This article is part of a guide to Hong Kong from FT Globetrotter
I was born and raised in Hong Kong until the age of 15, when I moved to the United States for school, and stayed to study at New York University. I had a career as a graphic designer, and before I decided to pursue the culinary arts, I had hoped to return to Hong Kong to work with my sister in advertising.
But it was a different path that led me back to the city. Following my training at Le Cordon Bleu in Bangkok, I returned to Hong Kong to work under the tutelage of chef Sebastien Lepinoy at the Michelin-starred Cépage. In 2012, I opened my restaurant, TATE Dining Room, where I serve French-inspired dishes with Chinese influences from my upbringing here.
As a chef, I relish living and working in Hong Kong. We are spoiled with a fantastic food and innovative dining scene, and the city itself is vibrant, exciting and energetic. Here I’ve shared with you a mix of some of my favourite places to eat and drink, along with a few suggested cultural activities, markets to visit and more.
The Diplomat reminds me of a good New York-style cocktail bar where you can enjoy classic drinks with innovative twist. A night out here with friends is guaranteed to be a good time.
I have tried the entire cocktail menu (and it’s all delicious) but my all-time favourite drink here is Tarling — pandan-infused gin, white port, baking spices, clarified orange juice and coconut water. It is so refreshing and comforting.
The food on offer accompanies the drinks list well. The Diplomat Burger is my favourite, and is done properly with a good bun-and-meat ratio, and the pulled-pork cubano sandwich has the most tasty, moreish sauce.
At Howard’s Gourmet, you will enjoy unique and distinctive modern Chinese cuisine in a cosy environment. I love how chef Howard Cai creates light and refined plates of food based on traditional classic Chiu Chow ingredients and dishes. The hot-and-sour noodle soup here is something I crave all the time — the base has a lot of depth, and the sourness comes from lemon, which is very refreshing. The crispy pork knuckle is also outstanding: perfectly juicy and soft on the inside and crispy on the outside, demonstrating the skill and technique of the chef.
Yuen Kee Dessert, established more than 130 years ago, serves tong sui, Cantonese dessert soups — sweet, warm soups or custard served at the end of a meal, made using a traditional stone grind. One that you must try is sweet mulberry mistletoe-tea soup with lotus seeds and egg — it is such a classic dish but not many places still make it. The sweet almond and sesame soup here is also delicious.
Liang Yi is the largest private museum of design, craftsmanship and heritage in Hong Kong. You can find world-class collections of Chinese and European antiques here. Its exhibitions are rotated every six months, and the themes are always well thought out and cleverly curated. The museum offers tours by appointment only, where you can interact with the displays in an intimate and boutique environment. It gives you a unique opportunity to understand the history, design and cultural significance of the collections.
INUF (I Never Use Foundation) is a mindful and Earth-conscious lifestyle concept store and spa that offers 100 per cent plant-based formulas. Its all-natural products are free from harmful chemicals and the packaging is minimal and made of recycled materials. The hydrating B5 Gel is an important part of my daily routine.
The spa can be booked exclusively for private appointments, which is a lovely way to treat a partner, family member or friend for a special occasion. I also love to indulge with one of their face or body treatments. My favourite is the English Rose Miracle, a facial treatment that helps soften and nourish my skin, and comes with a back massage too.
Lantau Island, the largest outlying island in Hong Kong, is well worth a visit for its beautiful beaches, landmarks such as the Tian Tan Buddha, unspoilt countryside and great bars and restaurants. For those who love outdoor activities, Lantau has much to offer, with a beautiful landscape to hike across, waterfalls to see and peaks to challenge you. Depending on where you’re coming from and which part of the island you’re heading to, Lantau can be reached by ferry or the MTR.
Tai O Fishing Village is one of my favourite spots in Lantau. Famous for its traditional Chinese stilt houses, it’s one of the few remaining fishing villages in Hong Kong. You can spend a whole day here exploring its small streets, tasting fresh seafood and snacks and taking photos. I recommend trying the street food from the old-fashioned stalls, such as the giant fish ball with chilli sauce, tofu pudding and cha guo (tea dumplings).
Wet markets are essential spaces for the Hong Kong community. Ap Lei Chau Market is worth a visit. There’s a pier right next to it, so you can find the freshest and greatest selection of seafood here. The variety depends on the catch of the day, but it is generally wider than at most wet markets in Hong Kong. I love walking around to discover what the sea has to offer, and bringing home fresh or interesting ingredients to create a new dish.
Vicky Lau is owner and chef of the two-Michelin-star TATE Dining Room in Hong Kong
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