This article is part of a guide to Hong Kong from FT Globetrotter
Being in lockdown mode in Hong Kong had its benefits, particularly in terms of my family and I reacquainting ourselves with the great outdoors. Getting fresh air and vitamin D was especially precious when we were cooped up most of the time throughout the week. Family- or dog-friendly hikes that are picturesque and challenging in equal measure are up Violet Hill or Mount Butler, starting from Parkview. These are my tried and trusted routes. They give you a bird’s-eye view of the rolling hills all the way to the seaside.
At lunchtime during the week, it’s a treat to get takeout from one of the local places near my studio and go up to the rooftop of the Asia Society (which is on a former British military site) for a picnic. It’s my favourite piece of architecture in the city. The sleek building weaves through wild jungle foliage, taking me on a meditative journey amid the bustle of the city — and amazing film screenings are held in the historic former ammunition-storage facilities. Before going back to the studio, I head to The Upper House hotel to grab a takeaway latte from the pop-up space showcasing the city’s hippest food and drink concepts.
My kids’ piano lessons take me to a lesser-known part of Hong Kong. Ap Lei Chau Main Street has some hidden gems. 友和士多 (Yau Wo See-Dor) is one of the last remaining mom-and-pop stores selling freshly made Chinese desserts and the old-fashioned candy my parents’ generation grew up with. I first stumbled upon this place when I spotted a cab driver pull up, put his emergency blinkers on and dash in for a freshly deep-fried sesame dumpling with red-bean paste filling. I later tasted one myself and he was right to hold up the traffic.
Next door is Kam Kee bakery, which makes traditional Hong Kong pastries. The pandan loaf is soft and bouncy with a divine flavour. On the side streets, you’ll find specialist Chinese sauce shops (stocking oils, marinades and cooking sauces), toy shops with gum-ball machines and fishing shops selling rope and bait. At the end of the road is Mad Three, a Taiwanese eatery serving pork floss and cheese egg crepes. I can’t think of a more authentic neighbourhood in Hong Kong.
On the weekends, we take the ferry from Aberdeen Pier to Lamma Island. It’s a 45-minute door-to-door journey to a completely different world. The ferry itself is different to the ones leaving from the main pier in Central — it’s smaller, naturally ventilated and the kids can play captain on the upper-deck balcony as wind and water splashes on to the boat. We get off at Mo Tat Wan and hike up over the top of the peak, where there are large rock formations that are great for scrambling. The kids are incentivised for a quick descent down the hill by a local family store serving mochi with all kinds of delectable fillings — mango is our family favourite. Yung Shue Ha beach is another must-do for its little coves and inlets that are perfect for sand castles and soaking on a warm day.
For a lavish meal in town, I have so many favourites, but I am a big fan of the various Black Sheep restaurants. They are attentive to fiddly dietary needs and flavour preferences, and they will remember what you enjoyed and serve it without your having to ask the next time you visit. I have a soft spot for Belon, not only because we worked on its revamp, but general manager Lauren is a gem. She is the wife of Belon’s chef Matthew Kirkley, and she previously worked with chef Thomas Keller. She has given me tips on everything from the science behind making the ice-cream snack Dippin’ Dots to her buttermilk fried chicken. I admit I go for the conversation as much as the food.
Joyce Wang is an award-winning interior designer based in Hong Kong and London
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