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Life

Hong Kong Top 10 Sights and Tastes

Wine Selectors Tasting Panellist Nicole Gow reveals her top ten delicious, indulgent and relaxing reasons to visit Hong Kong 

If you’re looking for a destination with diversity, where one minute you’re in a buzzing city, then just 20 minutes later, hiking and swimming in a national park, Hong Kong is for you. Renowned for its food scene, it requires a healthy appetite and as all that eating is thirsty work, it’s handy that the local bar scene is really thriving. It’s a place where the traffic is bustling, yet still flows, it’s warm and welcoming, clean but not sterile, and quintessentially Asia.

It’s a city where you can have a fabulous family holiday, or indulge in pure enjoyment as a couple. Whatever your purpose for visiting Hong Kong, here are my top 10 things to do:

1. Live Like a Local

Packed with colour, flavour, scents and action, there are food markets to explore in almost every side street. When you’re ready to eat, Lan Fong Yuen in Gage Street, Central, is a popular local haunt. It’s famous for its milk tea, an art unto itself that’s poured through strainers six times and served with evaporated milk, creating a deliciously creamy yet tannic drink. And while you’re there, it’d be rude not to get the French toast and bagel with condensed milk. Then don’t leave the area without a few of the famous egg tarts from Tai Cheong Bakery.

2. Shop Shop Shop

Hong Kong has long been renowned as a shopper’s paradise, but with its abundance of shops, markets and malls, it can be hard to know where to start. I recommend planning your spree along the city’s shopping districts. On Hong Kong Island, you’ll find Admiralty, Central and Soho, Causeway Bay and Sheung Wan, while Kowloon is home to Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon East and West, and Mong Kok. Within each district, getting from one shopping destination to the next is easy, especially with an Octopus card that gets you on both trams and buses.

3. Good Fortune For Your Mouth

In Hong Kong, more locals eat out than at home, as it’s usually cheaper and with more than 14,000 restaurants, it’s a dining mecca. For a special treat, head to Ho Lee Fook, which translates as ‘Good Fortune for your Mouth’. Taiwanese-born chef Jowett Yu’s Chinese kitchen has a funky bright interior where catchy tunes entertain the throngs of diners. Jowett’s food is a clear celebration of his love of food and travel, encapsulated in the 10 years he spent in Australia at Ms G’s & Mr Wong. With fond memories of shucking fresh oysters in Bateman’s Bay, it’s little wonder his food speaks of freshness. The pork belly and Hong Kong-style French toast served with peanut butter and maple syrup or condensed milk are must haves. He has a great wine list too.

4. Wine & Dine Festival

If you’re lucky enough to visit Hong Kong in late October, the Wine & Dine Festival kicks off the Great November Feast. This month of indulgence includes epicurean culinary events, street carnivals, and wine and dine offers all around town. The Wine and Dine festival is situated next to the stunning Victoria Harbour skyline, so the night time backdrop is particularly spectacular

5. Walk or Run

If you’re looking for more compelling evidence that exercise helps you live longer, a walk or run in Victoria Park, Causeway Bay is a must. A memorable sight are the masses of seniors doing Tai Chi across the park to the meditative chimes of Chinese music boxes. Or for something completely different, get up early on a Sunday morning and run around the famed Happy Valley Racetrack alongside the horses. Giddy up.

Don’t forget, you’re here to eat so keep active to stay food fit!

6. Sharp Island

Part of the Sai Kung District, Sharp Island is a 45-minute journey from Hong Kong city, taking in some regional sights along the way. The short trip from Sai Kung Town Port across to the island on a traditional Chinese junk is a memorable beginning. On arrival at the picturesque national park, you can go on a guided 1.5km walk, taking in the scenic surrounds – an impressive contrast to the city lights and action you left behind less than an hour ago. It can get pretty warm though, so a jump off the pontoon and a swim can be a cool reward – and a great way to burn off a few dumplings.

7. Neighbourhood Night Life

Thanks to its vibrant, world-class nightlife, Hong Kong has become a breeding ground for cocktail mixologists. Cool wine bars are dotted across town – La Cabane a Vin in Hollywood Road is a personal favourite – and the surge in biodynamic and natural wines is pushing things along.

A visit to the Soho district is a must to check out the work of Australia’s award-winning bar designer, Ashley Sutton. Hailing from Fremantle, WA, Ashley used to work in the mining industry, and you can seen this influence in the one-off works of art he’s created in bars and industrial spaces.

