Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Doing Lunch in SOHO, Hong Kong

There are so many places to eat well in Hong Kong that the choices confuse me. So I've carved out a tiny piece of the city to explore for luncheon options. SOHO is a good start for a newcomer.

Hong Kong island gets me turned around. Intuitively, I think that the water is "south" and yet it's really "north". The reason why I lose my bearings is because the billboard maps, conveniently posted about town, are always rendered with the water at the bottom, which is the place I would expect to find "south". Then again, maybe it's just me.

Perhaps a better way to hold onto your bearings is to think of Kowloon, the mainland, as being north of the island, which is how we'd be looking at Hong Kong on a world map or globe. In this way - keeping the big picture of Hong Kong front and centre - you'll probably keep your correct orientation on the island.

So here we are around one third of the way up the mountain (due south and up) from Central MTR station in an area called SOHO, an acronym for "South of Hollywood". There are a few streets here, parallel to each other running east-west where we take our lunch just about every day. These streets are: Hollywood, Staunton, Elgin and a few other small intersecting lanes. The SOHO area is really a subset of the larger area called Central.

This is an area where I go without a fixed restaurant in mind. We don't make reservations and we just walk around and look at the concentration of unique, hip, artsy, boutique-like small restaurants each with Set Lunch Menus. Invariably the selection is international. If we wanted Dim Sum, we'd head over to the mainland. Here on Hong Kong island, in SOHO it's all about western expats, international finance, select wines and pubs.

Lunch crowds begin around 1pm and the prolific eateries fill up and drown you out with chatter, clinking, rushing waiters and it keeps going up to about 3pm. In order to have our choice, we start the hunt after noon and take a seat before 1pm.

We've found that set lunch menus are posted everywhere and typically include an appetizer, a main, and tea or coffee. Some will be $88 HKD, many more $98 and a few pushing up to $128. Beyond that price point there are more exclusive, formal places, with set lunch as high as $198. But most of the options tend to hover around $98. In USD, this means between $11 and $17.

While this price range may be pricey to some and cheap to others, that's only part of the story. If you add a glass of house wine to your meal, you'll likely pay $70 HKD or more, almost the price of your set lunch! Wines might be easy to come by here compared to other countries in southeast Asia, but I find that kind of price, per glass, expensive (especially when you can buy a decent bottle merlot in the supermarket these days for $49 HKD in a two-for one offer). Thankfully, the house wine is usually a solid Australian entry and not something made locally.

But assuming you don't take wine with lunch, then you will finish off just 10% higher than the posted price since service is always added to the bill. There's no tax, at least no additional tax.

When you explore SOHO, also tune into the location of the Central-Mid Levels Escalator which bridges each of the parallel streets as you make your way up the mountain from Connaught. My husband and I only discovered this brilliant lung saver after a few days in town. While walking the streets in Hong Kong is easy enough provided they are east - west streets, once you head south you're mountain-climbing. Streets are steep and in the hot, humid weather, without the escalator, you'll work off your lunch in a mere block.

But maybe that's a good thing for the young. Me, I prefer the escalator. I'll work off lunch by shopping.

1 comment:

  1. hello from India...from Anders and Majvi at the beach...we was here... :-)