Cover Chef Andrew Wong (Photo: Jutta Klee)

Chef Andrew Wong of two-Michelin-starred A.Wong reveals the places in Hong Kong he never fails to feast at when in town, and what he loves most about the city that truly never sleeps

For chef Andrew Wong, food has always played an important role in his life. From 1985, his parents ran Kym’s, a Cantonese restaurant in London, where he would help out, while trips to Hong Kong would see him savour the many flavours of the city. Later, a more extensive trip across China introduced him to the regional culinary diversity within the country and was the inspiration for a new direction for his parents’ restaurant.

In 2012, Wong took over Kym’s, re-opening it as A.Wong where he aimed to highlight dishes and traditions from across China. In 2017, A.Wong received its first Michelin star, and three years later, at the start of this year, garnered a second, becoming the first Chinese restaurant outside Asia to hold two stars.

A regular visitor to Hong Kong, Wong tries to travel to the city annually when in just a few days he will pack his time with trips to dozens of restaurants. However, due to Covid-19, he hasn’t visited since 2019 when he was mostly in Macau—a place he believes is home to the best dim sum restaurant. With a deep affection for Hong Kong, he reveals some of the places he loves to go and what it is about the city and its dining scene that sets it apart from anywhere else.

See also: A Taste Of Home: Chef ArChan Chan’s Favourite Food Spots In Hong Kong

What do you miss most on the food and drink front when you are away from Hong Kong or haven’t been back for a while? 

I miss the fact that Hong Kong is as close as you get to a real 24-hour city. I think a lot of people talk about London, or Paris, or New York as 24-hour cities, but they’re not; they actually finish very early. I miss that a night out in Hong Kong means you go out for dinner, you go out somewhere else, then somewhere else, and then you go back to eat before you go home to sleep—that to me is the true essence of a 24-hour city, and you can’t do that in London, New York, or Paris, which makes Hong Kong very special.

What is the first dish you eat when you return and where do you go for it?

From an accessibility point of view, probably wonton noodles. I’m big fan of bamboo noodles; I like the romance of them as well as the taste and flavours. There’s something about these old traditions that still exist in small pockets in Hong Kong that I think is so important to try to maintain, and to understand as much as possible before they get lost forever.

See also: 10 Traditional Trades To Support In Hong Kong Before They Disappear

Do you have a favourite restaurant in Hong Kong?

I have favourite items off different menus. I like the crispy skin chicken at Above & Beyond; I really love the char siu bao at Tim Ho Wan; I love going to the fish markets and any restaurant around there; and dim sum. Dim sum is about experiencing the atmosphere more than anything. I think the best dim sum restaurant is probably The Eight in Macau. I think the dim sum is very good in Hong Kong, but I don’t think it’s a million miles away from a lot of dim sum restaurants outside of Hong Kong, though I know some people would disagree with me.

If you have visitors or guests with you, where do you ensure you always go to give them a real taste of Hong Kong?

I think the big thing is to make them really experience 24-hour dining. The best trip I ever had, we did 36 restaurants in five days and to me that’s what Hong Kong is about. I like going for a snack, and then going for lunch, then another lunch, then dessert, then going for dinner; to me that is what a Hong Kong experience is about. It’s not really about specific places, but it’s this idea that the culture is expressed through the food, and this idea that it’s really perpetual—it’s not just this one thing, it’s part of life in Hong Kong.

See also: Tim Ho Wan Is Now Philippine Owned: Jollibee Foods Corp Takes Control

Where do you like to meet up with old friends for food/drinks?

One of my favourite places, again because of the heritage, is The China Club. I love the vibe, it’s just so prehistoric in its being. There’s a beautiful dining room that’s really old-school; the food is absolutely delicious; and the bar at the top is really nice.

Do you have a favourite bar and/or café in Hong Kong?

I like to go to the milk tea place just off Hollywood Road [Lan Fong Yuen on Gage Street], then sometimes we’ll have lunch nearby at a dai pai dong.

