The Struggles of a Hong Kong Veggie Part 2


Chatteris' own Abbey Johnson returns to provide more help for those seeking veggie delights and boozy brunches in Hong Kong...

The best way to strike fear into the heart of a CNET (Chatteris Native English Teacher) is to suggest going out to eat on the Island. Their hand will fly to their wallet as they begin to do the mental maths required to work out if they can afford to pay rent or have a bottomless prosecco brunch. Leaving the safety of Kowloon’s cheap eats is understandably a brave decision for most of us, as the closer you are to Central, the more expensive your lunch is going to be. This is most visible if you walk down Nathan Road towards Tsim Sha Tsui;  Wellcomes and traditional Cantonese restaurants with white plastic chairs outside are suddenly replaced by an influx Marks & Spencer’s and Pret A Mangers. The humble fish ball is succeeded by smoked salmon and fried sea bass. Fortunately, there is a light at the end of the Cross-Harbour Tunnel. Eating in the centre of Hong Kong does not have to bankrupt you totally if you know where to go, and we have provided four places in Tsim Sha Tsui and Central to get you started.

Tsim Sha Tsui

Whilst still on the very edge of Kowloon, TST restaurants often behave in the same way as their Island counterparts and will readily charge you $40 for a spring roll. Our advice is to venture off the beaten track for some cheap and delicious alternatives to TST’s pretentious chains. Sing Lum Khui Noodles is one of these alternatives, as it boasts an impressive menu for around $60 for the best noodle soup in Hong Kong (which is a bold claim, but one we are willing to make) and a drink. Sharing tables is common in this small restaurant, but it is a great place to get a taste of local cuisine in a modern but authentic setting. Spice-lovers will be delighted by their ridiculously hot vermicelli noodles, but be warned: they are not for amateurs, as the research team found out the hard way.

Recommended dish: Spicy vermicelli soup with mushrooms and tofu ($58)

Around the corner from Sing Lum Khui Noodles and up into a sketchy, mirrored apartment building lies Painkiller CafĂ©, the perfect wholesome Sunday activity. As well as delicious Cantonese snacks and vegetarian pastas, Painkiller is filled from floor to ceiling with any board game you could imagine. Tell the owner the kind of games you like to play and he will choose one for you, explain the rules, and laugh good-naturedly as you stumble your way through a brand new game. This is the best place to spend a cold Winter afternoon, even if you’re not a board game enthusiast. We challenge you not to be converted after visiting Painkiller.

Above: A sample of the board game selection on offer at Painkiller Cafe

Recommended dish: Mushroom spaghetti with black truffle oil and a cappuccino ($140). Pairs well with the game ‘Ticket to Ride’.

Central

The secret to eating well in Central is to get as far away from Lan Kwai Fong as physically possible, unless you are looking for a falafel kebab at 3 am. The areas surrounding LKF have some great places to eat, especially in the steep, cobbled alleyways that permeate Mid-Levels. Rummin’ Tings lies at the entrance of one these alleys, cheerfully lighting its surroundings with lanterns and tiki torches outside. Inside is like stepping into a tiny beach hut with cool booths and walls lined with what seems like every brand of rum. Although they do serve meat in Rummin’ Tings, their Indian-inspired vegetarian options are fantastic, especially with one of their rum-based cocktails. It is slightly more expensive, so we would recommend this as a post-payday treat or try to go around happy hour for a chance to try their cocktail menu more extensively. Tip: Go around 9pm to eat and stay to dance the night away until 2am as the music gradually gets louder and increasingly Caribbean.

Above: Rummin' Tings- the ideal location for a meal or a dance, Caribbean style

Recommended dish:
Vegetable curry roti with a Hemingway daiquiri (around $180)

It would be rude to go to Central on a Sunday and not go for a prosecco brunch. This has become somewhat of a tradition in Hong Kong and we have been researching this tirelessly in the name of finding the best value brunch spot. There is a clear winner-Panevino on Robinson Road. With a wide selection of both meat and plant-based Italian food, Panevino is a crowd pleaser. Get there for midday and enjoy three hours of prosecco-fuelled fun with your friends for a reasonable price, which can be a somewhat rare occurrence. It’s the perfect place to relax, laugh, eat, and most importantly, pace yourself.

Recommended dish: 3 hour bottomless prosecco brunch ($250)

The journey from Kowloon to the centre of Hong Kong can sometimes feel like you are travelling to a different city entirely, and this is also reflected in the change in food. Being in Hong Kong almost five months has allowed us to branch out and explore beyond where we live, which is the key to finding your new favourite place to eat. As touched on last time, vegetarianism in Hong Kong is all about being brave and trying anywhere that catches your eye. The only advice we have for you is to learn how to ask if there is meat in your food and to have courage to try somewhere new. Usually, it’s not something you regret.


Happy exploring!

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