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Sai Ying Pun is one of Hong Kong’s most happening districts. In the late 1800s it was home to a British military base of tents, brothels and the plague (‘sai’ means west, and ‘ying pun’ camp), then Chinese immigrants moved in, and more recently its proximity to Central has seen it become a desirable residential district. Ten minutes from downtown Hong Kong, a new escalator hauling residents up the steep hills from Third, through Second to First and High Streets has helped bring new F&B blood to the area. Today Sai Ying Pun is Old Hong Kong meets exciting new foodie destination.
A sweet French bistro created by the same people behind Pastis on Wyndham Street, Metropolitain combines a welcoming terrace for people watching from under whirring ceiling fans, a stylish interior and dynamic staff. The menu is simple but dishes are cooked perfectly. The poulet roti using chickens from France is served on a wooden board, skin crispy and meat tenderly moist. The steak tartare has a growing crowd of fans, and the escargot, served shelled, are divinely buttery and garlicky. Don’t miss the tarte tatin to finish.
Peggy Chan is the vegan guru behind this charming restaurant, tucked away from the traffic down a cul-de-sac, where sitting outside on the decking is remarkably peaceful. Following stints at Robuchon and the Four Seasons Hong Kong, she has finally created her dream restaurant, specifically supporting organic farming and sustainable food, but without the distracting hippy vibe. The quality of her meat- and fish-less dishes is outstanding, with mushroom linguini with asparagus (order the quinoa pasta if you want gluten free) and raw blueberry cheesecake both signatures. The prices are up there, but so is the love.
With a Croatian and a Spanish chef, this casual restaurant has The Med sorted, and with friendly, anticipatory service and a warm ambiance, it’s the kind of neighbourhood restaurant you’ll find yourself returning to again and again. The paella is one of their wow dishes, and there are also hearty options like the beautifully cooked lamb chops and lamb shank. A more summery choice could be the Greek Salad or the Buzzara Blue mussels, and while the tiramisu may not be an original choice for dessert but it's light, alcoholic and delicious.
BBQ Teppan Yaki
Local cuisine on a stick, this skewer hole-in-the-wall is a great place for cheap beers and a quality snack style dinner. You’ll likely have to queue, but it is worth it. Sit at the counter to watch the chefs flipping the sticks at lightening speed, or by the street where low tables and the open front give an almost alfresco feel. Basic choices like corn on the cob are somehow just as tasty as the high-end choices, and although the scallops in their shell, lamb chops and the grilled mackerel weren’t actually served on skewers we’d go back for them all the same. Don’t expect anything but the most rudimentary service, but with prices so reasonable who cares.
The district’s newest comer is La Viola, whose marble bar is a great place to perch with a glass of wine in hand and a calamari bar snack, idly watching Sai Ying Punners walk by. Chilled tunes take the pace down still further and the staff are relaxed and friendly, while super efficient. Their mozzarella is to die for, with that almost melted, disintegrated texture, while mains focus on meats with just the halibut from the fish family. The bowls of pasta, perfect when you can’t be bothered to cook of an evening, are generous and delicious, for example fettuccini with parsley and black truffle cream sauce and penne with lamb loin ragout and artichokes in tomato sauce. For dessert there's tiramisu, naturally, but my money’s on the refreshing lemon sorbet.