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Chowing Out: Tatler Top 20 Restaurants in Hong Kong and Macau

11.29.2014


This time last year, I'd recently relocated back to Hong Kong and literally had no clue about the city's dining scene. Over the ensuing 12 months, I've tried to navigate my way around HK's myriad of wonderful eateries, from street-side BBQ pork buns to multiple Michelin-starred fine dining establishments, in a valiant attempt to sample the whole range of food to be found here. This has been no easy feat, given that dining establishments are constantly closing, re-opening, re-furbing and re-branding in order to stay ahead of their competitors and to make rent - but is all part of the fun of trying to decode Hong Kong's food scene.


One of my go-to resources for staying on top of what's going on has been Hong Kong Tatler Dining - an online portal detailing new openings and reviews and as well as interviews and opinion pieces to boot. They are also known for producing a longstanding annual Best Restaurants Guide, because many, if not all, foodies secretly love a masterlist that tells us where we should be chowing out!



The Tatler editorial team and their foodie contributors reviewed 200+ restaurants in Hong Kong and Macau, and announced the shortlist and the Top 20 Restaurants at an awards cocktail earlier in the week. Although there are notable absentees from the list - Otto e Mezzo and NUR, among a few others - this is a good starting point if you're looking for a list of restaurants to work through, and have a hearty appetite and paycheck! "Best of" Awards were also dished out, for categories such as Best New Restaurant (Mott32), Best Front of House (Carbone), Best Brunch (Catalunya), and several more. If you were looking for an excuse to expand your dining horizons in Hong Kong, now's your chance...


Image 5 courtesy of Hong Kong Tatler Dining; all others shot at the Best Restaurants Guide 2015 Awards Cocktail on November 27th, 2014.

The Chowdown on Harbour Artisanal

11.13.2014


Growing up in London, one of my favourite pastimes was getting up and going on a mid-morning Saturday wander around one of the city's many gourmet food markets. While these have been a long-time weekend staple across towns in the UK, they are a relatively new phenomenon in Hong Kong - with the exception of small but established farmers' markets in Tai Po and Tuen Mun, far from the bustling centre of Hong Kong island. Since the establishment of Island East Markets in late 2012, artisanal markets - with an emphasis on local produce and independent businesses - have grown in numbers, and are now popping up in venues all around Hong Kong, from Handmade Hong Kong in Discovery Bay to the recently established PMQ Night Markets in heart of Central.

Among these is Harbour Artisanal, an indie street food fair in Tai Hang founded and funded by Joseph Chaney and Timothy Bush. The duo held their first event earlier this year in February, and after a second round of feasting on the street in June, they are back with their largest event yet, which kicks off on Friday night with a street party and continues throughout the weekend! From local foodie staples The Butcher's Club and Little Burro to gourmet Nice Pops and a casual pint (or three!) from Young Master Ales, be sure to stop by and support some independents this weekend.

I sat down with Joseph in advance of the event and quizzed him about the fair, how it got started, and what's next. Enjoy The Chowdown on Harbour Artisanal, and I hope to see you eating and partying your way down Fire Dragon Path this weekend!


Walk me through the process of how you came to set up Harbour Artisanal. 

I'd been living in Hong Kong for a couple of years, and had come to realise that the city and its people were completely obsessed with food. However, I also noticed the strong corporate culture of Hong Kong, where there was a comparative lack of festivals championing small and independent businesses.

I saw interesting small businesses in every trade go out of business simply because their could not afford the ever-escalating rents in Hong Kong. As a result, I wanted to give a platform to small businesses from which to trade. We deliberately chose to start off with a focus on food, as it was felt that a food festival would have popular appeal - plus, who doesn't want to run a foodie event? My aspiration was to create and curate a demand for quality food that was produced by independents - good food that isn't part of a corporate conglomerate.

