In a dynamic city that changes as quickly as Hong Kong, preserving heritage and history doesn’t always seem the first priority. The newly-opened Tai Kwun restoration project in the heart of Central district on Hong Kong island shows that’s not always the case, however, while it also serves as home to ten new dining venues to add to the more than 25,000 already across the city.
Tai Kwun translates as ‘big station’ and is the colloquial Cantonese name for the Central Police Station (CPS) Revitalisation Project, an initiative that has seen the transformation of three declared monuments, namely the former Central Police Station, Central Magistracy and Victoria Prison. Along with sixteen heritage buildings, the vast 13,600 square-metre site has become a home to arts, culture and heritage, with the city’s legendary cuisine featuring prominently.
A case in point is a re-imagined 10,000 sq ft. space that reflects Hong Kong’s unique east-west heritage and a mix of British and Chinese culinary history. Here is a selection of places to try in the Tai Kwun District.
JIA Group’s eleventh restaurant in Hong Kong comes at Old Bailey, where regional Jiangnan cuisine is the focus in a setting that again mixes nostalgia and tradition with the contemporary. Jiangnan cuisine, referring to an area south of the Yangtze River that includes the cities of Shanghai, Nanjing and Hangzhou, tends to be sweeter in flavour profile than other regional Chinese cuisines, with light, clean touches and a love of fermenting, pickling and aged vinegar.
Dishes from Head Chef Wong Gwan Man are technically-accomplished but also homely, thanks to recipes passed down through the generations, meaning that diners enjoy signatures including pigeon smoked in Longjing tea, ten treasure duck, or the classic xiao long bao soup dumplings made with Iberico pork. Seasonal, regional ingredients come from Jiangnan, while a tea-pairing programme demonstrates the region’s legendary tea culture and varietals. The restaurant takes its name from the street that runs along one side of the heritage compound, while the beautiful collection of twentieth-century furniture and huge light-filled rooms have already proven popular.
Café Claudel and Madame Fu
As the name suggests, Café Claudel is a Parisian-style bistro and café named after French poet Paul Claudel, while another café comes in the form of Madame Fu. The expansive, elegant setting is home to a mixture of classic Cantonese cuisine including dim sum, a selection of dishes from northern China, globally-inspired plates like the crispy chicken with black truffle, as well as afternoon teas. There’s also a whisky lounge, bar, private dining rooms and open-air verandas.
The former holder of Asia’s Best Restaurant, Australian chef David Thompson from Bangkok’s Nahm is another chef to grace the new development with the opening in Automn of his modern Thai restaurant called Aaharn. Nahm, now overseen by chef Pim Techamuanvivit, sits at number 49 on the World's 50 Best Restaurants list.
The Chinese Library, Statement and The Dispensary
The Chinese Library in the historic Headquarters Block showcases China’s different regional cuisines, as well as the impressive personal collection of cookbooks of Aqua Restaurant Group’s founder, David Yeo. Innovative, contemporary British cuisine comes at Statement, while the two restaurants are linked by a sleek lounge bar called The Dispensary.
New bars at Tai Kwun will include Dragonfly from innovative cocktail bar designer Ashley Sutton, a venue that celebrates the legacy of legendary American glass artist Louis Tiffany.