Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A weekend in Hong Kong - Tsui Wah, Egg Tarts, Carbone's and yum cha

I’m a sucker for travelling. A lot. I love my trips often, rather than saving up for a month long trip once a year or something. 

So I often myself doing weekend trips (although this is partially because of something else I’m a part of, but that’s a different story), and often to Asia; which from Australia isn’t necessarily a short trip. 

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So when I told people I was going to Hong Kong for a weekend (two nights) people thought I was nuts. 

But why not? It had been 3 months since my last trip overseas (long by my standards), I’d get in by lunchtime on Friday, and leave just after lunch on Sunday. That’s a solid two days, plus I was staying with a friend, so all I had to cough up for was flights and food. 

After an overnight to Malaysia (and a breakfast of teh tarik and nasi lemak which rock my world) and a flight to Hong Kong, I cannot tell you how it good it felt to get through immigration and be in Hong Kong. 

I adore travel and I adore Hong Kong.

It sounds so cheesy but once I dropped my stuff off at my friend’s and headed into the city to meet them, my soul felt like it had been released. This euphoric rush which was so liberating it sent tingles through my body and spread into a goofy grin on my face. 

So what do you do? 

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Well your friends rush you into Tsui Wah, because you reveal to your friends you haven’t really eaten a proper meal since your breakfast 7 hours ago. 

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 You slurp down fishball noodle soup, and munch on crunchy toasted bread covered in butter and drizzled in condensed milk. 

We’re on holidays here; no judgement can be had. 

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Then as your friends go shopping for hiking boots, you hustle in to Tai Cheong bakery, to have the best egg tarts I’ve ever come across in my life. You think those little things at yum cha back home are good? These beasts are the size of your palm, golden in custard and in pastry and when you buy them from the bakery, they’re hot. Steaming in the drizzly cool weather, warm in the palm and melting in your mouth. Pastry crumbling into pieces as you try to clumsily save it all while carrying an umbrella, camera and hand bag. It’s real elegant business. 

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Take some time to swan around the PMQ, what used to be a government apartment building, but now turned into a little creative hub with independent and local designers taking up small boutiques. There’s a couple of great little coffee shops to get your matcha and chai (and coffee too I suppose) fixes if you need a little breather from emptying your wallet out all over the place. 

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Have dinner at your local friend’s favourite cantonese style Chinese restaurant, Tsui Hang Village, and eat every single type of protein that exists. The peking duck is obviously not to be missed, but don’t forget the char siu too. 

Wake up early the next morning and go local for breakfast. Although we actually originally intended to go somewhere more western…Hong Kong doesn’t do weekend mornings very well and a lot of these ‘cafe’ style places actually don’t open until 10am or so! What would Melbourne think?

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So instead we pop into For Kee, where we squeeze through the crowded room, wave to the elderly couple manning the tables to indicate where we were gonna hang and have the best Hong Kong milk tea I’ve ever had. Normally I find it really bitter, but just stick with it because…well I ordered it. Here is where I’ve had how Hong Kong milk tea should really taste, brewed perfectly so it’s not bitter, with just the right touch of sweetness. Yes. 

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My friend’s on a bit of a health/protein kick, so he gets ham and egg, and a pork cutlet sandwich with tomato, which is totally legendary. 

The noodles are a huge hearty serve, and are amazing value for money if you’re hungry. And I was.

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You then go play Archery Tag and end up with bruises in places you didn’t realise you could have them. Not from the foam tipped arrows, but from diving into the ground constantly; good work Ash.

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Don’t tell anyone, but when I’m in Asia, I love me a matcha latte from Starbucks. It’s even better after a whole 2 hours of Archery Tag and your friend accidentally orders you a Venti instead of a Tall. I’d never had a Venti before. It was amazing. It never ended! 

Who does pre-dinner? This mofo, obviously. On the way to our dinner reservation on Saturday night, my friend insisted we pop into his number one favourite restaurant in Hong Kong (a claim one never takes lightly), just to have a look.

