821-5290.
Located closest to the MTR station of all of these places, Ma Cuisine is the private kitchen arm of French gourmet food and wine purveyor Monsieur Chatte, which has a shop in Sheung Wan and another in Elements. The restaurant is a homely venue with a long wooden table, an open kitchen and a seating area for smaller groups. Reservations required.
Unit A, 3/F, Unison Industrial Building, 7 Sun Yip St., Chai Wan, 5129-7249,
Creative City map co-founder and special contributor Louise Wong revisits a familiar area on the hunt for new places to eat and shop.
I was born in Kowloon City, and at the time, one set of grandparents lived on Prince Edward Road while the other lived two blocks away on Lancashire Road. My family moved away to Australia, but nearly every summer, we would return for Chinese New Year. When I moved back to Hong Kong in the late 1990s, Kowloon City was again my stomping ground.
Because of nearby Kai Tak airport and those legendary hairpin turns the pilots performed, the area was made up of low-rises—many of them post-war beauties. Sadly, that's changing, and the familiar Hong Kong cacophony of construction can be heard throughout Kowloon City as more high-rise towers emerge.
Neighborhood mainstays—like the specialist stores for bean curd, tea, Shanghainese groceries and coffins (yes, coffins) as well as Vietnamese, Thai, Chiu Chow and steamboat restaurants—are all still there. For years, Kowloon City was a well-known celebrity hangout for late-night suppers and Chinese dessert. In a parallel these days, the area’s European-style cake shops (the number of which seem to multiply exponentially) are just as likely to have some sort of celebrity partnership.
Luckily, the parts of Kowloon City that I remember haven’t completely disappeared—but they have evolved. The neighborhood has always had a vibrant wet-market culture, but it’s now home to many new places, including purveyors of premium food products ranging from fresh vegetables to gourmet imports. One sign of the neighborhood’s change: Iberian hams are now displayed just as proudly as Yunnan ones.
Owned by the reticent Mr. Lee, who reportedly worked at a famous five-star hotel across the harbor, this newly opened café is just two doors down from the well-known and well-loved Ceres Boulangerie et Patisserie (23 Fuk Lo Tsun Rd., 2716-3383) and serves sandwiches, cakes and scones as well as other savories.
19 Fuk Lo Tsun Rd., Kowloon City, 2716-3383.
This is celebrity chef Tony Wong's third location in Kowloon City, following Cookies Quartet (G/F, 9A Lion Rock Rd., 2382-2817) and its follow-up, Patisserie Tony Wong (74 Fuk Lo Tsun Rd., 2382-6639).
G/F, 65 Lion Rock Rd., Kowloon City, 2382-6669.
This eatery has a mouthwatering array of imported cheeses and wines that are only slightly outdone by the spectacle of Iberian ham shoulders hanging from above. Cuban cigars are also available.
63 Fuk Lo Tsun Rd., Kowloon City, 2383-8370.
This boutique is a family-run business known for providing decades of outlet shopping. Why visit now? It recently moved to a two-story location and took on a more retro feel because the owners wanted to pay homage to the history of the company. Originally established in 1938 by a family from Macau, Seven Kee started as a rice and cooking oil retailer on the streets of Kowloon City. It evolved into an outlet store, one of many on this street, featuring designs from Japan and Korea as well as their own locally designed line, SK. They've got another branch, Seven Kee Original, nearby (39 Lion Rock Road).
G/F, 50-52 Lion Rock Rd., Kowloon City, 2716-1638.
Louise Wong is the co-founder of Creative City, a map that lists quirky, funky spots for design and culture across Hong Kong—much like the ones we've profiled in these five changing districts. The newly updated map (in limited-edition packaging designed by local illustrators and artists) costs $68 and is available at bookstores, shops (including Kapok, 3 Sun St., Wan Chai, 2520-0114) and www.creativecity.hk.