The Iron Fairies is Ashley’s third Hong Kong bar and it’s all aflutter. Over 10,000 butterflies on thin copper rods hang from the ceiling in a space that’s dominated by iron, timber and leather features. Around the bar there are 12,000 bottles of fairy dust and in the centre of each table are thousands of iron fairies.

Ashley is also the design brains behind J. Boroski’s, an invitation-only bar hidden off Hollywood Road. Named after the renowned mixologist/owner, it has a windowless, tunnel-like interior where the wall over the bar is decorated with rows of preserved beetles – a nod to Boroski’s fascination with entomology.

8. Repulse Bay

A 20-minute bus ride from the city will bring you to the upmarket yet relaxed, low rise residential seaside resort of Repulse Bay. Popular with both locals and visitors, and home to several super yachts, Repulse Bay is one of the most beautiful beaches in Hong Kong.

Soak up the sun on the beach, hit the designer shops or enjoy the many award-winning restaurants. Limewood serves a casual, yet very satisfying lunch – BBQ local seafood in a fusion of Mexican, Hawaiian and Asian flavours. I absolutely recommend the sea urchin guacamole and the freshly shucked oysters with quail egg, calamansi, scallion and ponzu, while pork neck in tamarind, garlic, chilli and charred lime was a crowd favourite. Finish with churros drizzled in caramel sauce and coconut ice-cream.

High up on the hill coming into Repulse Bay is Ocean Park Hong Kong, an award-winning marine-life theme park featuring animal exhibits, thrill rides and shows. A world-class experience, it blends entertainment with education and conservation.

9. Iconic Sites

Nothing beats seeing a city from the air, and the best panoramic view of Hong Kong Island is from its highest point, ‘The Peak’. It has also been the city’s most exclusive neighbourhood since colonial times. It features observation decks, restaurants, a historical gallery and the Peak Tram (the opening and closing scenes of the 1955 movie Soldier of Fortune, starring Clark Gable, were filmed in the Peak Tram).

During the day, the view sweeps from the sparkling skyscrapers and Victoria Harbour all the way to the green hills of the New Territories. By sunset, the panorama shimmers as vivid pinks and oranges bounce off buildings and at night, the light show begins as the city comes alive.

By day or night, board a Chinese junk boat and set sail into Hong Kong’s scenic harbour. Originally owned and manned by Chinese fishermen, the DukLing is typical of the junks that used to crisscross Hong Kong waterways.

This trip sails you past the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, which sits on the spot of the old Hong Kong Kai Tak International Airport, renowned for its dramatic landings over the city.

Back on land yet at altitude, another incredible angle of Hong Kong and probably the best tea selection you’ll ever experience are offered at high tea at 
The Ritz. The view, service, ambience, décor and tiers of sweet delights on offer are memorable and highly recommended.

While you’re there, head up a few more floors for a drink at Hong Kong’s most celebrated roof top skybar, OZONE. It has an impressive wine and Champagne list and the Signature cocktails are extreme.

10. Decent Coffee

For coffee lovers, the scene is really on the improve with plenty of funky new neighbourhoods appealing to locals and visitors alike. Fineprint Espresso and Liquor in the Hollywood Road district is the place to go and I can see why. Not only is the coffee a hit, but it’s the brain child of Aussie husband and wife team, Jamima and Scotty Callaghan. Scotty, a coffee roaster in Australia, set up a similar ‘roasters’ model in Hong Kong and the chefs came in droves for the decent brew and to purchase his Redback beans for their local restaurant and cafes in Hong Kong. The interest led to the coffee shop opening and it’s been a massive hit. Here’s the twist...at night the shop becomes a wine bar, taking just an hour to ‘flip’. It’s a very clever use of space in a city that doesn’t have much, but which has developed a craving for good coffee and wine.

Pack, Plan and Fly

Last few quick tips: bring room in your luggage, room in your stomach or better still, an oversized muumuu.

For more on all there is to do in Hong Kong, visit discoverhongkong.com.

Qantas (qantas.com.au) flies direct from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Fly Business Class to really kick off your culinary journey with Neil Perry’s in-flight menu and superb Aussie wines and Champagne.

