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Jimmy's Kitchen
Photograph: Courtesy Jimmy's Kitchen

Classic Hong Kong restaurants that shaped the city

We've got some places to thank for being coined as a foodie paradise

Written by
Time Out Hong Kong
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There’s an eclectic mix of eateries around Hong Kong, from local cha chaan tengs to Michelin-starred restaurants. But if we go a few decades back, the dining scene in Hong Kong is nowhere near what it is like today – it’s taken years for the city to build and achieve the food paradise status we have now. To truly appreciate Hong Kong’s unique food scene, let’s take some time to learn more about some of the restaurants that witnessed the city’s growth and why Hongkongers of all ages hold them close to their hearts. By Andrea Wong

RECOMMENDED: Check out these traditional dishes and rare, nostalgic snacks before they are lost forever.

Classic Hong Kong restaurants that shaped the city

  • Restaurants
  • Steakhouse
  • Kwun Tong
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If we were to describe Sweetheart Garden Restaurant in just a few words, it’d be ‘boujee on a budget’. Back in the 70s when western cuisine was still perceived as a luxury, Sweetheart Garden Restaurant was the go-to steakhouse due to their affordable prices. The steaks are served on hot grilled skillets accompanied by your choice of sauce, and perhaps the most ‘enjoyable’ experience of all, is the heavenly smell and sizzling sound when your sauce hits the pan – but not before frantically holding up a napkin to your face to avoid getting splattered.

The whole experience was eye-opening and memorable, especially for middle to working-class families and young couples. Though western cuisine has become more common and affordable nowadays, Sweetheart Garden played a crucial part in shaping Hong Kong’s dining culture. If you haven't tried a sizzling hot steak from Sweetheart Garden, go to any one of their 11 branches across the city to tick this experience off your bucket list!

  • Restaurants
  • Chinese
  • Central

Luk Yu is probably one of the most lavish venues when it comes to dim sum restaurants in Hong Kong. Named after the great Chinese tea master and writer Lu Yu, the restaurant first opened in 1933 on Wing Kut Street in Central, before eventually moving to its current location on Stanley Street in 1967. The restaurant boasts three floors, with the first floor reserved for frequent customers under unspoken rules. Luk Yu’s high-end orientation has been unanimously agreed upon since the beginning of time, from the guards at the main entrance to the exquisite quality of tea and dim sum.

Furnished with teak wood and fine china with a splash of Western inspiration throughout the interior, Luk Yu Tea House is not only a gustatory experience but also a visual journey. Take in your surroundings and enjoy your tea, we promise you won’t be disappointed. For those who want to enjoy Luk Yu’s quality tea at home, you can easily find them at your nearest local supermarket.

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  • Restaurants
  • Jordan

Established in 1860, Tai Ping Koon Restaurant is the first Western-style restaurant in Guangzhou run by Chinese. Back in the day, not only was Western cuisine seen as a luxury for the elites, but it also didn’t appeal to locals. In order to cater to local tastes, the founder Chui Lo-ko created a fusion style of cuisine by using Chinese seasonings such as soy sauce for cooking western ingredients like steak and smoked fish. Their success in integrating these elements was proven by its booming popularity amongst government officials and businessmen at the time. The first Hong Kong branch opened in 1937, and gradually expanded to a total of four locations in Tsim Sha Tsui, Yau Ma Tei, Causeway Bay, and Central.

By far the most notable dishes here are the giant souffle and Swiss sauce chicken wings, which got its name from a customer who complimented the dish by saying “Sweet! Sweet! Good!” This got lost in translation, and all of a sudden, the dish Swiss sauce chicken wings was born. No matter how quickly our city’s food scene evolves, restaurants like Tai Ping Koon still have a special place in our hearts as we get to enjoy flavours we are familiar with and western cuisine that’s tailored to our taste.

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Jordan

Hongkongers are all about affordability, efficiency, and quality, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we love cheap, Hong Kong-style fast food. Which is probably why there’s always a long queue – of both locals and tourists – outside Australia Dairy Company.

Founded in 1970 by the Tang Family, the diner is famous for their scrambled egg dishes and steamed milk pudding, as well as other signature HK dishes such as instant noodles with luncheon meat and fried egg, or macaroni with ham and a side of toast.

While many have complained about the poor service, especially those new to Hong Kong, we reckon it’s the best part of dining at an authentic, local eatery. In fact, some people visit purely hoping for some friendly banter with the staff. Just remember the three ‘f’s from the moment you take your seat – order fast, eat fast, and leave fast.

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  • Restaurants
  • Central

Another gem in Hong Kong’s unique European-style cuisine. We’re pretty sure even if you’ve never had a chance to dine in, you’ve definitely walked past its signature neon light sign on Wyndham Street at least once. The Landau family first opened the restaurant in 1928, and quickly gained popularity amongst Chinese and European businessmen for their hearty British dishes, extensive wine list, and its cosy ambience. The restaurant has also welcomed many famous names such as Bruce Lee and Jacqueline Kennedy.

Earlier this year, Jimmy’s Kitchen announced its temporary closure from mid-April onwards. The news saddened many longtime patrons in the city, and the overwhelming amount of responses from those who wanted to enjoy one last meal led to the restaurant extending its closing date to the end of May, 2020. That alone should be enough to tell you the love we have for Jimmy’s Kitchen. It’s a pity that the restaurant had to say goodbye after serving us for 92 years, though there’s been talk about reopening in the future at a new location. For now, we can only hope and wait patiently for their glorious return.

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