I heart Hong Kong

Gallery-, lounge- and restaurant-hopping: a day in Asia's World City.

Taking in the panorama from Victoria Peak, accessible via Hong Kong's 120-year-old Peak Tram.
  • Taking in the panorama from Victoria Peak, accessible via Hong Kong's 120-year-old Peak Tram.

You lazily open your eyes. Life is fuzzed by sleep, and the glare from the snow-white sheets adds to your blindness. A delicious stretch and yawn to get your blood flowing, and you swing your legs to the edge of the bed and plant both feet firmly on the wood floor.

A few steps later toward the faint glow coming from behind the heavy curtains, and the first sight you comprehend is a vista of dark greens and pale blue. The mountains appear, soft as moss. You’re in Hong Kong, a scintillating mix of London, Shanghai, and Honolulu: the weather is tropical, the city rife with creative vibrations and enumerable frivolities, and everyone speaks English.

9 AM

You break the fast after you hit the Peninsula Hotel gym and start off your day. The Peninsula is in Kowloon, a bit off the usual hotel path, but the classic decor and unparalleled service are absolutely worth straying. Kowloon is a lush, relaxed neighborhood, just a hop, skip, and a bit of bay from HK Island. Fifteen minutes by car and you'll be jaunting around the city centre.

11 AM

Hong Kong has made a name for itself in the international art scene, establishing March as Art Month and attracting collectors, gallerists and viewers alike every other month of the year.

A morning in HK is no better spent than amongst contemporary art. The city boasts six art museums, 12 performing halls, and numerous fine art galleries. It's truly growing into its nickname as "Asia’s World City." Keeping your feet on the ground, let your mind and spirit wander and spend the mid-morning hours gallery-hopping in the Central district.

End your morning at Ben Brown Fine Arts, a gallery well known for its imported exhibitions, Ai Wei Wei, Richter, and Hirst to name a few, and of course their current exhibitor, Miguel Barceló, brought from Spain to showcase Courant Central. When you visit Ben Brown, expect to enjoy the uniqueness of each artist featured. The gallery truly plays no favorites; it represents artists from around the world.

With your eyes yearning for more color, walk no more than 10 minutes to White Cube Gallery, fittingly situated on Connaught Road. White Cube is a delight to the art novice and seasoned collector alike — you'll be wowed in a matter of steps.

3 PM

All the art has made you quite hungry, and it just so happens it's the perfect time for tea. If you’re going to commit to an afternoon tea seating, you must opt for authenticity and a lavish spread. Afternoon tea in Hong Kong is all about glamour, Old World tradition, and a petit-fours that would make Marie Antoinette turn green six feet under. To achieve all three you’re enjoying the last hours of glittering sun at The Mandarin Oriental’s Clipper Lounge.

'Tis true, The Clipper Lounge is known for a multi-course ‘Afternoon Coffee’ — but tea is a substitutable alternative. The scones are served with clotted cream and rose petal jam, as scones should be. The cakes are product of the jewels of Europe, with a Sacher torte the Viennese would approve of, and the savories relay a perfect balance with the sweeter bites.

5 PM

As you meander your way back to your hotel, make a pit stop at Duddell’s, a fascinating space that combines gallery, restaurant, and bar. Renowned for keeping eclectic company amidst its decoupage ideas, Duddell’s is the perfect place to enjoy an evening cocktail. If it's summer, grab a rosé and head to the garden terrace. As you do, scour the walls for paintings and photographs that inspire and excite.

To make it an even more perfect spot, Duddell’s features an art exhibition. In spring 2017 they’re bringing us Biennale of Sydney: Abstraction of the World. Sips, snacks, and culture: getting up to speed on the arts just got a bit easier.

7 PM

The combination of sun and walking has worn you out, and after a quick cat nap you're recharged, a couple of cocktails deep, and dressed for dinner.

Let’s turn our gaze to a quiet street in SOHO, Central Hong Kong, where a few lines are beginning to form as stomach-gargling diners awaiting their party summons. Walk up a breath-shortening hill and past 121 BC to La Vache! or Holy Cow!, a quaint and cozy French restaurant that serves one entree, and one entree only, steak frites.

As its namesake suggests, La Vache has perfected the cooking and service of cow, in what they more politely have dubbed “Entrecôte La Vache.” The eatery is the relaxed atmosphere one needs after a full day in HK, yet it maintains that undone elegance of Ina Garten in her Hamptons kitchen — an elegance that is not tried for, but simply possessed. The white-and-scarlet checked tables, colorful wall tableaus and well lit room make for a homey atmosphere.

The menu is simple, a terrific alternative to those of us who suffer from a severe case of indecision. You choose how you would like your steak cooked and how soon after your walnut salad you would like it to come. The secret sauce is fabulous and wonderful paired with the frites, and for dessert treat your taste buds to the decadent pear tart. Great for groups, La Vache is small, yet comfortable, and if you're a solo traveler, don't be set off by the tables of Hong Kongnese laughing and clinking wine glasses. Rather, sit yourself down at the bar where you'll experience a shorter wait, a closer proximity to the vino, and a chance to become acquainted with a few locals.

Enjoy a glass of the house red, a medium rare cut, and remember the pommes frites are bottomless. La Vache is the perfect start to an evening out, as the staff and restaurant-goers provide enough kinetic energy to get your blood pumping, but keep the volume at a minimum so you can still manage to sip your cocktail and savor every bite.

10 PM

Feeling that velvety wine zing, you stroll over to Wyndham Street—the oasis of bars, late night eats, and nocturnals in HK—and grab a drink or two at The Woods.

A staircase down leads you to a glass pocket door controlled by a stainless steel doorbell-like fixture. Once you step inside, deep house music greets your ears and Hong Kongnese men in matching ensembles mix, set flame to, and pour various drinks behind the bar.

The Woods does a mean espresso martini, and they boast a secret menu that you need only ask for and will be given. They are well known for experimental concoctions and the painstaking creative process a chef de cuisine might undergo when preparing a meal for a Michelin critic. The smartly dressed staff of this chilled yet charismatic bar will wow you with a four-course prix fix menu that focuses on the course beverages above the food garnishes, but The Woods is truly a place to enjoy late night sips, beats, and to let your conversation be driven by the former two.

Enjoy the one-of-a-kind libations made from fresh and local ingredients by a mixologist who distinctly resembles the one next to him, melt into the enigmatic surroundings, and strike up a conversation with those a settee over — you never know where the introduction may lead.

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