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One of the hardest hit areas in Hong Kong during the COVID-19 restrictions has also been one of the most notorious, the Wan Chai district. Wan Chai is known for its seedy side along Lockhart Road and Jaffe Road, where there are scores of strip clubs, weatherworn pubs and ladies of the evening strolling down the sidewalks.
These days and nights the Wan Chai strip is not the same. During the second wave of COVID-19 outbreaks, two bars – Dusk til Dawn and Centre Stage – were embroiled in controversy as their live music house bands were infected with COVID-19, and the infection spread across to dozens of customers. This incident caused the government to crack down heavily on live performances in bars, pubs and restaurants. Live performance has been the longest held restriction during both the second and third wave of COVID-19 outbreaks.
Much of the Lockhart and Jaffe side of the district has succumbed to permanent closures, including The Wan Chai, and other iconic bars like Amazonia are rumored to be on the rocks. But, while this infamous part of Wan Chai appears to be dying, other parts are developing into stylish and hip areas for food and drink.
Wan Chai’s transformation began around Star Street with its proximity to Pacific Place, and Societe Generale’s financiers ready for a nearby happy hour at long-established restaurants Oola Petite and Slim’s. Now beyond happy hour, the surrounding streets of Sun, Moon and Francis Yard have popular dining at the original Pici, Francis and Artemis & Apollo. This expansion of trendy hot spots spread over the Wanchai district toward the historical Blue House on Stone Nullah Lane with neighborhood bar favorites Tai Lung Fung, Fini’s, and Elmo’s.
Ship Street has powerhouse restaurants 22 Ships, Back Bar and Ham & Sherry returning after COVID-19 hiatuses. Even in the year 2020, new interesting food and beverage concepts are opening and giving life to a district that desperately needed a makeover to stay relevant with the times. Here are a few new hot spots to look out for in Wan Chai this year.
XUÂN Modern Vietnamese
Under the vision of chef John Nguyen, previously of Chom Chom, XUÂN Modern Vietnamese does a lot more than just cook phở. Nguyen takes classic Vietnamese dishes and spins a modern twist on them to create a unique menu. The beef prime rib phở has a 24-hour slow cooked broth and 12-hour simmered Angus prime rib. Instead of traditional spring rolls, guests can indulge in Chả Giò crispy spring rolls with crab meat inside or shareable main courses such as cơm gà Hoi An chicken rice and Vietnamese chicken meatloaf. Also, if the happy hour crowd wants to drop by for small plates, there is a great range of craft cocktails available.
Address: G/F, 18 Lun Fat Street, Wan Chai
The fine French cuisine of Chez Patrick was one of the forefathers of fine modern dining in Wan Chai, and now chef Tiff Lo wants to add another fine French dining experience to the district with Jean May. Using her Michelin starred training, Chef Lo presents a bistro style menu with savory favorite dishes like steak tartare, honey glaze duck breast and chicken liver parfait. Although the savory side of the menu is delectable, the sweet side is the star – make a point to try the raspberry and almond or lemon tarts.
Address: 14 Gresson Street, Wan Chai
The Pizza Project
The popular Peel Street restaurant, The Pizza Project, is now opening another location in Wan Chai. To launch this new locale, the Pirata Group gave away 500 free pizzas when the doors first opened on July 7. The lines for the affordable premium pizzas are just as long as over at Peel Street. Also, happy hour crowds can enjoy well-crafted drinks at very good prices. If you are avoiding the weekday grind, you can visit for reasonably priced brunch on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Address: 5 Star Street, Wan Chai
One of first-comers to be a part of the envisioned Wan Chai is the crew behind Liberty Exchange Group, who have started Chako, a yakitori restaurant. The restaurant joins Bo Innovation and the House of Sichuan inside the J Senses building, so as expected, the design is sleek. The concept is led by renowned chef Takeshi Suzuki, who has Pirata Group and ZS Hospitality Group on his resume. On the menu, there is a wide range of yakitori skewers.
Address: 2/F, J Senses, 18 Ship Street, Wan Chai
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