With its rich colonial heritage and mixture of cultures, it’s no surprise that Hong Kong is a hot pot of different tastes and flavours. Regardless of your budget, there are always cuisine choices to meet your tastes available. Using budget recommendations from Booking.com, we found four favourites in and around the vicinity of Tsim Sha Tsui that are certain to whet your appetite.
Khyber Pass Mess Restaurant
On entry to Chung King Mansion, be prepared to be accosted by those offering a place to stay, a meal to eat or a massage to take away your stresses and strains. Let yourself be noticed by the gentleman handing out VIP Gold Cards for Khyber Pass (you may have to fend off a fair few offering similar food experiences first though) as you’ll not only be given 10% off your food and drinks, but be also led to your destination saving you the hassle of finding your way through the maze. Once with someone you are also less likely to be approached by the others keen for your attention. Waiting for the lift you may be tempted to cut and run as it doesn’t seem like you’re heading to a restaurant but stick with it as you await your ride, exit from the lift and follow the signs into what appears from the outside to be just another apartment or guest house. With welcoming waiters, a great atmosphere and authentic Indian food at reasonable prices this is one hidden gem not to be missed. We spent HK$166 (£13.70) on two curries, rice, naan & soft drinks.
Address: Shop E2, 7/F, Block E, Chungking Mansions, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong. Open Mon – Sat from 1200 to 1500 and 1800 to 2330.
As with the Khyber Pass Mess Restaurant, finding this place involves some navigation skills through the maze of shops. The signage is not very obvious and leads down to basement level where it seems as though a massage is all you’ll find. However, persevere as it is here you’ll find Star Cafe. Pull up a seat at the large communal table in the middle (or for slightly larger groups find a table for four) & don’t forget to ask for an English menu (unless you’re particularly skilled at speaking Cantonese). The options may sound bizarre and more suited to be served on toast than with noodles (tomato, cheese, sausages) but it’s their signature dish (tomato noodles) and our recommendation is to give it a go – we did and we were not disappointed. At budget traveller prices – we spent HK$65 (£5.34) for two meals with a hot & cold drink – for hot tasty comfort food this is worth a visit if you’re in Kowloon.
Address: Shop 36, Champagne Court, 16 – 20 Kimberley Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong. Open Mon – Sat from 0800 to 2130.
Australian Dairy Company
Much easier to find as this restaurant isn’t contained in the large multi-purpose mansions that line the main thoroughfares of the Tsim Sha Tsui area but off on a side street. Even though we had read about the perpetual queue that exists both day and night to try what is supposed to be the ‘best scrambled egg in all of Hong Kong’ we thought it won’t be that long on account of the fact that it was raining. How wrong we were! Having made our way to the correct street through the rain and trying to avoid the large puddles that were developing from the monsoon like shower that had taken hold of Hong Kong we were confronted by a queue of over 30 people! We double-checked that they were in fact queueing for the Australian Dairy Company as we couldn’t quite believe that this many people were willing to wait in the pouring rain for scrambled egg. I don’t mind scrambled egg but it isn’t exactly what I would call gourmet food, would you? And yet here were all manner of people: both tourists and locals, old and young, male and female all waiting patiently for just that – a plate of scrambled egg.
Eventually we were summoned and sat next to another couple on a table of four (though in most restaurants the table size would only be used for two – it was very small). My first impressions were I really don’t see what all the fuss is about – we’ve waited nearly 30 minutes in the rain to be rushed into a bustling restaurant to sit on a cramped table with two people we do not know and looking at them will not be able to communicate with (they seemed by all accounts to be local). Menus were thrust into our hands after asking for an English copy but there wasn’t much indication as to what the ‘usual’ was. It appeared that most (if not all) of the people in our vicinity were ordering the set menu from the first page – no-one else seemed to even glance at a menu – we couldn’t have stood out as tourists who’d heard about the place from trip advisor any more! We signalled to the ‘waiter’ (a loose term as this certainly wasn’t the place to go if you were looking for five star service – it was somewhere to go for the atmosphere and the food apparently) that we would have the set menu – what the couple opposite us were having. He seemed pleased that we weren’t going to overcomplicate matters.
When the food came it turned out to be a bowl of macaroni pasta served in a chicken flavoured soup with bits of ham floating in it and a plate of scrambled egg served with a side of toast. Organising four bowls and four plates with four sets of cutlery and four cups of tea on a table that was only ever designed for two to have a single plate each was a feat I thought the ‘waiter’ would fail on but somehow he had encountered this conundrum before. My expectations were low at this point and I was reluctant to try what had been hyped up by so many. However, from the very first mouthful of scrambled egg I was hooked. I can’t even tell you what it was about it that made it the best scrambled egg in the world for me – I don’t think I have the words. All I can say is that if you’re in the area then go, try it and see what you think.
Address: 47 Parkes Street, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Open Fri – Wed from 0730 to 2300.
Tim Ho Wan, the Dim-Sum Specialists
A chain of restaurants across Hong Kong, Tim Ho Wan is synonymous with high quality food at budget prices. Indeed, three of their restaurants have been awarded a Michelin Star in the 2015 guide, earning the reputation as the world’s cheapest Michelin-star restaurant chain.
The branches offer both eat in and takeaway options. To order, grab a menu from the till (make sure yours is the English version unless your Cantonese is up to scratch) and tick off the items you want. Pay for your meal and you’ll be issued your ticket; wait for your number to be called and you’re away. We opted for the takeaway option so can’t comment on the service for dining in – it did however appear to be prompt but without frills.
If you’re new to dim sum as we were then order a few different items to sample what is on offer. We read a number of reviews and opted for the barbecue pork buns and some pork dumplings, which we ate in the roof-top garden giving us a great view of the skyscrapers lit up at night. This was a great snack for us and allowed us to sample the food at our first Michelin-star restaurant – one we could afford and were suitably dressed for! Certainly a must-visit if you are in Hong Kong.
Address: Shop 12A, Hong Kong Station, Podium Level 1, IFC Mall, Central, Hong Kong Island. Open Mon – Fri 1000 – 2200 (last orders 2130); Sat – Sun & Public Holidays 0900 – 2200 (last orders 2130)
Some food snapshots
These are just a few examples of the foods on offer – to fully appreciate the options, you need to try them out for yourself:
These are just a small sample of the varied and tasty offering available across the city and there were far, far more that we never had the opportunity to try for ourselves. Have you been to Hong Kong? What were your culinary highlights? We’d love to hear your recommendations!