A Taste Of Home: Emmy The Great On Where To Eat In Hong Kong
Singer-songwriter Emma-Lee Moss, who performs music under the name Emmy the Great, was born to a British father and Chinese mother in Hong Kong. Though she moved to the UK at the age of 12, she returned to Hong Kong in 2017 to visit her parents, who had moved back to the city, for Mid-Autumn Festival. Moss found herself so drawn to her home town at this time that she wrote her fourth album, April / 月音 about Hong Kong and, in March 2018, decided to move back on a longer-term basis. She gave birth to her daughter here and remained through late 2019 when she returned to London and co-founded Pavilion, a new gallery and culture initiative that promotes East Asian art and diaspora.
During Moss’ extended time in Hong Kong, she had the opportunity to revisit childhood haunts and uncover a host of new favourites, particularly when it came to dining out. Here she reveals the places that captured her palate.
What do you miss most in terms of food and drink when you are away from Hong Kong or haven’t been back for a while?
I miss the quality of the restaurants. For me, places like Samsen on Stone Nullah Lane can’t be beaten in terms of taste. I also miss the variety. Unlike some cities, which do certain types of cuisine well and others less so (see Mexican cuisine in the UK), Hong Kong has everything covered.
What is the first dish you eat when you return to Hong Kong and where do you go for it?
The first place I visit is Great in Pacific Place. It has such nostalgic connotations from the ‘90s, when I used to spend my Saturdays at the Seibu food court. I’ll get takeout sushi and a soda water, then I’ll take the escalators up to Hong Kong Park. My senses know I’m in Hong Kong at the precise moment that I leave the mall air conditioning, and the cold air breaks for the humidity outside.
Do you have a favourite restaurant in Hong Kong, for fine dining and for more casual experiences?
Before we left Hong Kong for London, my partner and I discovered La Petite Maison in Central. I’m not often found in a formal dining environment, but the food is so astonishing that I still think about it all the time. For a quick lunch, I love picking up a wrap from Mana! on Star Street––it’s climate conscious, too, so there’s less packaging and no plastic.
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 would always take someone to Sohofama for the vegetarian dim sum, followed by Club 71 (RIP) for drinks. I also love Happy Paradise. These spots are all found in Central/Sheung Wan, and so it’s really just one aspect of typical Hong Kong fare. I’m a big fan of the South Side, too. When I lived in Ap Lei Chau, I made sure everyone had the Horizon Plaza experience, and took a walk along the boardwalk.
Where do you like to meet up with old friends for food or drinks?
It used to be Club 71 every time, but since it’s closed down I might go to somewhere in Tai Kwun to enjoy the big open square. The last time I saw an old friend in Hong Kong, we ended up on the waterfront and had snacks from Citysuper and drinks from the beer kiosk.
Do you have a favourite bar or café in Hong Kong?
The Coffee Academics at The Pulse on Repulse Bay beach is so enjoyably boujie, and used to get me really high on caffeine when I was a tired new mum. My baby and I would always end up at Sip Song, the Thai restaurant on the same strip, and she’d drink a young coconut. I also love the terrace at Komune at Ovolo Southside in Wong Chuk Hang.
Is there anywhere else that you never miss visiting when you are back?
I had an annual pass to Ocean Park when I left, and was pretty much going twice a week. I don’t know that I would recommend the food, but it really is a world-beating amusement park.
Where do go to find authentic flavours of Hong Kong when you are back in London?
My friend Jenny Lau’s Instagram, @celestialpeach_uk. She has a project where she explores East and South-East Asian identity through its food. Since restaurants closed down [as a result of lockdown], her posts have kept me close to the flavours and colours of home.