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Life
Dusted with Love at Spicers Sangoma
Words by Libbi Gorr on 7 Nov 2016
Many years ago as a couple, we had visited an old Buddhist Monk, Genzhan. It was early in our relationship. The key to harmony was simple, he explained, as he cooked for us in his home a simple yet enriching feast. “Don’t stir the sediment”, he intoned. It would be 20 years later with plenty of sediment that randomly swirled that we found ourselves driving to the Bowen Mountains retreat of Spicers Sangoma . ‘Sangoma’ is a Zulu term used for traditional healing practices of the heart and spirit. This is a retreat aimed at getting its guests to reconnect. Not just with nature, but more importantly, with each other. We have an abiding and deep love for each other. Let’s say that up front. It’s just that life often gets in the way. Sangoma is nestled in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, just off the Bells Line of Road before Bilpin. The retreat is secluded within the tinkling of bellbird bushland. There’s nothing else within easy walking distance. We were directed on arrival in the nicest possible way by Rhiannon, our host, to a high ceilinged , chandelier-adorned tent perched above the bushland. Here, we would submit to a tandem couples massage. Time was of the essence – our stay was 48 hours at the most – so we gave up fast. We were ultimately scraped off the massage tables, and efficiently poured into fluffy bathrobes for despatch to our bushland apartment to rest before dinner. It was a given that we would make our way through the bush clad merely in bathrobes and shoes. There are no airs and graces. Just sense, elegant simplicity and comfort. That’s a good way to describe the accommodation as well. Think Besser brick, corrugated iron, rich timber. Imagine high vaulted ceilings and wall-to-floor windows looking out over bush . Visualise an ever-so-wide wooden deck overlooking the valley complete with day beds that invite no good. Picture a glass-walled bathroom with a showerhead attached straight to the ceiling, as if you were bathing in a waterfall. In fact, the shower was just a vast wet area, in chattings length from the freestanding bath. Bathing within walls of glass initially made me feel a little vulnerable, but then I realised there was no chance of neighbours looking in. There were no neighbours. Rhiannon brought us a delicious cheese platter to enjoy with  local wines and craft beers in the fridge, organic potato chips and a peppering of handmade couture chocolates. I asked what other ‘wellness’ activities there were for us to indulge in whilst we were here – a yoga class perhaps? An organised bushwalk? A pedicure? Hot mud bath? Naught , Rhiannon replied. Nothing to distract you from yourselves. Or from nature. There was a TV in the room, but it was tuned to a jazz radio station. Our phones had just enough reception to monitor the outside world, but not easily engage. Wasn’t that fortuitous, exclaimed the beautiful Rhiannon, with a gentle reminder that our job was to ‘reconnect’. Disconnect to reconnect? What a confronting concept. We’d only just relaxed. We decided to nap instead. That big, inviting, clean white-sheeted bed strewn with all those delicious plump pillows just looked so spacious and crisp and welcoming. Thank goodness we woke in time for dinner. A Delicious Dusting The Danish cherish a concept called hygge – the art of creating a ‘cosiness of the soul’ and the dining room at Spicers Sangoma exudes hygge . And it’s that cosiness of the soul which is first on the menu of ‘reconnection’. That first night, our five-course degustation (the style I’d describe as gourmet sustainable) featured exciting combinations, surprising ingredients and matched wines for each course. Apart from being delicious, it was how it was served that made our evening such a spoil. It was a dinner made by people who wanted us to feel good. There was no passive aggressive feeding of us with calorie-laden concoctions that would make us oh and ah and groan with dismay all at the same time. Care was taken to nourish us imaginatively. And the service that came with it too was not too posh, not too familiar, but polished and warm. We were there to connect with our food and the people who had made it. To be nurtured in every way. To enjoy what Sam the Chef had cooked that night – he even brought the plates out himself. We could taste the idiosyncratic bursts of his personality in his offerings. And whilst everything presented was sublime, the nurturing, connective experience was the cleverness of the enterprise. The human condiments season the experience with wit, care and kindness. Artifice bit the dust. Everything bit the dust actually. Sam and his kitchen crew had being playing around with the dehydrating machine and creating ‘dusts’ to sprinkle on an array of offerings – mushroom dust, fennel dust, beetroot dust. The dust, once in the mouth, becomes rehydrated to deliver a burst of vibrant flavour. Cute idea, huh? Metaphoric, perhaps? Connection at last The retreat can welcome 12 people at a time, and it’s run by a handful of staff, who genuinely seem to have as part of their duties true care of the guests as well as functioning of the site. The nightly rate includes three beautiful meals and all beverages (including alcohol), but extras like massages and rose petal filled scented baths amidst a candle lit bedroom must