Johnston Road, Hong Kong
Written by Brian Johnston Illustration by Marion Vitus
Johnston Road is travel author Brian Johnston’s favourite because it runs through the busy, neighbourly Wan Chai district, a fine place for traditional Hong Kong food.
The road that shares the writer’s name leads past electronics and fashion stores, street markets, and eateries guaranteed to get taste buds tingling. “Whether you walk through Wan Chai or hop on an old-fashioned, rattling tram, no neighbourhood better encapsulates the glitz of Hong Kong, coupled with its gritty and chaotic everyday life in scruffy back streets.”
One of the first places to stop is Fook Lam Moon, well known for its use of fine ingredients in its morning dim sum. “It features the likes of sautéed fresh lobster and baked stuffed crab, as well as abalone,” enthuses Brian. “Hong Kong celebrities come here to dine, which explains the bodyguards loitering at the door.”
Across the road, more elegance is to be found at The Pawn Building, a beautiful heritage building containing the chic homeware store OVO Studio at street level, and an upstairs bar and lounge. “I admit a special fondness for their Hot Apple Pie shot, which contains Baileys, apple schnapps and cinnamon. You can get fine cocktails, too.”
After that, amuse the gourmet in you at Bo Innovation, the novel restaurant of tattooed chef Alvin Leung, who baffles and thrills Hong Kong with his Chinese molecular cuisine. “Traditional dishes have been given a modern twist with Japanese and French influences, and are humorously daring,” says Brian.
Bo Innovation is pricey, but Wan Chai encompasses everything from top-end eating to street food for just a few dollars. Wander off Johnston Road to the back alleys and you’ll discover Wan Chai Market, where you can tuck into fish-ball soup at a street stall. “Apart from colourful fresh-food stalls, the area is crammed with hole-in-the-wall outlets serving hearty bowls of noodles and other basic snacks at more than acceptable prices.”
Further along Johnston Road, Brian recommends Hong Zhou Restaurant for its smoked fish, tofu rolls and drunken chicken, a chicken poached in a light rice wine that is a classic among Chinese dishes.
Finally, Sam Bat Mai is renowned for its herbal tea, brewed for hours into a salty and sour concoction that locals swear is cooling. “It’s one of many herbal tea shops here,” explains Brian. “Some sell delicate chrysanthemum tea that might be more to your taste. Just pull up a chair and enjoy the neighbourhood feel.”
Hong Kong, China
Brian Johnston is a freelance travel writer and author who has visited Hong Kong innumerable times and says it isn’t a city where the words ‘I’m bored’ are likely to be spoken. A devoted Sinophile, Brian lived in China and wrote about it in one of his travel books, Boxing with Shadows. He’s happiest when hiking up China’s holy mountains or clicking chopsticks over Hong Kong dim sum, where he draws the line only at chicken’s feet.