See also: Here's How to Bag a Membership to Hong Kong's Most Exclusive Private Members' Clubs

Is there anywhere else that you never miss visiting when you are back?

It’s really corny, but I have to go to The Peak. I only recently discovered hiking in Hong Kong, which is really bad, but growing up it was always so busy when we came to HK—either visiting family or booking into a thousand restaurants, and it’s only really recently that I’ve discovered, firstly, hiking, and secondly, the beach in Hong Kong which I had never been to until recently. My wife is from the Seychelles where they have the most beautiful beaches but when I took her to the beach in Hong Kong, it was very unique; there’s a real juxtaposition between beach and old Chinese tradition which was very new and novel.

What do you always take back home with you when you leave Hong Kong?

I always take kitchen equipment that I buy from Shanghai Street. Much of it is extremely random and I will never use in the restaurant, for example a jelly mould in the shape of Pokemon for my daughter. I’ll bring random cooking utensils you will only ever see in Shanghai Street too—I use the traditional ones, but I bring back a load of random novel ones too.

See also: Where To Find The Cleanest Water Beaches In Hong Kong

Where do you go to find authentic flavours of home where you live in London?

I love to go to my friend’s restaurant in Chinatown. The owner is one of few first generation immigrants left in London from Hong Kong. He’s an old-school dim sum chef, who opened a restaurant in the early ‘70s, and has moved to a lot of different locations. His current restaurant is in Chinatown and is called New Loon Fung. He has been a family friend for many years and he’s full of stories of how Chinatown has changed over the years. He also has a restaurant in Hong Kong called Jubilant Feast in Sau Mau Ping, which does 2000 customers a day—the thought of that makes me want to faint!

What do you love most about Hong Kong’s dining scene?

I love that in a weird kind of way it’s very innovative, in that it constantly moves and changes. There are always going to be people who are not open to change but as a place, the cuisine is very fluid and it’s open to all kinds of new ideas, which I think is incredible. I see people trying new concepts all the time and giving things a go. And a lot of these concepts are very daring, especially for a market like Hong Kong where if it doesn’t work you are going to be in trouble, more so than if you were in London for example, where rent is nowhere near as high, so I really admire that about Hong Kong. People are constantly trying new things, pushing boundaries and testing the waters. And on the flip side of that, the customer base is obviously willing to try it.

See also: 6 Heritage Venues To Enjoy Dim Sum In Hong Kong

Are there any specific restaurants or chefs in HK that you would highlight as being particularly innovative in this way?

I think Vicky Cheng [of VEA and Wing] is doing something really cool with both of his restaurants. Last time I was in Hong Kong, I went to Belon, and although I can get that style of food in London very easily, done to that level it was very special. I also love the concept of Yardbird. I think it’s great that you can open a restaurant based on a concept that traditionally is something you’d see on the side of a street. There are a few people trying new things with dim sum too, which I also think is great, because it keeps the ball moving.

How have the last year-18 months been for you? How has the pandemic affected you? Have you pivoted?

I’m going to be honest—the last 18 months have been okay. It has been tough for the industry, but I think if you wallow in something which is universal or global, there’s nothing to be gained from it; it’s just a race to the bottom, In these times, you have to try to look at the things that are positive. For me, I got to spend time with my kids. Over the last 18 months, we’ve also won two Michelin stars, and I picked up several accolades in the UK [including Best Chef at the National Restaurant Awards 2021, the Chef Award at The Cateys 2021], so it hasn’t been all doom and gloom. We’ve also been able to keep restaurant pretty much full, we’ve managed to keep our team together, and we’ve survived. At the same time, I think we are a stronger restaurant now than we were 24 months ago, which isn’t the case for a lot of restaurants, and I feel very privileged and thankful for that.

See also: How Pirata Group Has Grown Despite The Challenges Of A Global Pandemic

NOW READ

How Hong Kong’s The Chairman Restaurant Redefines Chinese Fine Dining

The Best Dim Sum In Hong Kong

The Fine Dining Chef Supporting Migrants And Feeding The Hungry

© 2022 Tatler Asia Limited. All rights reserved.