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We walk into Yardbird, buzzing and full with the gorgeous people of Hong Kong. We look at the menu; because we are here to look, when the owner comes up to us and I find myself asking what he can serve us in 5 minutes.

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15 minutes later, with a glass of umeshu, two shots of sake and incredible liver mousse served on milk bread with crispy shallots and we’re the ones buzzing as we hurry to make our actual dinner reservation. 

I’m usually a bit hesitant about eating non-local food when I travel, especially when I’m just there for a short trip. I may as well get the best of what I don’t normally find at home right? 

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But shit. You’ve got to do Carbone’s guys. Originally from New York, they’ve really brought the New York Italian experience to Hong Kong; you might forget you’re in Asia for a bit. 

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Dark wood, chequered floors, copious amounts of red and black curtains, cheeky humour from the waiters, it’s like the setting of the Godfather. May have also helped that we were all wearing black and looking super slick. 

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Everything at Carbone’s is amazing. Crunchy toasted garlic bread and thin slices of fatty-melt-in-your-mouth prosciutto. 

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The whole wheel of parmesan that’s just casually wheeled over to your table and picked at to make your serves. Think my eyeballs might have popped out of my head when I saw it.

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Octopus is tender, but still firm, sweetened by a beautiful bed of roasted capsicums. Can’t go past burrata either, but really, really, the star here is the beef carpaccio. Oh my goodness. Wagyu beef with walnut and black truffle. You almost couldn’t tell it was there, so thin, it looked like it might’ve been ironed into the plate. But goodness, it was so tender, and just trickled with the right amount of olive oil and just a feather of bread crumbs for crunch. Could’ve had two.


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Pasta is as you expect it, simple, but hearty; the lobster ravioli is far better than I anticipated. 

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My friend doesn’t stop talking about the meatballs before we arrive, and once we try them I get it. I do. These are the size of a fist each and despite being all meat, are surprisingly airy and light, not dense and richly meaty. The tomato sauce they’re sitting in is beautifully tart and sweet at the same time. 

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How can you choose dessert when it’s brought out like this for you to choose from? Terrible.

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We compromise with having 3 of the 4; the cheesecake and tiramisu are gorgeous; but surprisingly to me, it’s the carrot cake that’s the star here. So moist and fluffy; I adored the cream cheese icing as well. A must have. 

I don’t have pictures of here, but Foxglove bar in Hong Kong is a fabulous place to end your night. Follow the lit corridors, that feel like you’re entering into the Kingsmen headquarters (hell to the yeah if you’re a fan of the movie too!), with gorgeous walking sticks in glass cases on display, before entering the vast bar; that feels very 1940’s, Great Gatsby fabulous. Plush, curved everything, dimmed lights and live jazz band. It’s very chic. 

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The next morning after booking AirBnb hotels for an upcoming trip to Tokyo like a boss, I made my way to the Landmark to pop into the Urban Bakery; purely for the salted egg yolk custard croissant. 

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Way, way yum. It’s much crunchier on the outside than a usual croissant, but the salted caramel inside is the perfect savoury contrast to start the day with. The only thing I would have liked is if my croissant was properly warmed through, as I think that would’ve made the salted egg yolk custard taste even more amazing! 

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A trip to Hong Kong isn’t complete with a yum cha session. If you have an afternoon flight like I did, the best thing you can do for yourself, is make a booking (they’re fully booked out for the whole Sunday session otherwise) at Lei Garden in IFC. 

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Simply show up in the morning, check your bag through at the Hong Kong Airport Express counters, then stroll around the mall for a bit before heading upstairs for dim sum goodness. 

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It’s definitely on the fancier end of yum cha, especially in Hong Kong, but the place runs a tight ship, and it’s damn delicious. They even give you plastic gloves to eat the pigeon with! 

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And the great benefit of having lunch in IFC? Once you’re done, you just head down to the train station; hop on board and you’re in the airport in less than 30 minutes. 


That my friends, is how you do Hong Kong in a weekend. I slept like a baby on the flight home! 

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