Cover Jackie Lee Morrison, founder of Lashings in Wellington, New Zealand (Photo: Tabitha Arthur Photography)

The granddaughter of "Queen of Cakes" Maria Lee Tseng Chiu-kwan, who established Maria’s Bakery in Hong Kong, is keeping the family baking tradition alive with her dessert bar and café Lashings in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares the food she misses most from Hong Kong

Like so many successful businesses, Jackie Lee Morrison’s bakery Lashings came about organically. From baking at home, to an online-only platform specialising in single-origin chocolate brownies, she then started trading at two markets, introducing special flavours on a rotating basis. A following developed and in 2018 she took part in the city’s annual food festival, Welly on a Plate, with a pop-up ice cream brownie bar over two nights.

“It was insane. I remember baking hundreds of brownies, making ice cream and toppings and feeling like the event was going to flop and nobody would come,” she remembers. “Half an hour before the event opened, there was a massive queue outside, and people were queuing consistently for the whole evening. The next day it happened all over again. It was a huge milestone and the first moment where I thought that this weird little business of mine may actually be worth something.”

Three weeks later Lee Morrison opened a permanent premises, Lashings, a dessert bar and café that’s open late. Famous for those brownies that put Lee Morrison’s whole journey in motion, Lashings is also loved from its Ice Cream Brownie Bar, where guests choose a warm brownie of choice that is then finished with ice cream, unlimited sauces and toppings. Other signature treats include its SoNuts (sourdough donuts) with weekly changing flavours, iced cinnamon rolls, and cheese scones with a homemade hot sauce glaze.

Related: Gerard Dubois Opens New Sourdough-Focused Deli in Wan Chai

Lee Morrison didn’t expect to be running a cult bakery in Wellington, New Zealand, but that’s not to say she didn’t have all the tools to do so, having attended culinary school and spent time working in some of London’s leading professional kitchens including Claridge’s Hotel, Chiltern Firehouse and Galvin La Chapelle.

“I had always insisted that I was more of an intuitive chef than a pastry chef,” says Lee Morrison. “But when I went to culinary school I completely fell in love with the precision of pastry. I ended up working my way through London's five-star hotels and fine-dining scene, which wasn't really the plan, but it was a fantastic learning experience. One of my favourite things to do is to laminate pastry by hand, because I just find it to be so incredibly satisfying. My grandmother is particularly pleased that I appear to be following in her footsteps!”

Lee Morrison’s grandmother, Maria Lee, established Maria’s Bakery in Hong Kong in 1966, at one point overseeing an empire of bakeries in Hong Kong and Taiwan with franchises in North America. Today, outposts of Maria’s Bakery can still be found across Hong Kong, with the most recent addition the new 1966 Baking Alliance concept in the revitalised Central Market.

The last time Lee Morrison visited Hong Kong was pre-pandemic to celebrate her grandmother’s 90th birthday, and she would have continued to return annually had Covid not kept her away for the last few years. “Hong Kong has some of the best food in the world,” she says. “You can find pretty much anything you are looking for.”

Related: What To Eat & Drink At The Revitalised Central Market

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?

Honestly, everything! There are some spots here in Wellington where I go for my Chinese food fix, but it just isn't the same as being in Hong Kong. I always have a huge list of places I need to go when I visit, and sometimes I dream about specific dishes and wake up craving them.

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

One of the first things I do is drag my husband to eat jook [congee] at Law Fu Kee on Des Voeux Road. Jook is something that is so nostalgic for me—whenever my grandparents would visit us in London, it was always the first meal my mother had ready for them, so it's the first thing I want to eat when I land in Hong Kong.

Do you have a favourite restaurant in Hong Kong? For fine dining and for more casual experiences?

My stand-out meals were at The Chairman and Yue Hing. The dish I quite literally dream about is The Chairman's Flower Crab Rice Noodle dish. I've only had it once and it was so intensely delicious, eight years later I'm still thinking about it. On more than one occasion I've literally woken up remembering the flavour of that dish, and wanted to cry because I was so far away and couldn't satisfy the craving! Two very dear friends took me to Yue Hing the last time I was in Hong Kong, and it was the most intense dai pai dong experience, but it was also the best peanut butter sandwich I've ever had.

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

I feel like a must-do is afternoon tea—my grandmother and one of her life-long friends took me to Sun Ying Kee Café in Causeway Bay a little while ago and it's a memory that has stuck with me. Every time I think of that afternoon, I see rivers of golden syrup being poured on top of giant slabs of peanut butter-stuffed French toast, a huge butter pat melting into the sticky pool, can taste my milk tea, and feel the hard-backed seat of the booth.

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

I usually ask my friends to take me somewhere new or interesting; somewhere I haven't been before. Because I'm so rarely in Hong Kong these days and because the dining scene changes so rapidly, I like to be surprised. Having said that, I am absolutely a sucker for Din Tai Fung!

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

I'm not sure if this counts, but I really love going to Lan Fong Yuen in Central for their chicken chop ramen, and also a late-night Tsui Wah sesh. Honestly, this is just pure nostalgia for me!

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

I love walking through the wet markets and taking the Star Ferry. It's something that is so important for me to do when I visit; so iconically Hong Kong.

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

I make sure to buy a few bottles of Kowloon Soy Co. light and dark soy sauce. Always. I ran out sometime just before the pandemic and every time I open my pantry now, I'm disappointed not to have any to hand.

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

There's a couple of places I go in Wellington: one is KC Café, which is on Courtenay Place, the other is Dragon's on Tory Street. KC Café, for me, is probably the closest I can get to Hong Kong-style Chinese food, and Dragon's is my go-to for dim sum. The other places I adore are Taste of Home on Vivian Street and Chongqing Kitchen on Dixon Street. Taste of Home is a tiny place, run by Tina and Steve, who met working in fine dining kitchens. They make the most incredible Northern Chinese-style noodles and are always slammed. I consider them to be a real jewel of the city. Chongqing Kitchen is my go-to for hot pot, which is one of my all-time favourite meals. Their broth is awesome.

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