It took about 18 months from when I conceived of the idea to when we held our first event in February of this year. There were aspects of setting up Harbour Artisanal that was incredibly time consuming - because we conceived of our event on a public road, much of my time in the early days was spent speaking to various people at the FEHD [Hong Kong's Food and Environmental Hygiene Department), fire department, the police, etc. to gain the appropriate licenses to temporarily lease a bit of public land. It took well over a year to obtain our first license. To some extent, what began as a hobby ended up taking over my life!

What kept you going with the idea until it became a reality?

My stubbornness! For the most part, anyway. Also, I was at a point where I'd just left the comfortable corporate world where I hadn't felt challenged in a good few years. I departed the office vowing that I never wanted to be bored again, which goes a long way to explaining my persistence with kicking off Harbour Artisanal.

Is there a particular reason that you chose Tai Hang to hold Harbour Artisanal?

I like Tai Hang - it's where I live, and in the last few years, the area has transformed itself into a real foodie neighbourhood. When I go running in the morning, I head down Fire Dragon Path, and I thought it was a great spot that nobody was using for events [editor's note: aside from the annual Tai Hang Fire Dragon dance during the Mid-Autumn Festival!].


How do you manage Harbour Artisanal now that is more established?

I co-manage the business with Tim, whom I'd met back in 1998 when we were both foreign exchange students in China. As it stands now, Tim does the heavy lifting with sales, registrations and vendor contracts, while I focus on the branding, media and sponsorship side of things.

In your opinion, what sets Harbour Artisanal apart from other Hong Kong foodie events?

I want Harbour Artisanal to be a foodie event for adults, rather than being something that tries to please everybody. People come here to eat, drink and hang out - I always want to maintain that thematic integrity. You can't please everybody. If you try to, you end up with an event that lacks spirit and purpose.

What's next for Harbour Artisanal?

We'll be partnering with a few like-minded businesses to run events in different locations next year, which is really exciting for us. The trouble with leasing public space is that the process is long, arduous, and unpredictable, meaning that we previously couldn't tell people when our next event was going to be! With the prospect of a permanent location on the horizon, we're going to continue focusing on building the brand, and also try and reach beyond food vendors into crafts, jewellery and other independents.

You've had quite an experience setting up and running Harbour Artisanal. What's your single biggest lesson that you would like to pass onto budding food entrepreneurs? 

Get good at saying no! We get a lot of enquiries every time we hold Harbour Artisanal, and we have to turn down more than half of these because they're not the right fit for us, or we're not the right set up for them. We do of course need to sell booths to fill the street and generate income, but at the end of the day, the success of an event like Harbour Artisanal is down to how well you curate your vendors. The organisers behind Brooklyn Flea in New York City interview their vendors before signing them up as part of their quality control - that is how they transcended the basic flea markets to become a must-visit attraction.

Harbour Artisanal Fire Dragon Path, Tai Hang / www.harbourartisanal.com / 14-16 November, 2014

Image 1 courtesy of Sybil Kot; all other images courtesy of Harbour Artisanal

14.11.14 Update: A small number of revisions were made to the transcript at the request of the interviewee due to business sensitivities.

Weekly Chow

11.11.2014


It's quite incredible to think that we're almost at the end of another year! I don't know about you, but work is piling up as we come up to the holiday season, and I've barely had time to keep up with foodie news! Here's a long overdue Catch-Up Chow for you to chew over, whilst I gear up for another foodie feature later this week...

Egg-free mayonnaise and lab-made burgers that taste like meat. Are you ready for food 2.0? (FT)

Author by day, waitress by night - meet Stephanie Danler and her debut novel, Sweetbitter. (NYT)

What happens when you pair a disappointed diner on Yelp with a disgruntled chef #nsfw (Mashable)

What happens to a pro orchestra when you feed them chillies and ask them to play! (Open Culture)

Find out what's really in packaged foods with EWG's Food Scores database and App, plus see how they stack up against one another! (EWG)

London's best new ramen joints, as chowed and reviewed by the inimitable Jay Rayner. (Guardian)