Get to know your way around the booming SYP area of the 852…
I love Sai Ying Pun and how enriched with history it is. It was one of the earliest settlements in HK and still to this day possesses a real local charm. From the low-rise buildings to the pungent smells drifting from the many drying fish shops or live chicken markets (not for the faint-hearted or mamas-to-be with morning sickness), this neighbourhood has it all. From its efficient street planning to pocketed views out to the fragrant harbour, Sai Ying Pun is a memorable place to hang out for the day in HK.
Planning on spending a day or even a few hours in the SYP? Here’s a pocket guide – which includes some of my favorite places to dine, drink, play and shop.
Monteverdi is a quaint family friendly Italian situated on the High Street, which would not be out of place on a back street in Florence. It has a bubbly vibe, and the food absolutely speaks for itself. They also have a cute little outdoor area for al fresco dining. I would recommend the octopus and the canolo for dessert – these were absolute winners in my eyes.
If you love chicken, I would recommend making a pit stop at Uncle Padak’s. This small but very popular Korean fried chicken joint makes great KFC at the risk of your afternoon drifting by in a chicken-induced coma. They do a fantastic set lunch, too, but if you’re planning on bringing the family I would suggest leaving the stroller at home otherwise you might struggle for space.
Other restaurants to discover & explore:
High Street Grill – A transitional space by Castelo Concepts (think Oolaa, Jaspas, etc.) that works from your pancake breakfast with the wee ones in the morning, to your Aperol Spritz o’clock in the evening. Spacious and child-friendly (the staff love children).
Open Door Cafe & Courtyard – A perfect venue to grab that much needed caffeine hit, or if you are feeling healthy opt for a smoothie from their menu. A great size and has automatic doors, providing convenient access if you have the stroller with you (to all other cafes in HK that don’t have automatic doors, please take note).
Beans & Dough – An incredibly friendly cafe selling simple yet fresh and delicious Italian fare. I have not once been disappointed from grabbing my food here. The pizzas are made to order, and their bread is incredibly fresh. This is a firm favourite, and they have additional seating upstairs too.
La Rotisserie – There is a small (and when I say small I mean weeny) dining area, but La Rotisserie is definitely designed as a ‘grab and go’ food hub. They have a great lunch menu if you are just exploring the area for the afternoon, or if you are heading home for the evening grab a whole chicken and some veg and you won’t be disappointed. I always ask for extra jus though (they never give you enough in those tiny pots).
Metropolitain – I love the french vibe in Hong Kong, and Metropolitain (by French Creations, also of Pastis fame) has just that. They make a mean croque madame and provide high chairs for your little monkeys.
Other Foodie Hot Spots: La Paloma, Stack, Calimex (everyone needs a burrito pitstop), Grassroots Pantry & Prune, Locofama, Thai on the High, High Street Cart Noodles, Yuan is Here.
Craft Brew & Co’s motto is ‘because life is too short to drink bad beer’ – and we couldn’t agree more. This place is passionate about great craft beer. If their slogan resonates, why not arrange a small get together to try their tasting menu. An incredibly chilled out atmosphere and a great spot for watching the world go by.
Ping Pong 129 – Ping Pong 129 is a Spanish Ginotería (a gin and tonic bar) set in a big, high-ceilinged industrial space that was formerly used as a ping pong hall. Full of creatives, hipsters and anyone who just loves themselves a good G & T, with its 40 plus gins from around the world and its retro cool feel, you just can’t go wrong with the drinks or the atmosphere.
La Viola – A popular Sai Ying Pun after-work watering hold, La Viola is an elegant restaurant specialising in southern European cuisine.
Play for free at the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park and enjoy the fragrant harbour whilst setting up a picnic on one of the very few wide open grass spaces HK has to offer. Get there nice and early (and I mean early, between 6-7am) and witness the older generation doing a spot of Tai Chi; this is definitely an experience I am glad to have witnessed. I was completely transfixed when I saw the mature Hong Kongers waking up the muscles this way (and it makes for great photos that you’ll look back on fondly when you have left these shores). There’s a small playground here, too, so checks all the boxes in my mind.
Cabinet Organic – This organic store on the High Street is the perfect one stop shop. I love the products they stock here, and I find inspiration to cook with new ingredients every time I go.
Sips – Located on First Street, Sips sells an array of drinks to whet your appetite. I’m a big fan of the sparkling cidre that they sell here – ask for the Cidre Du Pont Reserve, which is aged for six months in oak barrels that have previously been used to hold Calvados.
Tak Chong Sum Kee Bamboo Steamer Company – This delicate yet hectic little shop, situated on Western Street, is one of the very few standing shops left where all the items are still made by hand. Most bamboo steamers today are made in factories in China, so this is a rare example of an old HK tradition being kept alive. This dying craft mesmerises me every time I enter this treasure trove. I always get a mixed response when I go (the elderly owner can be a little grumpy, but the younger one cannot do enough to help), but I can never resist buying those iconic dumpling steamers, which I also re-use for my DIY projects all the time. If you’re looking for a little bit of HK for your kitchen then head over to this store and marvel at a craft that is slowly being lost.
A Tao’s Vegetables Organic Corner – If organic veg is what you’re after then head over to this dynamic duo’s hangout in the Sai Ying Pun Market on Centre Street, where they are always on hand to help you find what you are looking for. I go here to purchase most of my fresh veg for my daughter’s food and just love the affable service.
If you are planning on taking your stroller, there is an escalator linking First and Second Street (between Eastern and Centre Street underneath Island Crest), and the escalator continues at Centre Street from Second Street all the way up to Bonham Road. Alternatively, the new MTR has been very kind to the families of HK and has scattered exits on Queen’s Road West, First Street, Second Street & Bonham Road, all with escalator or lift access. Sai Ying Pun is the San Francisco (ha) of Hong Kong, so I would still recommend having the carrier handy as those hills can be a little challenging on the old calf muscles.
Places To Look Out For:
Thorn & Burrow is a trendy interiors space that has just popped up above Craft Brew & Co. A place to get those interior statement pieces and one off accessories. I love the turkish towels and the hand made tassel jewellery.
Fish School is a new restaurant that will be opening on Third Street. The concept will reflect local culture and redefine local cuisine. Set to open in October 2015.