be pre-arranged. The leisurely breakfast both mornings was a standout. There’s a lap pool and sauna, and we also ventured out to do three laps of the property, which took us about 40 minutes, wandering slowly. We felt no urge to go anywhere else. We were loved and dusted. And the reconnection? After breakfast on day two, the inner voices were both civil and calm, to both ourselves and to each other. We had taken time to just bask in the sun. And within those boundaries, these kind people had tenderly dusted our relationship to discover the vintage gleam we know is there. There was no need to go wading in deep to stir the sediment. Just rehydrate the dust to create a burst of colour and flavour once again to surprise and delight us and make appropriate use of the day bed. For those who can submit to tenderness and care, Sangoma is a true spoil. Words by Libbi Gorr.  To find out more about Spicers Sagoma visit   https://spicersretreats.com/spicers-sangoma-retreat/
Life
Gourmet Destinations - Argentina
Words by Guy Wilkinson on 6 Mar 2015
Wander the streets of Buenos Aires and it won’t take long to hit you; the mysterious, alluring aroma of grilled meat wafting from a restaurant door, or, just as likely, somebody’s backyard. Food in Argentina is a big deal. It’s as deeply entrenched in the culture as tango or ‘the beautiful game’ and when it comes to cooking, the term fast food is something of an oxymoron. Much of the cuisine revolves around meat. Mention the word ‘vegan’ and most people will assume you’re talking about Dr Spock. Argentines are the world’s second largest consumers of beef; each person chows down around 58 kilograms a year and more than half the restaurants in the country are parrillas, named after the grill the meat is cooked over. None of this is to suggest it’s as simple as slapping a quick steak on the barbecue while rustling up a salad. Anything but. In Argentina, the cooking of meat is seen as an art form and is treated with appropriate reverence. “It’s about taking your time,” says Elvis Abrahanowicz, co-founder of Sydney’s acclaimed Argentine restaurant, Porteno. “It’s all to do with the fire, getting the embers just right and warming them up slowly. There’s hardly any heat in it. “If you’re cooking a whole animal, you always have a fire on the side rather then smashing it full of coals. You really only cook it on one side. It gets the heat into the bones then the bones get hot so it’s almost cooking from the inside out.” Influences Argentine cuisine has heavy Mediterranean influences, thanks largely to Spanish colonisation in the 16th Century, as well as a massive influx of Italian immigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. If beefsteak is the staple, it’s almost always accompanied with chimichuri sauce, a simple but fiendishly delicious combination of garlic, onion, olive oil, oregano, red wine vinegar and lime juice. And then there’s chorizo, though as Carole Poole, a former Argentine native now living in Australia, explains, “It’s sacrilege to call a chorizo a ‘sausage’, as it is so much more; nothing I’ve tasted anywhere else in the world comes near to the flavour of a good chorizo.” Cooked on an asado, the Spanish term for barbecue, chorizo is often served simply in a crispy bread roll and regarded as a meal in itself. Meat is often seasoned minimally, using mainly salt and pepper. Of greater importance is the way in which it’s cooked, as well as the cuts chosen. “Apart from the chorizos, and equally important, are the different cuts of meat that comprise the ‘asado’”, explains Carole. “Favourites are skirt steak, f lank steak, sweet breads, black pudding, and even small intestine, always garnished for extra flavour while cooking with chimichurri.” The usual accompaniments for an asado are fresh crisp bread, green salad and frequently, potato salad. Creme caramel or flan is the dessert of choice, often drizzled with dulce de leche sauce, a deliriously delicious sweetened milk confection. Family Affair Aside from the cooking itself, part of the importance of food culturally in Argentina stems from a desire for friends and family to convene and spend quality time together. “It’s everything,” says Elvis. “I think because of the mix of cultures, everyone wants to bring it all together and share it, it’s created its own cuisine, one that people are super passionate about. “If we had an asado at my house, it’d be an all day affair, a big eating fest! Everyone gets up early. The girls would get making fresh pasta and the guys would get the fire going, and my dad and uncles would cook all day.” None of this is to suggest that anything overly elaborate or pretentious would accompany the cooking process. If anything, Elvis’ father, Adan, who works alongside his son in the kitchen at Porteno, is known to actively eschew expensive gear in favour of more old-school methods. “My old man is the MacGyver of making barbecues,” jokes Elvis. “He’ll make one out of anything, a few bricks, some wire mesh. We still cook like that.” The point was reinforced after Adan bagged himself a $7000 state-of-the art barbecue after winning a cooking competition a couple of years back. Apparently Adan lit it up once, after which it languished in the garage gathering dust, never to be used again. Perhaps it’s a fitting metaphor for Argentine food, where simplicity is key and less is so often more.
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