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You Are Here: Hong Kong

March 21, 2010

Kowloon, Hong Kong. Andrew Rowat, Conde Nast Traveler

Much of the vibrancy of Hong Kong is due to its headlong rush towards the future.  One need only look at its skyline, particularly during its nightly sound and light spectacle, to see this philosophy made manifest.  However, the Kabir Chibber’s weekend article in the New York Times picks up on a different emerging trend; one in which Hong Kongers acknowledge that the past can have as much lure as the future.

“The local community is becoming more aware that one of the ways to improve and create quality and vibrant urban living in Hong Kong is by preserving the historical and architectural value of local characteristics.”

That’s Paolo Pong, owner of The Pawn (62 Johnston Road), a gastropub profiled in the Times’ article that celebrates the history of its colonial home, a former pawnshop.

Hong Kong has no shortage of designer world-class restaurants.  But those that are most interesting to me are ones that celebrate the cultural roots of their city, albeit in a modern way.

Press Room (108 Hollywood Rd.) near Man Mo Temple is one of my all-time favourite places to brunch.  It is the physical manifestation of Dave Bruback’s Take Five invokes all of the things that I love about brunch. It apparently is so named because it occupies the premises of a former Chinese paper and applies a nostalgic press/newspaper theme that makes you feel as if you could be in a Wan Kar Wai film.

There is no better place to watch the light show than from a stylish seat at Hutong (One Peking Road, 28th Fl.). The restaurant takes its name from the old traditional alleyways of Hong Kong and is a brilliant example of the way the past can meet the future in this nexus of East and West.  The nighttime views of the harbour from the floor-to-ceiling windows on the 28th floor are only rivaled by the interior design, which is itself stunning. When I stepped out of the elevator into a world of dripping candles, dark woods, antique cabinets, birdcages and dramatic lighting, I could not help but imagine that I was starring in my own Wong Kar-Wai film.

Hullett House

Hullett House (24 Canton Road) extends this feeling into the realm of hotels.  This exquisite-looking new-comer has me itching to head to the Perfumed Harbor.   The small boutique hotel is housed in a stunning 19th century white stucco colonial building: the former Marine Police Headquarters, just steps from the Star Ferry terminal. Each of the spacious ten guest suites is individually designed to reflect a different period of Hong Kong’s design history. With an ideal location on the waterfront, several restaurant choices in house (everything from British tea, Chinese Dim Sum and late-night cocktails at the Dragon Bar), and 37 staff to serve 20 guests, you’ll quickly feel (and wish) that Hullett House was your home.

The Dragon Bar at Hullett House

For a very personal historical view of the city, try Shu Qi’s Soundwalk of Hong Kong, in which the actress weaves a tale that winds one through the back streets of the city, to some of her favourite places.

Hong Kong’s futuristic feats are fascinating, but so is its past. As BBC correspondent Fergal Keane wrote in a lovely piece about the city in the May issue of Lonely Planet magazine:

“This is a place in which different cultures washed up, where you can be confounded by difference and cosseted by familiar all in the same day.”

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