Lifestyle

Haute Hong Kong

Travelling through China’s most rousing city.

Hong Kong Travel.
Hong Kong’s magical skyline

With Hong Kong Island’s singular skyline aglow just across the harbor, the Avenue of Stars—a tourist-luring promenade paying tribute to cinematic greats—is designed to dazzle. But for one evening this past November, the water’s-edge walk in the Kowloon Peninsula was a glitterati spectacle of even greater magnitude than usual. Louis Vuitton, the world’s largest luxury brand, transformed the setting into an alfresco runway for its first-ever pre-fall men’s show, with Pharrell Williams gracing the finale alongside nautical-styled models before a celebrity-studded front row. Overhead, a flock of drones spelled out the LVers logo, illuminating the night.

The scene was a spotlight on the city as much as on the fashion. “I chose this place because we could go anywhere we wanted in the world. And this is where we wanted to be,” Pharrell, men’s creative director at the label, explained to Esquire, likening the destination’s renewed momentum to “a slingshot that’s about to be let go.” 

It’s clear that glamorous Hong Kong—which was, pre-pandemic, the most visited city on Earth for several years in a row—is ready to welcome the world again. And if you assumed the metropolis has just been hibernating in a deep slumber, you may be surprised to find plenty of novelty, from top-chef-helmed restaurants to hotly anticipated art districts (yes, more than one). Even the tram that will whisk you up to Victoria Peak is shiny and new, though the panoramas from the city’s highest point are as iconic as you remember. 

Divine Dining

Hong Kong has its own distinctive culinary traditions, but it’s equally noted for its international palate—a characteristic underscored by a spate of new dining spots led by world-famous names, some choosing the “Fragrant Harbour” city for their first foreign outpost.

Take chef David Toutain, best known for his eponymous two-Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris, who has brought his take on French fine dining to town with the debut of Feuille—his first restaurant outside France, discreetly tucked inside a tower in the bustling Central district. Expect an expansive tasting menu that’s nature-inspired and veg-driven (but not plant-only), with artful, meticulously plated signatures like pumpkin and saffron lobster as well as egg custard laced with sweet corn (the latter is served in a perfect eggshell). 

Likewise, Hong Kong is the only place outside Thailand where you can delight in the dishes made famous at Bangkok’s one-Michelin-starred Le Du, rated No. 1 on the list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023. Acclaimed chef Thitid “Ton” Tassanakajohn picked Hong Kong for its first sister spot, Niras (inside the K11 Musea complex), which possesses the same contemporary sensibilities. Offered on tasting menus, the dishes shift with the seasons, but standouts include crab with crab roe served with homemade Sriracha sauce, and seaweed-sprinkled banana prawn served with a refreshing scoop of beetroot sorbet.

Of course, no visit to the city would be complete without booking into homegrown, only-in-Hong Kong openings. New arrivals include Cafe Bau, a farm-to-table concept from restaurateur and TV personality Alvin Leung, the self-styled Demon Chef. “Bau” is a nod to the Bauhinia orchid, Hong Kong’s floral emblem, as well as an acronym for “business as usual,” signifying a sense of post-pandemic optimism. The menu is a celebration of almost exclusively local ingredients, such as whole-roasted Ping Yuen yellow chicken and Yi O Farm rice, the latter cultivated on Lantau Island following all-natural, heritage methods—watered by mountain streams, and dried by the sun.

Remarkable Retail

A stone’s throw from the Avenue of Stars, you’ll find Victoria Dockside, heralded as a new creative quarter at the tip of the Kowloon Peninsula. It’s anchored by K11 Musea, a swanky more-than-a-mall that debuted in fall 2019 to draw shoppers and aesthetes alike. Beyond the style haunts—Balenciaga, Burberry, Chanel, Gucci, Loewe and many more—it’s home to a gallery-worthy trove of contemporary art, with more than 30 artists’ works scattered amid the shops. Notable pieces on display include the conceptual, whimsical and thought-provoking, from John Baldessari’s sculpture Beethoven’s Trumpet (With Ear), Opus 127 to Paola Pivi’s 1, 2, cha cha cha, a life-sized polar bear sprouting fluorescent-pink feathers. One of the most dramatic is I hope…, a large-scale installation by Chiharu Shiota with steel boats in an ocean of “collective wishes”—5,000 handwritten red letters, suspended and connected by red threads. Adding to the eye candy is K11 Musea’s architecture: A dramatic, galaxy-inspired atrium known as the Opera Theatre features the breathtaking Oculus sculpture of bent steel and glass-fiber reinforced polymer with a programmed constellation of lights that pulsate throughout the day, and a spherical chamber coined the Gold Ball hosts exhibitions and other events.

M+ Museum.
M+ Museum in Hong Kong.

Destination Art

The idea for a defining cultural district in Hong Kong dates back decades; now, the ambitious project is finally taking shape on 40 reclaimed hectares, making up the West Kowloon Cultural District. The long-awaited M+, Asia’s first global museum of contemporary visual culture, had its ribbon-cutting in late 2021, drawing more than two million visitors the following year. And its design—an upside-down T by Herzog & de Meuron—has made it an instant landmark, especially after dark, when the M+ Facade morphs into an LED-lit canvas for digital art. Exhibitions opening this year inside M+ include a major retrospective of the late celebrated architect I. M. Pei, and a showcase of fantasy fashion by Guo Pei, China’s first couturière (and maker of Rihanna’s unforgettable yellow Met Gala cape gown). M+’s modern lens has a counterpoint at the nearby Hong Kong Palace Museum, where you’ll find antiquities from bronze figures of mythical creatures (discoveries from archaeological digs) to imperial Chinese ceramics. Opened in 2022, the venue specializes in artifacts, including objects classed as national treasures on loan from the Palace Museum in Beijing’s Forbidden City. 

Superlative Stays

Rosewood Hotel Group is headquartered in Hong Kong, but it wasn’t until 2019 that its brand of swish accommodations opened a hometown address. Anointed the Best Hotel in Asia 2023 by the World’s 50 Best, the Rosewood Hong Kong peers out at the water from a new tower in Victoria Dockside, where its 413-room “vertical estate” includes some of the city’s most capacious suites. Few views could rival the ones from the Harbour House, the 57th-floor suite spanning more than 10,000 square feet of indoor-outdoor space, where you can admire the skyline from wraparound landscaped gardens or the outdoor lap pool. Escapists should also take note of Asaya, the two-story spa/wellness center where the pampering rituals include the Glow, a bespoke, two-hour, high-tech Dr. Barbara Sturm facial.

Neighboring the Rosewood is a grande dame with new buzz: the Regent Hong Kong, a hotel that evokes fond nostalgia among locals. It first made a splash as a see-and-be-seen spot in the ’80s, and in late 2023 it emerged from a thorough revamp, which restored the original name (after its recent stint as an InterContinental). The 497 guest rooms, including a new presidential suite, are styled as serene sanctuaries in subtle shades and natural materials such as artisan-crafted oak, Calacatta marble and brushed granite. A Regent spa is coming soon, but there’s no shortage of indulgences already, including the sumptuous dim sum and seasonal dishes at Lai Ching Heen. For the historic hotel, and Hong Kong at large, the message heard loud and clear is: “We’re back, and better than ever.”

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